Casting call: From screen to stage

The summer success of "Roman Holiday" at the Guthrie coupled with the continuing "Spider-Man" phenomenon on Broadway got I.W. wondering if that isn't just the ticket to launch some local projects adapting film for the stage. Wouldn't actor Peter Christian Hansen look pretty good in a cape and cowl as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises"? And Jennifer Blagen as Catwoman and Raye Birk as Commissioner Gordon? "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" seems like a vehicle for Anna Sundberg and maybe Dieter Bierbrauer in Daniel Craig's role? We'd like Steven Hendrickson to grow out his beard for the stage version of "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter." We're already in talks with Michelle Barber's people about "Iron Lady: The Musical!" And if director Peter Rothstein can get his cast from "Full Monty" back together, pencil in a fall production of "Magic Mike: Live." This stuff practically writes itself.

GRAYDON ROYCE

Talk of the town

Janet Groth grew up in Austin, Minn., went to the University of Minnesota and then headed off to New York City, where she landed a most enviable job in 1957 -- receptionist at the New Yorker magazine (hired by E.B. White, no less). Groth wasn't one of the glittering writers of the publication's heyday; she just hung around with them. And ran their errands. And saved their bacon. And, rarely, but occasionally, slept with them. Well, some of them. Now in "The Receptionist," she writes about her 21 years at the legendary weekly. There are tales of Joseph Mitchell, Calvin Trillin, John Berryman, Muriel Spark and many others but, disappointingly, her writing (she's a retired English professor from SUNY Plattsburgh and never did get published in the New Yorker) is oddly detached. Maybe that's because, even though she may have been the prettiest person in the room, she wasn't the most interesting. Groth will be in conversation with former New Yorker writer Garrison Keillor on Sept. 27 at Common Good Books in St. Paul.

LAURIE HERTZEL

Howl no more

The Great Dueling Piano Bar War is over. (Did you know there was such a thing?) Your winner: The Shout House. Your loser: Howl at the Moon. I.W. guesses the little guy won. When Howl at the Moon roared into downtown Minneapolis seven months ago, it was the corporate giant, the nation's largest piano-bar chain, with about 15 locations. "I was pretty surprised, to be honest with you," Shout House owner Joe Woods said when he heard his rival had closed last week. Howl's corporate office in Chicago did not return phone calls. Some Howl customers had table reservations for last Saturday night. Woods, whose bar is still going strong after eight years in Block E, said he tried to fit some of those customers into his bar's already sold-out Saturday.

TOM HORGEN

Dear John

Soulful New York piano man Marc Cohn was quite talkative Saturday at the Minnesota Zoo. Not only was he the first artist to perform at the zoo but also the one who has played there the most during its 20 years of concerts. The "Walking in Memphis" hitmaker waxed about singing at the zoo as the sun sets, reminisced about his I-can't-believe-I've-arrived gig at Lake Harriet Bandshell in 1991 and told cute stories about touring with Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks earlier this year. But the humorous singer-songwriter saved his best for John Mayer. He politely accused Mayer of coopting his piano groove from "Walk Through the World" and transposing it to guitar for "Waiting on the World to Change." To prove his point, as Cohn sang the chorus of his song, he segued seamlessly into Mayer's chorus. Afterward, he mock-dictated a letter to Mayer: "Dear John, You're welcome."

JON BREAM

Help for Call

Urban Bean barista Matt Call was struck by a hit-and-run driver near the south Minneapolis coffee shop on June 27. His injuries included two broken legs and spinal fractures. With his recovery expected to be long and arduous, his friends in the coffee and music scenes (he plays bass) have come to his aid. On Tuesday, a benefit will be held at Urban Bean owner Greg Martin's loft (starting at 5 p.m.). Basically, it's going to be one amazing party -- and for a good cause. On the first floor, DJs will spin music while members of the North Star Bartender's Guild mix up some fine cocktails. There's also a silent auction. The second floor will host the night's live music, plus more drinks by Kieran Folliard's 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey. The $20 tickets must be purchased in advance. Attendees will receive the location address after buying a ticket. All proceeds will go to Call. For info, visit: liveletters.net/mattcall/

TOM HORGEN

London calling

Ever on the lookout for Minnesota connections, I.W. was intrigued by a recent report in the Art Newspaper that Russian art maven Alisher Usmanov has added Sutton Place to his $19.2 billion portfolio of mines, telecommunications companies and a London soccer team. The 1530 Tudor mansion near London was briefly a love nest for King Henry VIII and the second of his eight wives, Anne Boleyn (who was soon beheaded along with her accused lover, Francis Weston, whose dad then owned Sutton Place). In 1959, Minneapolis-born billionaire J. Paul Getty bought the 72-room manse, complete with 60-acre park, 9 hole-golf course and staff of 35. Then the richest man in the world, Getty redecorated, upgraded the plumbing and went on an art buying spree that netted Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Rubens, et al. He died there in 1976. Earlier, Getty's property managers had, infamously, installed a pay phone to deter moochers from placing expensive calls to exotic spots. I.W. assumes that Usmanov will have a b.y.o. cellphone policy.

MARY ABBE