CELEBRATES THE LATE SHOWMAN'S BIRTHDAY
He may be dead, but from beyond the grave Liberace, the Sultan of Schmaltz, puts on quite
a show. The performance is found in the form of the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas and it's an
event worth seeing. Liberace, known to his friends as Lee, created Las Vegas glitz. The musician
evolved from a classical pianist into a showman and in doing so epitomized what he called the
"ever better, onward and upward attitude" of Las Vegas.
LIBERACE set the benchmark for showmanship
Each stage performance surpassed the previous one for gorgeous - often outrageous -outfits that
glittered in cunningly conceived stage sets and skillfully executed lighting.
Liberace, who died of AIDS, would have celebrated his birthday today. In June 1957 Liberace
moved into the Beverly Rexford Apartments on Rexford and St. Louis Ave in Las Vegas and said
that Las Vegas would be his second home. From that modest apartment his upward mobility
reached a zenith that has been painstakingly and lovingly transformed into the Liberace Museum.
Lee founded The Liberace Museum on founded April 15, 1979, as a way to showcase his
vast collections of virtually everything ornate and in doing so provide musical
The nonprofit museum is a fascinating experience. The Museum is divided into two area;
Building One houses the Piano, Car and Award Galleries; Building Two showcases the Costume
and Jewelry Collections, a re-creation of Liberace's Palm Springs bedroom, and the Liberace
Family Gallery. Beginning this summer, a new gallery will host changing exhibits about the Arts
and Popular Culture.
In November, 1956 Liberace was starring at the
Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. In a costume switch Elvis put on the glitz with Liberace's gold lame'
dinner jacket while playing Lee's piano. In turn Liberace donned Elvis's zoot suit and strummed
Liberace owned thirty-nine pianos; eighteen of the most rare are on display in The Piano Gallery.
One of the most notable pianos in the collection is Chopin's French Playel. Also on display is
Liberace's rhinestone-covered Baldwin that he used in the finale of his last performance at Radio
City Music Hall.
Historic pianos include a rare Broadwood Grand made in England in 1788. John Broadwood is
credited, along with Bartolomommeo Christofori, as one of the co-creators of the piano.
Also on view are Schumann's Bosendofer Grand; George Gershwin's Chickering baby grand;the
Liberace's favorite Baldwin concert grand piano covered with thousands of etched mirror
Elaborate ornate cars are showcased in the Car Gallery; from a one-of-a-kind Rolls Royce
covered with mirror tiles etched with galloping horses to a 1934 Mercedes Excalibur covered in
Austrian rhinestones. The mirrored Rolls is a Phanom V Landau limousine with a James Young
body and Deville extension. Only seven were made, and it is the only one with left hand steering.
Other unique cars include Liberace's 1954 red white and blue Rolls Royce used in his tribute to
the nation's bicentennial in 1976, s pink "Volka Royce" - which is a Volkswagon customized to
look like a Rolls Royce - and Liberace's English taxi cab which he personally
In the Costume Gallery, visitors see Liberace's trademark candelabra and famous sequined,
jeweled and rhinestone-studded costumes, feathered capes and his fur collection. Once when the
IRS audited the performer objecting that he deducted his outfits as business expenses related to
his career, the tax man refused to permit the deduction, saying that Liberace could wear the items
in everyday life. To prove his point Liberace paraded down a Las Vegas street in full get up "to
see if people would notice." They did.
Some of the highlights include the original gold lame jacket that began the extravagant costumes
Liberace would later refer to as "an expensive joke." One of Liberace's favorites, a black diamond
mink lined in more than 40,000 two-and-one-half karat Austrian rhinestones - each one sewn on
by hand - is on display. The King Neptune costume covered in sea shells and pearls, was
designed for the 1984 world's fair in New Orleans. It is the heaviest non-fur costume weighing
200 pounds. Among the more than twenty costumes on display are Liberace's famous red, white
and blue hot pants and feathered cape he wore at Radio City Music Hall.
