“I’m here to see Jane Fonda!” squealed Dolly Parton at the opening night of the new play 33 Variations, starring Ms. Fonda and Colin Hanks, at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Monday, March 9.
Ms. Parton–dressed in a snug sparkly top, with her voluminous blonde hair and heavy pink eye-shadow perfectly in place–was late. At 15 minutes past curtain call, as the lights outside the theater had begun flashing with threatening regularity, Mr. Hanks (son of Tom) had already snuck inside through the stage door—head down, pea coat collar up—and author Joan Didion, actress Marcia Gay Harden and playwright Tony Kushner were already inside.
Ms. Parton was Ms. Fonda’s co-star in the movie Nine to Five nearly three decades ago and wasn’t going to miss her return to Broadway. Incidentally, Ms. Parton was rushing over from the Marquis Theatre just a few block away, where she’s working on getting Nine to Five the musical ready for its Broadway opening in the spring.
“I’m over there rehearsing for my musical, she’s over here tonight, so I said, ‘I got to run over and see her,’” said Ms. Parton. “So here I am!”
A few minutes before Ms. Parton arrived, the Transom found a timid Moisés Kaufman, the writer and director of the play that lured Ms. Fonda, who is 71, back to Broadway after a 46-year hiatus. In 33 Variations, Ms. Fonda plays an American musicologist who obsesses over Beethoven’s Variations.
“I have a dream cast,” he told the Transom.
“Jane is just very involved,” Mr. Kaufman continued. “But not in a way where she wants to take over! On the contrary. She’s a real collaborator because she’s been in so many collaborative relationships. She makes suggestions.”
The actress playing Ms. Fonda’s role in Nine to Five, Stephanie Block, was also chirping about how great it is to have her predecessor back in theater.
“She came to our show in Los Angeles and gave us her blessing. She said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad that line is in there’ or ‘I’m so glad you did that this way!’” said Ms. Block, who admitted to watching the film incessantly to get ready for her role. “When an actor really gets it right as Jane did in the movie, you certainly want to make sure that you take little pieces of it.”
Rosie O’Donnell, wearing a skirt with ankle-high Doc Martens, was nearby answering reporters’ questions, which ranged from her thoughts on Donald Trump’s finances (“I have no thoughts about it”), Madonna’s new boyfriend (“she should make herself happy and it looks like she does”), and Michelle Obama’s sleeveless dresses (“she should be sleeveless all the time!”).
She exclaimed: “And look, Rose McGowan is here!”
Ms. McGowan recently had elbow surgery and was still recovering. “I can’t even hold a fork right now, so I have to keep doing my physical therapy and work up to my sword,” she said. (Ms. McGowan is working on the film Red Sonja, about red-haired comic book hero who carries a sword.)
Then, prompted by another round of the theater’s lights, the actress said “Oh, I guess really do have to go in,” and teetered on inside.