Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: January 14, 2001
By: Laura Deni


This year's Sundance Film Festival - aka Robert Redford's inspiration and gift back to the industry - runs Jan. 18-28 in a variety of locations in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah. Other celebrity hot spots include Ogden's Egyptian Theatre and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.

Kicking off the festival Thursday, Jan. 18, in Abravanel Hall will be the premiere screening of My First Mister, which stars Albert Brooks, Eyes Wide Shut actress Leelee Sobieski, John Goodman, Carol Kane, Desmond Harrington, and Mary Kay Place.

Directed by Christine Lahti in her feature film debut, although she is no stranger behind the camera. She won an Academy Award for her 1995 short film Lieberman in Love. The screenwriter is Jill Franklyn in her feature film debut.

The movie examines that relationship between a troubled teenager portrayed by Sobieski and her new employer, played by Brooks, cast as an emotionally closed off older man.

The comedy-drama will be just one of more than 100 feature films to be screened during the festival, which attracts officials from most of the major U.S. film distributors.

Films to be screened include Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, a documentary about a Florida rape case; The Believer, about a Jewish neo-Nazi; and The Deep End, a drama about a woman who hides a dead body for her gay son.

Almost as much time is spent celebrity hunting as in screening the flicks, since stars who appear in festival movies frequently make an appearance. This year that includes actors Patrick Swayze, Jacqueline Bisset, Samuel L. Jackson, Sissy Spacek, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing.


Comedian Brett Butler, who turned her stand up comedy routines into a successful television series and then self destructed in an alcoholic flame out, is ready to re-ignite her career.

BRETT BUTLER Photo:Courtesy Riviera Hotel
The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas has booked her for March 2 and 3 gigs in their comedy club. "It's a big comeback if you've been following her story," said a hotel official who admitted that "insiders have their fingers crossed that she will "show" and not cancel!"

"She seems to be very poorly prepared for this comeback, if you ask me," injected an insider.

"We don't seem too worried," responded hotel publicity head John Neeland. "We're putting out a big campaign for her Top Of the Riv debut."

Butler has used her past experiences with alcohol, spousal abuse and poverty in her comedy routines, exorcising her demons on stage with a razor-sharp delivery.

Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, the comedian that some have dubbed "a Southern Lenny Bruce" was named for Hemingway's Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises. Her mother's remarriage gave the six-year-old a new name, an unintentional twist on another literary figure, albeit male, from Gone With the Wind. "We were poor, but my mother was cultured and left-wing -- just the thing they admire so much in the deep South," recalled Butler, who performed her first comedy routine during a school pageant at the age of eight.

At nineteen Brett Butler endured a brief and turbulent marriage, divorcing after three years. On her own again, she waited tables at a honky tonk in Texas, where Open Mike Night became a welcomed catharsis. Two years and a thousand shows later Butler had honed her act to a razor sharpness, and at the urging of fellow comedian and supporter Robert Klein, she loaded up her 1969 Grand Prix and drove to New York City. It was the first time Butler had ever left the South.

Her popularity as a stand up garnered her a television series Grace Under Fire in which she admitted that her addiction to alcohol nearly killed her.

Her hot temper, mood swings and addiction to painkillers helped kill the show. She spent some time in rehab and then - in 1997 - the former TV star put on an unusual and uneven performance in a Los Angeles comedy club when she suddenly jumped on stage and started rambling and having conversations with imaginary people.

The Riviera is hoping the talented comedian will be talking to the audience.


She's managed to accomplished what 90 % of all actors never do - working steady. Now her name is being bandied about to receive a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre The Musical.

Mary Stout is an interesting, articulate and focused professional. She also has some well thought out opinions on a variety of subjects from dieting and men to how to get ahead in the business.

At five-feet two-inches, she recently lost 40 pounds bringing her weight down to 185 pounds. We asked her if having the name Stout resulted in her being teased as a child.

"I was teased as a child and it hurt," she answered."Once I got to a certain age - and for me - it took until I went to college for me to feel I was my own person. I think that happens to a lot of kids that age. But when I got to college and started playing the character roles , playing the things that I was destined to play eventually, I started getting acceptance, so I started to embrace who I was."

"I embrace the fact that I am stout. I'm proud that I'm stout. I'm trying to make an effort to be healthy. Just this year I've lost 40 pounds. But I'm still stout and I will always be stout. I lost 40 pounds for health reasons. Because the show is very physical a lot of running up and down stairs, I want to go be healthy on the stage and not make people uncomfortable. I don't want people to worry about me on the stage."

"I worked with a doctor. I did the fat blocker Meridian. Maybe it doesn't work for everybody but it was a great help to me. I also do weight based water fitness exercises. I just love it Now I'm at the maintenance level - at 185 pounds. I may eventually try to loose just a little more. But, I put the clothes on and nobody ever says - Oh, she's so skinny!"