Since 1976, The Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts has awarded more
than four million dollars in scholarship grants to over 100 universities, schools and organizations.
Liberace considered The Foundation one of his greatest achievements. In his book, The
Things I Love Liberace stated, "a lot of good things have happened to me in show business
and I want to do what I can to give others just starting out a career boost. I hope The Foundation
projects will continue into the future to offer gifted newcomers financial help, and in many cases,
artistic exposure as well."
As a child of seven, Liberace received a scholarship to the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he would receive classical training on the piano. His scholarships
continued for 17 years. It was from this experience that Liberace learned the value of
scholarships. Today, the Milwaukee Conservatory, now called the Wisconsin Conservatory,
continues to thrive and also is a proud recipient of Liberace Foundation scholarships for the past
The next time you're in Las Vegas, visit the nonprofit Liberace Museum.
VILLAGE VOICE OBIE AWARDS Tomorrow night the OBIE awards bestowed for off-Broadway shows, will be held in New York
City at Webster Hall hosted by Claudia Shear and Patrick Stewart. Presenters include; Ping
Chong, Viola Davis, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Cynthia Nixon, Frances Sternhagan,
Mary Testa, Carmelita Tropicana, James Urbaniak with live entertainment performances by Kike
& Herb and The Bomb-itty of Errors.
THE NEW DRAMATISTS
honor stage and screen legend Angela Lansbury with their Lifetime Achievement Award on
Tuesday at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.
Lansbury has won four Tony Awards for Mame, Dear World, Gypsy and Sweeney
Todd. Those slated to attend include Bea Arthur, Lauren Bacall, Walter Cronkite, Olympia
Dukakis, Davis Gaines, Kathie Lee Gifford, Susan Lucci, Eartha Kitt, Marin Mazzie, Brian
Stokes Mitchell, Terrence McNally, Hal Prince, Lily Tomlin, and Dionne Warwick.
There will be
performances by Arthur, Mazzie and Mitchell.
ASTAIRE AWARDS the 19th
annual TDF Astaire Awards take place Thursday at the Hudson Theatre in New York City. Bebe
Neuwirth will host the benefit luncheon for the Theatre Development Fund. Nominations for the
prestigious awards include: Best Choreographer Lynn Taylor-Corbett for Swing! Kathleen
Marshall for Kiss Me Kate and Susan Stroman for Contact and The Music
Man. Best female dancer nominees all happened to be performing in Contact. Pitted
against each others are; Stephanie Michaels, Deborah Yates and Karen Ziemba. The Best Male
Dancer nominees are Clyde Alves from The Music Man, and Michael Berresse and Stanley
Wayne Mathis from Kiss Me, Kate.
THE UTAH SHAKESPEAREAN FESTIVAL based in Cedar City, Utah has received a Tony Award for America's
Outstanding Regional Theater.
The award will be presented June 4 at Radio City Music Hall during a live television broadcast of
the 54th Tony Awards. Accepting the award will be Fred C. Adams, festival founder and
executive producer; Cameron Harvey and Douglas N. Cook, producing artistic directors; R. Scott
Phillips, festival managing director; and Sue Cox, festival board of governors chair.
The regional awards were first given in 1967. Upon being notified that the Utah Shakespearean
Festival has won an overwhelmed Fred Adams stated, "I can't even begin to find the words to
describe how I feel at this moment." Utah's Shakespearean Festival started in 1962 and now
offers six plays in repertory in its annual summer season from June through September.
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THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND
ELAINE PAIGE who opened in the
West End, London revival of The King and I will - along with the rest of the cast - head
into the recording studio today May 14, to record the show's cast album.
