Julia: Oprah, Celeb Pals Cheer Theater Debut

Julia Roberts | The Beatles | Oprah Winfrey | Henderson Forsythe

Julia: Oprah, Celeb Pals Cheer Theater Debut

The Royale Theater — or, as it is now known, the Jacobs — has had its share of celebrity audiences in the past. But last night, the crème de la crème came to see Julia Roberts, an actual movie star, make not only her Broadway but also her theatrical debut.

I’ll start with the last to arrive: Oprah Winfrey, who flew in from Chicago and was accompanied by her best pal Gayle King and publicist Lisa Halliday. They were the last to be seated in a very crowded theater, taking up several seats around fifth row center.

And you know Oprah: she was smart enough to have a can of soda with her because — and this was a first, I think — the theater didn’t bother to set up a refreshment stand or bar during the intermission.

Julia’s star power also pulled in her "Closer" director, Mike Nichols, with wife Diane Sawyer; her "Stepmom" co-star Susan Sarandon and not-husband Tim Robbins, who assured me that his upcoming movie, “Noise,” is a comedy and not about Mayor Bloomberg, who was also in the audience last night.

The mayor sat near two celebrities you wouldn’t automatically connect with Broadway: baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr. and rocker Dave Matthews. The latter was there because Julia appeared in one of his videos, I was told. And Ripken? Someone joked that the ballplayer had an unbroken streak of attending Broadway premieres.

We also spotted actors Sam Rockwell and Rosie Perez, separately; Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden with hubby Thaddeus on break from raising their three little kids; Broadway vets Elaine Stritch and Elizabeth Ashley and CAA heavy-hitter agents Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett.

We also met Julia’s brother-in-law, and ran into her longtime friend/business partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas with husband, Dan Thomas. But there was no sign of Julia’s own husband, Danny Moder. Maybe he was backstage.

But it was an odd night for a premiere of such standing, starting with the shut-down bar and including a phalanx of fans who bought balcony tickets and then tried to infiltrate the orchestra area to see the stars.

Opening night performances are generally not for the public, so this added to the sardine-like crush going on in every direction.

The show got a standing ovation at the end, but I have to admit the response was a tad muted after that wildly enthusiastic matinee I went to 10 days ago.

Also, no one from the audience offered Julia roses, which I think she deserves for bravely jumping into such an overwhelming project.

If anything, she seemed more relaxed on stage this time around, and significantly improved. It will be interesting to go see her at the end of the run in June.

In the end, though, “Three Days of Rain” was a strange choice for Julia Roberts to make her Broadway debut. The first act is tedious at best and the second act, while more lively, doesn’t explain much about the characters.

When Roberts returns to Broadway in a couple of years — which she will undoubtedly do — I hope it’s in a romantic comedy or a farce where she can show off her real talents.

You may be interested to know that Julia’s Playbill notes, which are very short, give us a clue about her favorites among her films. She lists "Ocean’s Twelve," "Closer," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Full Frontal," "Ocean’s Eleven," "The Mexican," "Erin Brockovich" and "My Best Friend’s Wedding."

They are weird choices considering that "Ocean’s Twelve," "The Mexican" and "Full Frontal" are completely awful; she had a bit part in "Confessions"; and Cameron Diaz came close to stealing every scene in "Wedding."

Where is her signature film, "Pretty Woman" or "Mystic Pizza," "The Runaway Bride," "The Pelican Brief," "Notting Hill," "Steel Magnolias" (Oscar nomination there), "Conspiracy Theory," "Mona Lisa Smile" or "Stepmom"?

Julia, no one would blame you for having a long resume!

Beatles Back in the Top 50

The BeatlesPaul McCartney’s group before Wings — sold 27,739 copies of their four CD box set "Capitol Albums, Vol. 2" last week, quite a feat. The set includes mono and stereo versions of the original American releases of "Rubber Soul," "Help! Early Beatles" and "Beatles XI."

Like Vol. 1, this set was put together meticulously and is full of treasures. Me, I prefer the mono versions, but that’s why they give you the alternate takes.

So what would be next? Since "Sgt. Pepper," the "White Album" and "Yellow Submarine" have all been reissued as standalone remasters, the answer is simple. How about "Revolver," "Hey Jude," "Abbey Road," and "Let it Be"? Or even better: special standalone packages for each of these historic albums?

Of course, "Hey Jude" was really a compilation album to begin with. If Capitol wanted to, they could include it with their originally issued "Rarities" and "Live at Shea Stadium" albums, make all of that a box set and hold the other three as special reissues.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind a proper "Hey Jude" CD, although I made my own up years ago. I’m sure other fans have, as well.

So far, the Beatles reissues are coming along nicely. As far as Beatles for downloading, I’m probably alone in this, but I say, don’t do it. Leave the Beatles in a special category. Let the CDs be uploadable to your computer, but not downloadable in little bits.

Meanwhile, Cirque du Soleil is readying its big Beatles show in Las Vegas. Preview performances of “Love” begin June 2 with a big June 30 opening. The one person who should there? Michael Jackson. After all, he still has 25 percent of the catalog, and he lives off of it at this point.

Oprah: African School Project; Bianca's Back

Don’t miss “Oprah” today — check local listings. It’s part 2 of the interview with the Ebersol family, this time emphasizing an extraordinary documentary made by Charlie and Willie Ebersol and their friend Kip Kroeger called “Ithetung: Never Stop Learning,” which airs in December on HBO. This is the film that so impressed Winfrey she gave the school about a $1 million donation

World Turns Slower

The great actor Henderson Forsythe passed away this week. He was 88 years old. Fans of "As the World Turns" remember him as Dr. David Stewart, a stalwart voice of reason on that show from 1960 to 1993 until he was written out for committing the unspeakable crime of getting old.

I can still remember our housekeeper being glued to the set back in the early 1960s as David romanced single mother Ellen Lowell (Patricia Bruder) — it was big stuff when there were only a handful of channels, believe me. And who can forget David’s long bout of amnesia? You had to be a great actor to make that stuff believable.

Forsythe was also a very highly regarded theater actor. While he was on the soap, he won the 1979 Tony Award for playing the lead in the original Broadway cast of “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

CBS and Procter & Gamble ignored Forsythe’s huge contribution to their success in the recent 50th anniversary show. Maybe they will have the grace to acknowledge him now. Rest in peace…

"The Sopranos" are always busy killing each other, so it was nice to hear that Lorraine Bracco and Aida Turturro were just two of the stars who helped honor New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Tuesday night. The occasion was to raise money for Publicolor, a not-for-profit group that brings art and artists into city schools. FOX News’ very own Rick Folbaum emceed an auction, and some of the artists who participated were Mark di Suvero, Philip Glass, A. Eugene Kohn, Sol Lewitt, Meredith Monk, David Rockwell and Adam Tihany. You can read more about Publicolor at their website, www.publicolor.org...

And yes, that was Bianca Jagger dining al fresco with TV producer Susan Crimp last night outside Osteria del Circo on West 55 Street. Bianca has just returned to New York after caring for her recently deceased mother in Los Angeles. I hope Bianca will now consider writing a book about her amazing life, not just with the Rolling Stones but as a world peace activist…

Inside Circo, LionsGate Films was celebrating Doug Atchison’s fine film, "Akeelah and the Bee," which opens April 28. Producers Nancy Hult Ganis and her husband, Academy of Motion Pictures prez Sid Ganis, welcomed an all-star crowd to the private screening. The movie reunites Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, who once tangled with each other as Tina and Ike Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” This one actually answers that question…