Broadway To Vegas



Copyright: May 9, 2010
By: Laura Deni


Morris Bates as Elvis
He was the first Elvis impersonator, swiveling his hips even while Presley was still alive, and for a decade in Las Vegas after The King's death.

Billed Morris as Elvis the man known off-stage as Morris Bates, starred at The Silver Slipper, the Landmark, and Vegas World - earning the title of the longest-running Elvis impersonator and, at that time, the second longest one-man Las Vegas show, next to Wayne Newton.

The bright lights of Sin City were a far cry from the Shuswap Indian Reservation in British Columbia where Bates was born, the result of a summer romance. As a teenager, he would learn that the woman he knew as an aunt was, in fact, his birth mother, a Shuswap from the Sugar Cane reserve near Williams Lake. He would be in his 40s before being told that his father was a Haida - a Native American people inhabiting the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, Canada, and Prince of Wales.

After vocal chord problems forced his retirement from the stage in the 1990s, Morris returned to British Columbia and became a Native liaison and special victim assistance officer with the Vancouver Police Department, determined to help kids from northern reserves take a chance on life and realize their dreams. Morris is now telling it all in a book, Morris as Elvis: Take a Chance on Life, penned with biographer Jim Brown.

Bates lays claim to being the first Elvis impersonator - an act in which he portrayed Elvis in three stages. No, not thin, fat and bloated. Rather, rocker Elvis, movie Elvis and Vegas Elvis. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner anointed Bates as “the great pretender.”

While still in his mid-teens Bates left home to pursue life as a musician. He worked his way from back-up singer to front man in a variety of bands. In his early 20s, he did a satirical show called Elvis The Pelvis And His Cousin Enis. He headed a band called Batesession, playing rural bars before transforming it into Injun Joe’s Medicine Show. After the movie American Graffiti created a fan base for early rock ‘n’ roll, Bates headed an act that billed itself as the Graffiti Band of Gold, Featuring Morris as Elvis. Bates had seen the movie Elvis: That's The Way It Is and copied Presley's every move, nuance by nuance. Bates honed the Elvis voice by imitating Rod Stewart singing Maggie May.

When Presley mortally left the building on August 16, 1977, Bates was already established in a genre that grew to have 83,000 impersonators.

Morris as Elvis headed to Sin City. He went from making $500 to $3,500 a week.

Press invitation to the opening Thursday, April 27. 1978 at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas
Bates had just turned 28 when he made his Las Vegas debut at the Silver Slipper. The hotel threw a gala press opening on April 27, 1978. The yellow colored invitation reads: "You and your guest are invited to the Las Vegas debut of an exciting entertainment event in a truly professional showcase. Morris as Elvis. A special preview performance for V.I.P.'s at the Silver Slipper. (SPECIAL INVITATION ONLY) Gourmet Buffet Dinner. (SPECIAL INVITATION ONLY) Cocktail Party. (SPECIAL INVITATION ONLY) premiere performance. Don't miss this exciting entertainer, whose wardrobe, arrangements and personal magnetism rival the late king of rock entertainment. NO IMITATOR COULD EVER MATCH ELVIS, AND NONE WILL EVER EQUAL MORRIS AS ELVIS!"

The hotel's redundant three time emphasis "special invitation only" was a reminder to the press that they were entitled to bring one guest - no more.

On the first anniversary of Elvis’s death, Bates performed on The Merv Griffin Show, watched by 17 million people. Morris as Elvis was also featured in Elvis Lives & He Touched Their Lives, a 60 minute 1980 BBC documentary sub-titled Looking At The World Of Elvis Impersonators & Interviews With The Fans.

In book signings Bates disclosed that one of the things that set him apart from the other impersonators was his ability to remember that off-stage he was Morris Bates not Elvis Presley.

“On stage it’s a theatre, backstage that’s me.”

He asserts that the inability to differentiate real life from the theatrical is what messed up a lot of performers.

Vocal chord problems messed up Bates.

Morris Bates as Elvis performing at Vegas World.
He required nightly injections of cortisone to relieve the pain. Doctors ordered him not to speak during the day. He resorted to nodding and communicating with a pen and notepad.