"I'm so short at five-feet two-inches and round, so for me to weight 185 pounds I'm still pretty hefty but I'm not uncomfortably fat. To loose weight was the greatest decision that I made last February. My blood pressure was high, so I decided to take care of myself, loose weight, and I went for it. Little by little the weight came off and I'm very happy. I'm at a very good place for me to stay right now. My goal is to stay at this weight for a year and then if I decide to go further that will be something that I address then. If I want to lose 20 more pounds I don't think it will hurt my career."

It appears that very little could hurt this multi-talented lady's career. The West Virginia born and bred - "I'm a hillbilly" - was pushed into obtaining a teaching degree by her trumpet playing -"he's my musical background" - insurance agent father who was worried about his daughter's security.

"I went to Marshall University in West Virginia," related Mary about West Virginia's oldest university, an institution that was founded in 1837 and named for US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. "When I indicated that I wanted to be a performer it frightened him," she said of her father. "He said I needed something that I can rest on. He pushed me towards Marshall because I had a grandmother and an aunt who lived there and I could live with them."

"Marshall ended up being a really wonderful place for me to go. I started in music but eventually moved into more theater and speech. It gave me a really nice broad arts base. I wasn't pigeonholed. I didn't have to do one thing like you do in some school. They let me do everything."

One would think Stout might be the pride of Marshall. Think again.

"They're funny about that," Mary replied. "They're not real good about looking up their alumni and what they've done. I'm beating the bushes trying to get them to do that," said Mary who even wrote them a letter. "It's sad. I don't know quite why. I could help."

Perhaps those not in show business don't realize what an incredible accomplishment it is to work steady in a ruthless business, where every hard to come by contract has cancellation loop holes. "I don't think they realize that this project I'm in, Jane Eyre, I've worked in for five and a half years.That's pretty incredible," she responded.

CHERRY JONES in Cradle Will Rock
It wasn't a role magically given to her as she left college. As people used to say - she's paid her dues.

"I spent a couple of years doing dinner theatre, summer stock. Her first role was a dinner theatre circuit production of Neil Simon's The Good Doctor. She was hired to replace an up and coming actress named Cherry Jones who was leaving the tour. "I tell young professionals - go do it! Dinner theatre was such a great start for me. I did plays, musicals and comedies. We probably did the shoes 8 times a week, to packed houses, and got response and the contacts I made from back then are unbelievable."

"I spent a couple of years teaching while I was performing. I taught theater at the Nashville Academy Theatre in Nashville Tenn. It was like a resident children's theatre I was hired in on a grant. This was right after I finished college. I did a couple of years of dinner theatre and went back to finish school which took about two seconds, because I was almost done and got a teaching job to make my dad happy. I did enjoy teaching but I wanted to be on the stage more than teach."

"That was a good realization for me. I also taught an after school program and a lot of high school students signed up to take that. But, I'll never forget one of my students. This one student came from the other side of the state and he needed a place to live. I had this small little three bedroom house, in a kind of crappy neighborhood. My boss said this young fellow needs a place to live - do you think you could rent him a room?"

"It didn't last very long." she laughed. "He was only there a couple of months, because it sort of drove me crazy to have an 18-year old there. He tapped danced in the kitchen. He was obviously a very talented dancer. But, I'll never forget him sitting in the living room with me one day and he said with his very thick east Tennessee accent - I want to a star. I said - Well, Michael that's great but you need to go to college or an arts school. He said - No. no, NO. You don't understand. I want to be a star NOW!"

"He beat me to Broadway - but that's okay."

"I'm totally serious," she replied. "If you ever saw the movie Chorus Line he was the one who talked about gonorrhea. That's him. He did Little Me on Broadway and a couple of other things back in the 80s. But he literally beat me to Broadway. He wanted to perform more than he wanted to go to high school - that's for sure. He wanted to be a star I don't know what he's doing now. Maybe he opened up a dance studio. But, I'll never forget him tapping and tapping and tapping on the linoleum in the kitchen. But, he beat me to Broadway."

Mary made her Broadway debut in 1981 as the nanny in the musical Copperfield.

Her role of Eugenia Bremmer on AMC's Remember WENN brought her name recognition as well as a loyal following thanks to the cult like following of that brilliant and inventive show.

"Why they gave up on it, I don't know," she said of it's cancellation."It was a critical sweetheart. People adored it and it was such a project of the heart. It was a low budget. Everybody involved with it gave their heart and soul. Rupert Holmes wrote everything," commented Mary about the under-appreciated Holmes."Rupert wrote from genius. He never lost that consistency. We made 56 episodes, which is really quite admirable. That's like three regular seasons."

