Political Theater

This week's most riveting drama was played out on the political stage by Bill, Hillary, Kenneth, Vernon, Monica, and Linda.

Americans stayed close to the TV and channel-surfed to make sure not a single episode took place without them.

But traditional forms of entertainment weren't totally upstaged by what the British are calling "Naughty-Gate."

Kicking off the week, the Super Bowl pulled in the third largest viewership. Other popular programs included "Ally McBeal," the second-most-talked-about woman of the week, who charmed TV viewers with a loony legal case involving a tussle over potato chips. And of course, both appearances (Wednesday and Thursday) by Jerry and the gang were a hit.

Moviegoers by the thousands tore themselves away from the Clinton crisis to keep watch on another crisis of historic proportions. In fact, ticket sales for "Titanic" reached about $25 million last weekend, bringing the movie's gross to $274 million and propelling it past "Jaws" to become the 10th biggest film in history.

The No. 2 flick, "Spice World," about a week in the life of Britain's feisty musical group the Spice Girls, made $11 million on opening weekend. And for those who couldn't make a complete break from the thickening plot at the White House, "Wag the Dog" with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman provided a Hollywood version of real-life events with its story of a president accused of having an affair. Talk about life imitating art. Among this weekend's most anticipated films is "Great Expectations," a modern retelling of the Dickens classic. (See review, Page 16.)

On the theatrical stage, Paul Simon's Broadway musical "Capeman" finally opened yesterday, and "Ragtime," the classic portrait of New York families, is defusing some of the attention being paid to Disney's dazzling "Lion King."

All the noise in Washington didn't drown out the sound at the 25th annual American Music Awards in L.A., where the Spice Girls made more headlines by sweeping the top three awards.

In dance circles, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater begins touring today with more than 70 performances nationwide.

Looking ahead, February brings more relief to those weary of Washington woes: the Olympics in Nagano, Japan (Feb. 7-22), the 40th annual Grammy Awards (Feb. 25), and Oscar buzz between nomination day (Feb. 10) and the big night on March 23.

* Comments on the Arts & Leisure section? Write to wolcott@csmonitor.com

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