Carrie Fisher was cheered by the critics for her one-woman show "Wishful Drinking," which opened on Broadway on Sunday night. Long before "Star Wars" launched her career, Carrie Fisher knew the highs and lows of fame second-hand via the experiences of her mother -- Oscar nominee Debbie Reynolds ("The Unsinkable Mollie Brown") -- and crooner father Eddie Fisher. Fisher recounts her tale of whim and woe in "Wishful Drinking," a two-act play that she also wrote.
For Ben Brantley of the New York Times, "Ms. Fisher knows herself, or the work of fiction she admits she partly is, and the myriad ways she might be perceived. This is essential if you are going to be turned into a sex doll, a Pez dispenser and an illustration in a book of abnormal psychology. After the show, you’ll probably start to think that Ms. Fisher didn’t really tell you everything. But as long as you’re watching her, you experience the illusion of extremely funny, subliminally sad full-frontal confession."
Said Michael Kuchwara of the AP, "Carrie Fisher is a raconteur in the best sense of the word. She knows how to tell a story. And 'Wishful Drinking,' her hilariously perceptive journey through a world of celebrity and self-destruction, is chock-full of funny, fascinating tales." And Elysa Gardner of USA Today thought, "Though Fisher's foibles, her failed relationships, her struggles with alcoholism and manic-depression, are the focus, the effect is less one of navel-gazing than wry commiseration.That generous, humble spirit ensures that Drinking is a perfectly pleasant trifle, nothing that requires or inspires great emotional commitment, but fine for a one-night stand."
Had she brought "Wishful Drinking" to Broadway last year, Carrie Fisher may well have contended for the Tony Award for special theatrical event. But alas, the Tonys recently eliminated that competitive category after eight years. The final winner of this award was another child of Hollywood -- Liza Minnelli -- for her run last December at the Palace Theatre. Shows such as that one and this -- which have a book/script -- are now eligible to compete for best musical or play. And all of the elements of such productions can vie for Tony Awards as well.
That means Carrie Fisher could contend as both the author of the play "Wishful Drinking" and -- in a twist that might appeal to her well-honed sense of irony -- as lead actress in a play for playing herself. As Fisher recounts, she made her Broadway debut in 1973 as part of the chorus backing up her mother in the revival of "Irene." Debbie Reynolds was nominated as lead actress in a musical but lost to Glynis Johns for "A Little Night Music." (That Sondheim show is being revived this year with Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones in this role.)
The first winner of the special theatrical event category was the musical instrument extravaganza "Blast" in 2001. There were no other nominees that year. In each of the previous two theater seasons, the Tonys had bestowed a special award on a "live theatrical presentation" -- "Fool Moon" (1999) and "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour" (2000).
In 2002, the Tony Awards decided to let the voters decide the winner of this award. "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" won over "Bea Arthur on Broadway," "Barbara Cook in Mostly Sondheim" and John Leguizamo's one-man show "Sexaholix ... a love story."
For 2003, the champ was "Def Poetry Jam" beating "Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home," "The Play What I Wrote" and "Prune Danish." No award was given in 2004.
Billy Crystal won in 2005 for his one-man show, "700 Sundays," edging out "Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance," Mario Cantone's "Laugh Whore" and Whoopi Goldberg's one-woman show. No production won in either 2006 or 2008 while ventriloquist Jay Johnson prevailed in 2007 over "Kiki and Herb."
Photo: Carrie Fisher. Credit: Joan Marcus / Associated Press