Koo koo ka choo, Dr. Melfi. Lorraine Bracco is coming to Broadway.
That's right. I am told by Broadway insiders that Bracco, the Emmy-nominated actress from HBO's hit series The Sopranos will replace Kathleen Turner this winter in The Graduate.
If it happens -- and Bracco is said to be all but signed -- that means two of the Sopranos will be naked on Broadway at about the same time. Edie Falco, who plays Carmela Soprano, is currently appearing with Stanley Tucci in Frankie & Johnny at the Claire de Lune.
This is kind of the coup of all time for The Graduate, which has so far depended on the Turner's star power along with Alicia Silverstone and Jason Biggs to sell tickets. Dallas star Linda Gray, who also played Mrs. Robinson in the London version, is set to come in for a week while Turner takes a break soon. But of them all, Bracco is considered the hottest right now, with The Sopranos about to set ratings records on Sept. 15 with its fourth season debut.
I saw Lorraine last night across the most crowded room in history at HBO's premiere for The Sopranos at Rockefeller Center. Alas, a sea of people separated us. Nevertheless, Broadway types who know everything before everyone else confirmed her negotiations. All I can say is, I will be in the front row at every performance.
The new season of The Sopranos addresses the World Trade Center attacks and the anthrax scare of last fall. That was made abundantly clear last night at Radio City Music Hall, where 4,000 people got to see episodes 1 and 2 of the long-awaited season.
Fans of the show, of course, were chomping at the bit since series creator David Chase decided to put off the new season for six months. It's been a year and a half since there were new episodes of the show.
But if the first two installments are any indication, season four should be the best ever -- and a big improvement over the last one. The plot lines seem more thought out now, with fewer dangling threads and more resolution. There are even resolved subplots within an episode, which sounds conventional but is actually very satisfying.
The shows we saw were also very funny with a lot of asides and arcane references. Some things we learn this year: the mobsters like to watch Everybody Loves Raymond and Dean Martin Westerns.
In episode 1, not only is the World Trade Center mentioned, but so is the failing economy. Tony Soprano is having trouble making ends meet while Uncle Junior is being drained by legal fees for his upcoming trial. Meanwhile, Carmela -- responding to the sudden losses at the World Trade Center -- is thinking about investments and estate planning. It's the Sopranos' unique take on Sept. 11, and it's handled with grace and subtlety.
Episode 2 concerns Meadow Soprano's decision to take a year off from college and tour Europe. Dr. Melfi suggests sending her to a therapist, played beautifully by guest star Linda Lavin. I will not tell you the outcome. At the same time, Christopher and Adriana are set up by an FBI agent, Paulie Walnuts spends some time in the cooler, and Janice and Ralphie become a couple -- perhaps the most psychotic Boris and Natasha on screen ever.
What will happen? I'll tell you a couple of things that won't harm the surprises ahead. Annabella Sciorra returns as Gloria, Tony's demented lover, a few episodes in. Also, a rivaltry between Ralphie (the great Joe Pantoliano) and Johnny Sack (Vince Curatola) heats up in episode three. I could tell you more but I'd have to kill you.
Among the revelers at The Sopranos premiere party was Friends star Matthew Perry, who flirted shamelessly with Annabella Sciorra. Sean Puff Daddy/P Diddy Combs, wore a sumptuous gray suit with wide chalk stripes -- the same one worn by one of his associates, and sunglasses. But he didn't stay long -- just long enough to get a plate of food and see what real gangsters do for entertainment. (There seemed to be plenty of authentic types in the audience.)
After his Times Square show, Jon Bon Jovi came in and took pictures with Steven Van Zandt, who plays Silvio on the show but is also Bruce Springsteen's star guitarist/vocalist/song writer in the E Street Band. Bruce's gang is on a three week break from the tour for their great album The Rising, which meant that drummer Max Weinberg was also there. Unlike previous Sopranos premieres, no sign of Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa. Edie Falco was the only no show from the Sopranos cast -- but that's because of her Broadway play commitment. Still, she put in an appearance along with Stanley Tucci when Frankie & Johnny let out.
Also spotted from the show: Aida Turturro, Kathrine Narducci, John Ventimiglia, Jamie- Lynn Sigler, Robert Iler, Federico Castelluccio, Tony Sirico, Vince Curatola, Drea de Matteo, and even last year's casualty, Jason Cerbone (Jackie Jr.). From other parts of show biz: Paul Rudd, Tim Daly, and enough character actors to fill the Players Club.
Big news too from HBO: With Six Feet Under shooting new episodes, they've tapped Mike Binder's Mind of the Married Man series to follow The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm on Sunday nights. More on Binder next week, but I can tell you now that this show should finally get the audience it deserves with this new time slot.
Ever wonder what happened to Cosby kid wild child Lisa Bonet? Well, it turns out she's not a bad actress. Bonet and a strong cast, including James Caan and grown-up child star Lukas Haas (Testament, Witness), are all part of Lathe of Heaven, a terrific movie based on Ursula Le Guin's classic sci-fi novel. It debuts on A&E this Sunday.
Lathe of Heaven is remarkable in that it's directed by a first rate filmmaker, Philip Haas. Haas's most famous work so far is the great movie Angels & Insects. He also directed Sean Penn and Kristin Scott Thomas in Up at the Villa. A real coup for A&E.
This column will resume again next Wednesday. Some of you may recall the Fox 411 column I wrote on Aug. 16 celebrating the 95th birthday of my grandmother, Frieda Friedman. On the night of Sept. 1, she passed away in her sleep after a lively, happy day. She had a wonderful life, full of love and friendship. More than 100 people came to her funeral this past Tuesday in Fairfield, Conn., which is pretty good since all but one of her contemporaries are long gone. They shared reminiscences and fond memories and toasted this remarkable lady, who was also my pal.
See you next week!