Today Bates, 60, talks hoarsely, barely above a whisper, a condition he attributes more to old age and Jack Daniels than to those three shows a night Vegas days.

Bates changed lifestyles when he married and hit the big Four-O. Putting on that Presley suit didn't have the same appeal.

He returned home to Canada and enrolled in a native youth worker training program at the Native Education Centre in Vancouver. From there he began his second career - as a liaison between troubled street kids, primarily aboriginal, and the police.

Working with the Vancouver Police and Native Liaison Society for 10 years as a specialized victim assistance worker, Bates developed an aversion program called Reality Check for Indigenous People (R.I.P), sometimes known as Scared Straight.

Morris Bates showing at risk kids a syringe. Photo by Jon Murray. Photo from Morris Bates as Elvis Official Fan site
When the program ended in 2003, Bates kept it going - unfunded and on his own time.

Today Bates conducts tough-love tours of the streets and alleys, during which at-risk youths get to see the dangers of street life.

It's another kind of heartbreak hotel.

Since the tours began in 1987 Bates has taken more than 8,000 young people through the program.

In the program and during book signings Bates declares:

"It’s an in-your-face situation. The desperation of the street is in evidence. You can smell it. You can see the terror of the street. Some stop what they’re doing and tell the kids, ‘Stay in school.’ Others just don’t care and they keep on shooting up.”

"This is designed to say to kids: You can take a chance on life. You don't have to go down that road and live off welfare. . . Basically, you can do whatever you want. If you really want it, it's there for you, regardless of your background or your skin color. You can go out and get it."

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is a historical retrospective which opened yesterday at The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco.

Beetle Bailey an American comic strip set in a United States Army military post, made his first appearance on Sept. 4, 1950 and today Mort Walker’s comic strip is enjoyed by more than 200 million readers daily in over 1,800 newspapers around the world - making it among the oldest comic strips still being produced by the original creator. Brian Walker, who served as the curator of The Legacy of Mort Walker: 50 Years of Beetle Bailey at The International Museum of Cartoon Art in 2000, has selected the highlights from that historic retrospective for this exhibition.

Addison Morton Walker was born in El Dorado, Kansas on Sept. 3, 1923 and had cartooning aspirations at a very young age. His first full-time art job was as a greeting card designer for Hallmark while he attended Kansas City Junior College. In 1942, he was drafted into the army and served in Italy during the war. When he returned home, he attended journalism school at the University of Missouri and was editor of the campus humor magazine, the Showme.

Mort was working as a magazine cartoonist in New York when John Bailey, the cartoon editor of the Saturday Evening Post, encouraged Mort to do some cartoons based on his experiences. After selling a few college cartoons to the Post, Mort then decided to submit a comic strip to King Features Syndicate. When King bought the strip, Mort named the character “Beetle” and added “Bailey” in honor of John Bailey. Most of the humor of Beetle Bailey revolves around the inept characters stationed at Camp Swampy, inspired by Camp Crowder, where Walker had once been stationed while in the Army.

Beetle Bailey was the second feature in comics history, after Blondie, to appear in over 1,000 newspapers when it passed that milestone in 1965.

Walker still supervises the daily work at his studio, which employs six of his children. He is one of the longest-drawing cartoonists in history.

The exhibition at the Cartoon Art Museum runs through September 19, 2010.

The Cartoon Art Museum is the only museum in the western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cartoon art in all its forms. This unique institution houses approximately 6,000 original pieces in its permanent collection. A complete volume research/library facility is located on the museum’s premises. In addition to seven major exhibitions a year, the museum has a classroom for cartoon art.


is more energizing than a double espresso. Capturing a multitude of theatrical award nominations, Memphis is one of the few musicals this season not totally savaged by the critics. Any points of contention between the scribes and what's seen on stage, have been towards execution of the plotline - its failure to totally transfer the Civil Rights turmoil time frame to the stage - rather than the music.

Bon Jovi band member David Bryan put down the notes and, along with Daryl Waters, orchestrated the music resulting in toe tapping songs that makes you want to dance in the aisles. The insightful lyrics are crafted by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, who have effectively captured the highly charged emotions of that decade into the 20-track Broadway cast recording released by Delray Records.

