How fitting that just about the time the Kennedy Center was disclosing plans for a revival of “Side Show” — a 1997 musical about the midway — Broadway was announcing a real one. Yessiree, step right up, folks, and get yer tickets to a one-man extravaganza performed by a boxing great who took a bite out of another prizefighter’s ear!
“Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” will enter the ring in West 48th Street’s Longacre Theatre for six performances, July 31-Aug. 5. Appearing Tuesday on “The Today Show” with his new director, Spike Lee, Tyson told Ann Curry that the monologue, first staged by another director, Randy Johnson, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, is a warts-and-all account of his tabloid-turbulent life.
“I’m pretty naked there,” Tyson said, explaining that after being taken by his wife to see Chazz Palminteri in a stage version of “A Bronx Tale,’’ he surmised that the actor’s life might be for him, too. “Hon,” Tyson said he told her, “I can do that stuff.”
I grant you that Lee’s participation in the venture helps bathe it in legitimacy: Tickets range from $74.50 to $198.50, with a top price of $299.50 for a “VIP meet and greet” with the boxer, according to Telecharge.
For me, though, this venture, with its come-on being an immersion in a prizefighter’s faded celebrity and egregious choices in life — he was convicted of rape — seems more than anything an opportunity to exploit both its star and its eternally scandal-
That Broadway willingly becomes their enabler is a sign that the theater is capable of stooping as low as it needs to, to keep pace with a culture that has made voyeurism its unchallenged norm.
I hope that my suspicions are wrong and that Lee somehow coaxes from Tyson a performance that reveals facets and talents of the man heretofore unexplored. I’d also be incredibly surprised if he does.