SWEENEY TODD with the strong
Stephen Sondheim score, received standing ovations and kudos when it mixed The Met and
Broadway in New York City. George Hearn sang the lead, stepping in for Bryn Terfel, who is
recuperating from back surgery, Patti LuPone was Mrs Lovett, Paul Plishka of the Met sang
Judge Turpin, Heidi Grant Murphy of the Met was Joanna, Davis Gaines of The Phantom of
the Opera portrayed the young sailor, John Aler and Standford Olsen were the judge's pal and
barber, three time Tony winner Audra McDonald sang an old beggar and Doogie Howser
star Neil Patrick Harris sang Tobias - proving that F and Broadway are a perfect mix.
Thankfully The Philharmonic recorded three shows - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - and will
issue a CD on its Special Editions Label. Andrew Litton, music director of the Dallas Symphony
conducted. Order your copy now!
by Thornton Wilder,
adapted from Andre Obey's Le Viol de Lucrece opened May 12 with performances thru
June 4 at The Ohio Theatre NYC.
Presented by the Willow Cabin Theater Company the production stars Cynthia Besteman, John
Bolger, Christopher Foster, Larry Gleason, Robert Harte, Charmaine Lord, David Paluck, Dede
Pocos, Linda Powell, Christine Radman, Maria Radman, Atticus Rowe, and Terry Schappert.
Directed by Edward Berkeley, Set design by John Kasarda. Lighting design by Matt McCarthy
with costume design by Meganne George. Original music is by Paola Prestini with Choreography
by Jeanne Hime.
CATS verifying the nine lives
theory by being extended until September 10. Broadway's longest running musical was scheduled to
close June 25, but the minute people were told the litter box was being cleaned out they wanted
more and ticket sales skyrocketed, prompting the euthanasia reprieve
PIERRE COSSETTE AND GOV. JESSE VENTURA are teaming up. Producer Cossette is putting together a Broadway musical
based on the life of the Navy Seal/ wrestler/ governor.
DAME EDNA lets the gladiola
droop July 2nd at the Booth Theatre NYC. The wisteria haired wonder then takes Dame
Edna: The Royal Tour on a US National Tour permitting those across the land to worship at
her feet as have the paupers, seniors, and princes who have been providing nightly standing
ovations. The big showoff has also grabbed a goody share of the theatrical awards this season
winning a special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Event and an Outer Critics Circle award for
EAT THE RUNT a "genderless"
comedy by Avery Crozier, will give the audiences the opportunity to choose the cast at each
performance. All eight actors in Mefisto Theatre Company's production of Eat The Runt
have learned all the roles, and at the beginning of each performance audience members will
choose which actor plays which character. In the lobby before each performance, the audience
will be given a brief, written description of each role and will be able to look at photos and
resumes of the cast. Mefisto Theatre Company producer Matthew von Waaden has calculated
that there are 40,320 casting possibilities. The play concerns a surreal interview which leads to the
hiring of a grants manager at an art museum. Performances are June 7-24 at Altered Stages,
NYC. Under the direction of Peter Hawkins, the cast ready to take on any role includes; Kelli K
Barnett, Lora Chio, LaKeith Hoskin, Kathrishka King, Myles O'Connor, Weil Richmond, Curtis
Mark Williams and James Williamson. Designers are: Jerome Martin (Sets), James Syewart
(lighting) and Will Pitts (Sound).
who started out as the Dr. Kildaresex symbol says he watches ER. The acclaimed
actor who has been on tour in The Sound of Music will be returning to Broadway in a new
drama, The Shadow of Greatness, written by Gary Socol.
The out of town premiere opens at the Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, Mass with
performances July 25 to Aug. 12 Chamberlain will portray a faded. Jaded playwright, desperate
and at a crossroads. He invited three of his most devoted fans to his brownstone. With that
plot thickens. Chamberlain has had hit television series and mini-series and won raves on
Broadway in My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. Some may think everything
Chamberlain has done has been a success.
He once did a musical version of
Breakfast at Tiffany's co-starring with Mary Tyler Moore. Touting as the big musical of
1967, it never opened, closing after only four preview performances.