Bryan's invigorating score captures the Memphis musical triangle - blues, rock and gospel. He keeps the listener attuned to the proper time frame through subtle, familiar mind association tricks. The first few notes of Scratch My Itch bring visions of Jerry Lee Lewis. The piano and beat in Someday is The Supremes, or any of the girl groups of that era. Little Richard comes to mind in Big Love, while Tear Down The House has a Jail House Rock feel.

Laying the groundwork for the next New York, New York; I Left My Heart In San Francisco; My Old Kentucky Home or Chicago (That Toddlin' Town) is Memphis Lives In Me, a truncated version probably destined to become that city's new theme song. The tune is reminiscent of I Still Call Australia Home from The Boy From Oz.

Bryan's involvement in the Memphis CD is significant. In addition to composing and arranging, he co-mixed the CD and performs on two tracks.

Based on a true story, with the concept by George W. George, the story delivers a fictionalized version of young, white radio disc jockey Huey Calhoon growing up in Memphis, Tennessee who - "In the smoky halls and underground clubs of the segregated '50s . . . .. fell in love with everything he shouldn't: rock and roll and an electrifying black singer. Memphis is an original story about the cultural revolution that erupted when his vision met her voice, and the music changed forever."

The general assumption is that man is really Dewey Phillips who was the number one DJ in Memphis. Phillips was one of the first to play rhythm and blues music - which was openly called "race music" on a mainstream station - with the code word mainstream meaning white listeners, rather than mainstream meaning a play list of middle of the road songs.

Taking place in the days when schools were segregated, Phillips made a name for himself by being the radio interviewer who asked the 19-year-old Elvis Presley what high school he had attended, thus tipping off his listeners that Presley who "sang black" was white.

Of interest is David Bryan performing the bonus tract The Music of My Soul.

The talented cast includes: Chad Kimball (Huey), Montego Glover (Felicia), Derrick Baskin (Gator), J. Bernard Calloway (Delray), James Monroe Iglehart (Bobby), Michael McGrath (Mr. Simmons) and Cass Morgan (Mama).

With: John Jellison Rhett George, John Eric Parker, Tracee Beazer, Dione Figgins, Vivian Nixon, Laquet Sharnell, Ephrain M. Stkes, Danny Tiswell, Daniel Watts, Dan'Yelle Williamson, Chad Kimball, Michael McGrath, Jennifer Allen, Kevin Covert, Hillary Elk, Bryan Fenkart, Cary Tedder, Kate Webber, Brad Bass, Charlie Williams, Candice Monet, Sydney Morton and Jermaine R. Rembert.

Kenny J. Seymour musical director and conductor. Christopher Jahnke music producer/supervisor. August Eriksmoen composed the dance arrangements. Michael Keller is the music coordinator and David Waters the co-orchestrator.

The excellent Memphis Band includes: Conductor and keyboards - Kenny J. Seymour; Associate conductor and keyboards - Shelton Becton; Guitar - Michael Aarons, Electric Bass - George Farmer; Drums - Clayton Craddock; Trumpet - Nicholas Marchione; Trombone - Mike Davis; Reeds - Tom Murray and Ken Hitchcock. Piano solo in Ain't Nothin' But A Kiss is David Bryan.

Recorded a Avatar Studios, New York City on 11/12-16/2009. The recording engineer was Shane Stoneback. Mixed by David Bryan and Shane Stoneback.

Memphis reportedly took 6 years and 900 re-writes to make it to Broadway's 1,470-seat Shubert Theatre, via productions at the La Jolla Playhouse and 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. The production was originally produced during the 2003-04 season as a joint world premiere at both the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA and TheatreWorks in Mountain View, CA.

A national tour will start at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee in October 2011. As the cast is fond of saying - Hocka Doo!


Why did The Addams Family pick the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans as the September 2011 starring point for a national tour? Not because it's far from the New York critics, but because of - money.

Louisiana is offering the first tax incentive for concert and theatrical productions as well as incentives for the purchase, renovation and restoration of theatres and performance related facilities.