"We worked very hard. We worked long hours because it was shot with one camera. They have to set things up very carefully, and move the camera from room to room. It was brilliant. It was like filming an old TV show. The directions we got to work with were the best and the people that were guest stars were the best; Peggy Cass, Harry Hamlin, Jason Alexander - there were so many."

CAROLEE CARMELLO guesting on Remember WENN
It was a close knit bunch and many still keep in touch.

"Amanda Naughton who played Betty - I went to her wedding last week. It was wonderful. She married a guy named Ralph Funicello. I don't think he's related to Annette, but I'm not sure. He's a set designer from San Diego. They were married in front of the fire place at the Players Club in New York City. Her father has always been a member. They would have dinner there, go to function and it was part of her growing up. I think that was a real easy choice for her to make - this is where I'll be married. There were about a hundred of us there, It was a very nice wedding She looked amazingly like Audrey Hepburn, but she does anyway. They're very much in love. It's very right."

"At the wedding I danced with Mr. Foley," giggled Mary about actor Tom Beckett. "It was so cute. We're very good friends. A lot of the cast have moved. Melinda Mullins, who played Hillary Booth, is in New Mexico. Margaret sort of pseudo retired. Some of the fellows do a lot of voice overs."

The last thing Mary has done is retire, although she has done some parts where she is heard but not seen.

She was part of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Aladdin. "I'm so thrilled that I was included and it was a nice help to my career to do some of that Disney stuff."

What has consumed her life for five-and-a-half years, with strong rumors of a Tony nomination, is Jane Eyre.

Mary Stout as Mrs. Fairfax
"I've been with it since the very first reading in May, 1995 and it's amazing. I'm a big one to do readings and developmental work because I believe that is where it all starts. If I hadn't done developmental work on Jane Eyre it wouldn't have happened for me. When friends say - Oh I don't have time to do readings I go - You're crazy! You have to work for nothing and do these things or else they don't happen."

Marla Schaffel, the current Jane Eyre, was also in the very first reading.

"In a great percentage of these things nothing ever happens. However - you never know..."

Mary has never tired of the role that has only gotten better.

"There is more emotional depth to the character. The understanding of what she knew, what was hidden from her, what she didn't want to know and why she let certain things happen," added Mary, about her pivot point role. "It's pretty intense."

"The show is a joy for me to do," she emphasized. "Last night we had a great house. Shirley McLaine was there."

"You look out and at the end of the show when they are standing up, screaming and crying and you think - this is why we're doing the show."

"I ran into a lady on the street in my neighborhood while I was unloading groceries. This woman was sort of hanging back with another friend. Finally, she got up enough courage to come up and in broken English said - Were you in the show? I said yes. She said she saw it last week and loved it so much."

"I thought - she's who we're doing this for. This is what it's all about The fact that I feel that I have touched that woman means so very much, means so much to me. This show is so much about believing in something when other people don't, forgiveness and hanging in there."

JANE EYRE: Tea with Jane, Mrs. Fairfax and Adele
As for Mary Stout - is there life after Jane Eyre?

"Right now I'm very fixed on Jane Eyre and my goals are very specific on only that show," said the lady who has a name that goes back centuries.

"The name is very interesting. It's always been something that I've been fascinated by but I've just never had the time to study it."

"The story is that Richard Stout married a woman named Penelope VanPrinzen. She was Dutch. He found her when she was left for dead by the Indians He married her. They had a lot of children and they ended up in all of the different colonies."

"Eventually I'll research the name. I'll find a couple of people on the Internet that I want to correspond with who have that ancestry. I would love that - finding out more about the name because my family is ending and that is what is sad. There aren't any more Stouts."

Mary has no children and has never married.

She's lived in the same New York City apartment for 20 years and has dreams of building a little house on a plot of land outside Poughkeepsie, New York near Vassar, where she can spend week-ends.

"It just never has happened. I believe that if there is somebody meant for me then that will happen. There are times that you think I ought to go out and start dating and - that's just not me. I'm very career focused. I'm hoping that maybe, at some point in my later years, that happens. But, if that's not in the cards then - it's not in the cards. That's a hard thing to accept for a lot of people but somehow for me - I've accepted it. Obviously, I loved to be married or hooked up or whatever. I'd like companionship. I think a lot of people would admit to that. But I try not to be frustrated or let that have an affect on the way I live my life."

"I try hard to be positive about everything and be focused. Being in Jane Eyre is everything I've worked for. I love the theatre I'm proud of what I do."

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will be honored January 20 when The Nevada Ballet Theater honors the unsinkable star as its "Woman of the Year." The award-gala happens at the Palace Ballroom at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor, have promised to appear.

Vegas resident singer Phyllis McGuire chairs the event. A relatively new Vegas resident, Tony Curtis, is the Honorary Chair. Curtis appears with Debbie, Shirley, Joan and Liz in the ABC TV movie Those Old Broads.

