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A Critical Return

Didja know that Deborah Yates, who delivers the season's breakout performance as The Girl in the Yellow Dress in "Contact" at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and Debra Monk, who plays the Venice-seduced spinster in "The Time of the Cuckoo" directly downstairs at the Mitzi Newhouse, are both graduates of Southern Methodist University in Dallas? . . . The Fox 5 critic slot, vacant since the demise of Stewart Klein, is finally going to be filled by the end of March-by Pia Lindstrom. She'll start reviewing two or three times a week on "Good Morning, New York." . . .

Talk about overqualified! Craig Schulman, who has the Guinness record for Jean Valjean performances and is the first actor in the U.S. to have played both that role and "The Phantom of the Opera," now tends bar at The Red Rat in "Jekyll & Hyde"-and, yes, stands by for the title characters. . . . Jim Stanek, who stood by for David Campbell in "Saturday Night" (and gamely went on in other roles during the flu outbreak), heads down the aisle with longtime girlfriend Beth Miller in mid-July. . . .

Disney is six episodes deep into a TV series, "Talk to Me," filmed in Astoria-but will see how they air-play before ordering any more. Kyra Sedgwick stars as a talk-radio diva, with Beverly D'Angelo and Peter Jacobson in support. . . . Note to the Drama Desk nominators: Should you be tempted to cite the wittiest costume design of the season-and I am referring to the on-the-spot improvisations maniacally thrown together in "The Big Bang"-be advised that the Basil Du Maurier officially credited with this is, in reality, Boyd Graham. "I didn't want my name all over the Playbill," explains Graham, who directed, wrote the book and lyrics, and comprises half the cast. The other half is composer Jed Feuer, son of producer Cy Feuer. (An early calling, that.)

Side by Side by Side

"The Rogers"-i.e., producers Roger Berlind and Roger Horchow-have petitioned the Tony's administrative committee to enter Lee Wilkof and Michael Mulheren as a single-nominee entry (à la Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, who played the "Side Show" Siamese twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton). Just as inseparable, Wilkof and Mulheren play First Man and Second Man-who "Brush Up Your Shakespeare"-in "Kiss Me, Kate." If nominated, kids Mulheren, "I think we'll be required to stand hip to hip as a tribute to Alice and Emily."

They aren't the only tag-team Tony contenders, either: Consider Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in "True West." They play brothers who, during the course of Sam Shepard's play, switch personalities-and, just to underline the presto-chango a little more, the two actors swap roles every three performances. This is truly bravura work! Most critics have been conscientious enough to catch the show twice. (Eat your heart out, "Jekyll & Hyde!")

The precedent of giving one Tony to two actors was set a quarter of a century ago, when South African actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona split the Best Actor Tony Award for "Sizwe Banzi Is Dead" and "The Island."

Step by Step by Step

Would you like to swing on a star-literally? Several Broadway musicals have drafted their dance captains and cast members into giving special classes at the 56th Street branch of the New York Health & Racquet Club. Among the dance captains set to strut their stuff: "Chicago" 's Jeff Shade (April 4 at 5 pm), "Annie Get Your Gun" 's Patti D'Beck (April 11 at 5 pm), "Swing" 's Beverly Durand (with Aldrin Gonzalez and Gioa Covo April 17 at 7:30 pm) and "Footloose" 's Mark Myars (April 20 at 7:30 pm). Capping the series will be "Kiss Me, Kate" 's Bill Calhoun, Michael Berressee-he with the rippling ribcage (April 27 at 5 pm).

Don Libertino and Virginia Gorski (later Gibson)-who became friends 52 years ago originating the ingenue leads, Wotan and Snow White, in Hugh Martin's "Look, Ma, I'm Dancin' "-checked out that show out March 16, at the Musicals Tonight! staged reading revival at the 14th Street Y's Mainstage. Mel Miller will conclude this series in June with "Goldilocks," the Walter Kerr-Jean Kerr-Leroy Anderson musical, and he hopes to restore seven of the songs that fell out of the show on the way to Broadway.

This will be my 30th, and last, "Bits & Bites" column. I want to thank my editors, Mich'le LaRue, David Sheward, and Leslie Carroll, for covering my posterior on more than one occasion-and Editor in Chief Sherry Eaker, for asking.

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