A pared-down version of a show that's been workshopped and performed multiple times in recent years in the hopes of going to Broadway, all about the life and times of infamous New York hotelier and entrepreneur Leona Helmsley, is coming to Feinstein's at the Nikko this weekend.
Helmsley, who became known in the 1980s as the "Queen of Mean" in local tabloids after repeated stories about how she treated employees and contractors both at her Helmsley Palace Hotel and some 20 others in New York and Florida, is portrayed in the new musical by Broadway grand dame Tovah Feldshuh. And as the Chronicle's Datebook explains, the nightclub version of the show — dubbed "Tovah is Leona!" — is intended to drum up some interest and potential investors for a Broadway run.
The music for the musical is by composer Ron Passaro with lyrics by David Lee and Alex Lippard, and the nightclub act comes with the help of musical director and arranger James Bassi and director Jeff Harnar, with Feldshuh herself writing the book. As she explained to the Chronicle, "Many of the songs are terrific. But the cabaret show is a separate entity, a different conceit. I use their music and buffer it with well-known standards." Reportedly that includes a finale medley of "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina" and "MacArthur Park."
Fans of the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may know Feldshuh for playing the recurring role of Naomi Bunch, the mother of the titular ex-girlfriend Rebecca, played by Rachel Bloom. She is also famed in Broadway circles for portraying Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in the longest-running one-woman show on Broadway, Golda's Balcony.
Tickets are available for tonight's performance but tomorrow's is sold out — the show is at 8 p.m. with doors open at 6:30. Arrive early and enjoy food and drink beforehand — Feinstein's has cabaret-style seating with tables, and there's a $20 food and drink minimum per person.