Other celebrity guests expected include Debbie's children, Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher, Robert Goulet, the McGuire Sisters, Diahann Carroll, Crystal Bernard, Hugh O'Brian, Wilford Brimley, Ruta Lee, Rip Taylor, Bob Anderson, famed designer Nolan Miller and producer Tony Thomas.

Proceeds from the evening will benefit the dance company, which provides stage performances and educational and outreach programs. Tickets priced at $300 to $1,000.

NATURAL NYLON THEATER COMPANY has been founded by Jude Law, Ewan McGregor and Law's wife, actress Sadie Frost.

The new theater is a collaboration between London's Ambassador Theater Group and Natural Nylon Entertainment, the British film company whose founders include the three actors.

Law will star in the company's first production, a revival of Dr. Faustus, by the Christopher Marlowe. Law costarred with Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon in the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley. That performance earned him an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Dr. Faustus is slated for a spring 2002 opening at London's Young Vic Theater.


by Warren Light is a jazz-themed follow up to his Side Man. The play stars Jonathan Silverman and John Spencer. In previews with an opening night set for January 25 at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles. Show runs through March 4.

GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Hershey Felder's hit one-man show about the legendary composer, has opened a four week run at the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The production runs through January 28.

SEUSSICAL welcomes Rosie O'Donnell for a four-week guest stint in hopes that she can save the show.

FOLLIES the first revival of the marvelous show goes into rehearsals this week with stars: Polly Bergen, Marge Champion, Blythe Danner, Betty Garrett, Gregory Harrison, Judith Ivey, Nancy Ringham, Joan Roberts, Donald Saddler, Jane White, Treat Williams, Carol Woods, and Louis Zorich. Songs by Stephen Sondheim, book by the late James Goldman, direction by Matthew Warchus, choreography by Kathleen Marshall. The Belasco box office starts taking ticket orders on January 22.

HOW THE OTHER HALF LOVES by Alan Ayckbourn officially opens tonight at the Pasadena Playhouse, CA. Engagement runs through February 18.

ROMEO & JULIET directed by Peter Hall at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles January 26-March 18.

A DELICATE BALANCE directed by Martin Benson at South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, CA January 12-February 11.

THE PRICE directed by Richard Stein at the Laguna Playhouse through February 4.


VIC DAMONE one of the best crooners to ever offer a song, is back on the tour. February 10 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida will be the first stop.

KRISTIN CHENOWETH Founders Hall Orange County Performing Arts Center January 18-21.

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN California State University Los Angeles/ Luckman Theatre Benefit (Dr. Lu Elrod) on January 21.

BETTY BUCKLEY on what is called the Florida Condo meaning a lot of retired folk will have another aspect of living the good life when they get to see this lady perform. Tour is January 19-28.

BARBARA COOK will have her upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall on February 3 recorded live for DRG Records

MICKEY GILLEY Harveys Convention Center, Council Bluffs, Iowa January 19.

TONY BENNETT in Fort Worth, Texas at the Bass Performance Hall on January 15 followed on January 17 by an engagement in Lafayette, LA at the Heymann Performing Arts Ctr.

BARRY MANILOW'S AT THE COPA opens January 12 at the American Musical Theatre in San Jose, CA runs through January 28.

MAUREEN MC GOVERN Lincoln Center, NYC January 12-13.

RICKY SKAGGS at the B.B. King's Blues Club, New York, NY January 14.

JULIO IGLESIAS stars at the Foxwoods Casino January 19-20th Tickets are $55 and $82.50.

JAMIE deROY & FRIENDS presents Modern Man bridging the gap between the three tenors and the three stooges. David Buskin, Rob Carlson & George Wurzbach West Bank Cafe, NYC January 25.


REGIS PHILBIN who brings his talk show to the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas January 22-24 doesn't need to go begging for fans. Tickets were distributed on a first-come-first-served basic beginning at noon last Friday. The line of people wanting to see the television tapings started forming at dawn and stretched through the casino and out the door.Taping of Live will have co-hosts Tony Danza and Whoopi Goldberg. Guests include Jennifer Lopez, Ted Danson, Erykah Badu, Peter Frampton and Howie Mandel.

RODNEY DANGERFIELD made his first ever appearance in the state of Utah last Friday and used his marriage to an Ogden native as a laugh getter: "My wife is from Utah. Her family's background is Mormon . . . Mormon background family," Dangerfield said. "I'm very happy with my wife. In fact, I was next thinking of marrying her sister, you know?"

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Next Column: January 21, 2001
Copyright: January 14, 2001. All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Photographs or Graphics from any Broadway To Vegas (TM) columns may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, utilized as leads, or used in any manner without permission, compensation and/or credit.
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Laura Deni