ROBERT WAGNER AND JILL ST JOHN married in real life are on tour in Love Letters. May 19 they
perform at Hemmens Auditorium in Elgin, ILL and then the next night they open at the Egyptian
Center in Ogden, UT.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT
officially opens May 18 at the Union Square Theatre, NYC.
This is the new American play
written by Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project. On November 14,
1998, a month after University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was murdered, Kaufman
and members of his company traveled to Laramie and began a series of face-to-face interviews
with the people of the town where the story unfolded. Over the next year the company traveled
six times to Wyoming and conducted over two hundred intensely personal documented
interviews. Many of these writers/actors who conducted the interviews are performing in this
play, which was heralded when it returned to Wyoming for a pre-Broadway run. Starring in the
play which is directed by Kaufman are; Stephen Belber, Amanda Gronich, Mercedes Herrero,
Andy Paris, John McAdams, Greg Pierotti, Barbara Pitts and Kelli Simpkins. Set design by
Robert Brill, Costume design by Moe Scheil, Lighting design by Betsy Adams, Original music by
Peter Golum with Video and Slides by Martha Swetzoff. Associate writers Stephen Belber, Greg
Pierotti and Steve Wangh.
time Emmy nominee, who first became a household word as Maggie on Falcon Crest,
although she first turned down the part - and now is delightful as Kitty Montgomery on the ABC
hit series Dharma & Greg, is a member of the Matrix Theater Company in Los Angeles
and has returned to the stage.
The New York born actress studied acting at Hofstra University and worked as a bunny in the
Manhattan playboy Club. Reciting Shakespeare at night, nobody she served cocktails to mistook
her for a dumb bunny. Now Susan shares her life with psychologist Connell Cowan, author of
several books, including the best-seller Smart Woman, Foolish Choices.
opens as Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie at the Pasadena Playhouse in
MELISSA ERRICO who starred on
Broadway in My Fair Lady, and High Society performs classic and unpublished
Randy Newman songs in The Real Emotional Girl: Melissa Errico sings Randy Newman
May 15 and 22 at Joe's Pub in NYC. Jason Robert Brown who won a Tony as composer of
Parade will direct the five piece band which includes Errico's brother, guitarist Mike
out of The Vagina Monologues after her soon to be ex-husband Rudolph Giuliani
announced he has prostate cancer, will be replaced in the production by Emmy winner Holland
Taylor. May 30- June 11. When presented with her Emmy award for her portrayal of the sexy
judge in The Practice held the statue up and quipped "Overnight! Overnight!" As for
Hanover, she could turn her own experiences into a new, personal rewrite of The Vagina
AUDRA McDONALD stars this
Friday in an episode of the gritty TV drama Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit. The
Tony award winner portrays a police psychologist.
LANCE BURTON who is the seller
attraction at the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas will be a guest on The Late Late Show
with Craig Kilborn on Monday/Tuesday. He will be levitating a lady and doing a little close-up
magic along with an interview with Kilborn.
TRISHA YEARWOOD May 23 at
the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
DAVID BRENNER May 18-25 at
John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, Nevada.
THIS AND THAT
JOHN TRAVOLTA who is
chalking up those pilot hours crisscrossing the country promoting the daylights out of his much
panned new movie Battlefield Earth travels with his own hot dogs. He even takes his own
weeniers into ball parks. Says he never knows what the dogs are made of so to be on the safe
side, he brings along a doggie bag.
MARC ANTHONY AND DAYANARA TORRES who were wed at the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas developed their own
tradition. They didn't get pelted with rice, flower petals or have white doves released from cages.
Instead their closest loved ones threw bits of the wedding cake at them while they danced their
PAT COOPER who lives in Las
Vegas although his caustic rants can be felt nationwide, will be playing an Italian-American named
Pop in the new film Cugini. The romantic comedy begins shooting in August.
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Next Column: May 21, 2000
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