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Alicia Keys: No Sophomore Jinx

Alicia Keys Rosie's 'Taboo'

Alicia Keys: Sophomore Jinx?

Clive Davis told us last night that Alicia Keys was not going to suffer from a sophomore jinx.

By "us," I mean about 300 people who were stuffed into a renovated warehouse called Industria Superstudio in the West Village. We were there to hear Keys debut songs from her second album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys," which will hit stores on December 2.

By "us," I also mean the singer Pink, who came with not only her very nice mother but also her new boyfriend, Tommy Lee, the sometime husband of Pamela Anderson.

Apparently the two, uh, musicians had met the night before last at another party and then, according to today's Page Six, played tonsil hockey immediately thereafter.

Lee, up close, is full of tattoos and kind of menacing in a passive way. He, more than most, certainly knows what Pink's hit "Get the Party Started" is all about.

By "us," I should further include the well-spoken, polite and friendly Grandmaster Flash, whose highly influential "The Message" was one of the first successful rap records. The very blond district attorney from "Law & Order," Elisabeth Röhm, was there too, as were a lot of radio and print press people who wanted to see if Keys had the sophomore jinx.

Boy, it would have been great if it turned out she was a mess, wouldn't it? Can you imagine those headlines?

But here's the story: "Diary" will be a smash hit. Beautiful, charming, smart and talented, Keys performed several songs from it, including the title track — which she said she doesn't like to call a "title" track.

She also showed off her current single "You Don't Know My Name," featuring a delicious live performance by famed soul group Moments (aka Roy, Goodman and Brown), "Streets of New York," which has a sample from Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City," and a gorgeous Burt Bacharach-like song, the title of which wasn't completely clear, but may be called "Someone" and could turn out to be her biggest hit so far.

This was after she teased the audience with a medley from her first album of "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?", "A Woman's Worth" and "Falling."

"I love this intimacy," Keys told the small crowd. "I'm really happy right now."

That much was obvious. Sitting at her keyboards, with talented sidemen backing her up, Keys is in her element.

She's obviously trying new things on "Diary." The songs seem to have a bluesy, loose feel, with jazz tinges. Someone at the show last night said the album sounded "very '70s. And that's a good thing."

What's obvious is that Alicia Keys has just an enormous talent the depths of which have yet to be explored. It's very exciting to think she'll be making music for the next 20 years or more. The future is hers.

Rosie's 'Taboo' Party Goes Out of Bounds

Rosie O'Donnell's Boy George musical "Taboo" finally had its Broadway premiere last night.

Despite a completely bizarre review in The New York Times, other outlets liked it a lot. The audience sure went nuts, giving many ovations during the performance and a big standing ovation at the end.

Rosie herself got two huge hands and cheers from the audience before she took her seat. They were as much for the show as they were for winning her case in court.

If only the after-party at the Roxy had been like the show, though. Hundreds too many, including what seemed like every drag queen in town, poured into the Roxy. A private upstairs area for the cast and friends filled up so fast that fights broke out at the bottom of the stairs leading to it.

Kelli Carpenter, Rosie's partner, barely got her family in, and then begged off reporters who'd covered O'Donnell's trial, claiming no authority to help them out. (Someone grumbled, "They're keeping out People magazine!")

Rosie, it should be noted, eschewed the private area almost entirely, preferring to stick it out with the hoi polloi in the buffet area. Exhausted from the last few weeks' events, she chose to leave for home early. Carpenter and her family, finally ensconced upstairs, stayed on.

Luckily, several of the actors, as well as some of the real-life people who'd inspired characters in "Taboo," were also locked out. Among them was Raul Esparza, the actor who gained notoriety when he blew his top and walked off the stage toward the end of Act I at the show's first rehearsal.

Esparza told me last night: "That had been coming for a long time. It really had a big build-up. But then it was over, and I think it brought us all closer together."

Esparza and his wife, who are childhood sweethearts, held hands while we talked.

Then there was Jeffrey Carlson, the square-jawed blonde from Long Beach, Calif., who plays Marilyn, Boy George's drag-queen best friend-slash-wanna-be pop star.

Marilyn was and is actually a real person, and even though he'd been invited to the premiere, he decided to stay wherever he was at the last minute.

Carlson does a wonderful job portraying him, even though his parents — who came from Long Beach — had to be prepared for their son in a dress.

What did they think when young Jeffrey called home with the news he was playing a transvestite?

"I said, 'Here we go again,'" said his real estate developer dad, with a laugh. His mom shook her head in disbelief. They'll be even happier next June at the Tony Awards, believe me.

"Taboo" attracted quite an interesting crowd to the actual show. I sat near former New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal and his wife, commercial novelist Shirley Lord. Next to them was Bill Haber, founder of Creative Artists Agency, who now runs Save the Children and produces Broadway shows.

Barbara Walters was roaming around. Penny Marshall, sporting a bling-bling-like large cross on a chain around her neck, was also very sun-tanned. Singer Melissa Errico was there, and so was the legendary Celeste Holm, sporting a buzz cut.

Famed press agent Lois Smith of PMK, now semi-retired, made it a night with her old pal Peter Travers, movie reviewer from Rolling Stone. They sat right behind soap opera diva Linda Dano.

No sign of Madonna, who came to the Wednesday night show. But Rosie's brothers and sister were there, as were Cindy Adams and Kathleen Turner, among others.

Oscar-nominated directors Rob Marshall ("Chicago") and Stephen Daldry ("The Hours") sat on opposite sides of the orchestra. Daldry told me he will direct the Broadway musical version of his film "Billy Elliott."

"Why not?" he asked rhetorically. (Why not indeed? Robert Altman wants to direct "Pal Joey." Maybe 2004 will be the year of movie-makers on stage.)

None of those people, I think, would agree with the Times' Ben Brantley, who thought "Taboo" was like a bad version of "Cats."

Reading his review, I'm not sure what he even means or if he saw the same show. The "Taboo" storyline is not exactly Pulitzer Prize-winning material. But the songs are great, the performers are wonderful and their numbers are show-stoppers. There's lots of good dance numbers, too, particularly the first electronic-pop one in Act 1.

"Taboo" has a simple message, but a positive one nevertheless, and you will exit the theatre humming not just "Karma Chameleon" but the new songs as well. And do try to catch Liz McCartney before she takes her maternity leave. She is just brilliant.