Louisiana Entertainment offers tax credit programs for film, music, interactive, and live production. These innovative programs are described as "a holistic package of entertainment tax credits not found anywhere else in the United States. Whether your next project is producing an album, video game, interactive web app, or launching a national tour, our industry experts help you take care of business. The Louisiana Entertainment staff provides a seamless application process while creating the best possible production experience inside our state."

Soul Doctor, a new musical about the life and music of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, has taken advantage of the incentive by staging regional premiere in The Crescent City at Muriel's Cabaret Stage at Le Petit Theatre May 7-12. The production, according to a press release, indicates the goal is to transfer to Broadway next year.

The cast of the New Orleans production includes Ben Crawford, Loni Ackerman, Carla Hargrove, Kenny Morris, John Plumpis, Richard Hutton, Keith Claverie, Brian Falgoust, Kristina Morales, Bailey Purvis, Cliff Thompson, Kenneth Thompson, Samantha Smart, Jonathan May, Maddie Mateer and Donovan Bendana.

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
Soul Doctor features music by Carlebach, a book/libretto by Daniel S. Wise, lyrics and direction by David Schechter, musical direction by Grammy nominee Seth Farber, choreography by Michael Raine and additional material by Carlebach's daughter, Neshama Carlebach.

The new musical, according to the release, "tells the story of the foremost innovator in Jewish music of the 20th century, and one of the most pivotal, unconventional and controversial Jewish personalities of the post WWII generation. Featuring over 40 of Carlebach’s soulful and joyful melodies, Soul Doctor is the true story of the rabbi/troubadour who ignited the spirit of Jews around the world with his music, stories and boundless love."

In a statement writer/producer Wise said, "There’s no better city in the world to launch the Broadway production of Soul Doctor than New Orleans where soul and music pulsate through the streets day and night. Shlomo Carlebach performed and recorded here often, and I know that it would mean so much to him that his music is being sung here to bring life and revival to the people of this great city."

That's exactly what the Louisiana Entertainment inventive aims to do - bring economic life and revival to the Gulf Coast city.

Those applying for the incentives are informed that can means up to a 35 percent transferable or refundable tax credit.

Production & Infrastructure Incentives:

10% of the base investment for expenditures of $100,000 to $300,000
20% of the base investment for expenditures of $300,000 to $1 million
25% of the base investment for expenditures over $1 million

Additional Incentives:
10% additional tax credit for payroll of Louisiana residents
Transportation tax credit offered for shipping of live performance-related property
A transferable tax credit can be sold or applied against Louisiana tax liability.

Infrastructure credits are capped at $10 million per project with a $60 million annual state cap. The program also provides incentives and support for collaboration with Louisiana’s top educational institutions.

New Orleans has an abundance of something touted as what "arts groups prize: more than 60,000 vacant and blighted properties," just waiting to be renovated, restored and turned into valuable assets.


Five Feet High and Rising a 1959 song written and performed by Johnny Cash who lived and died in Nashville, was inspired from a real life experience - a flood in Dyess, Arkansas. In 1937, excessive rains flooded Dyess, including the farm where Cash's family lived. The town lost electricity, telephone service and couldn't operate its water system, so a complete evacuation became necessary. The song became a hit.

When 'high and rising' happened last week in Nashville, there was nothing entertaining about it.

The historic flooding of the Cumberland River - 13-feet above flood stage - put a damper on Nashville's tourism industry, including the Grand Ole Opry's 85th birthday celebration.

Turning 85 is significant. Getting your parade rained on is a wet blanket.

When the rains came tumblin' down, soaking up the wet stuff was the Grand Ole Opry, the famous venue where preparations were in process for a months long celebration of the venerable institution's anniversary.

The Opry House is now closed for repairs, which includes a new stage. The record rain left two feet of water on the stage, damaging instruments, memorabilia and archival tapes.

Adhering to The-Show-Must-Go-On philosophy weekend performances will now take place at the Ryman Auditorium - the Opry's original home - in downtown Nashville as well as the War Memorial Auditorium, and Two Rivers Baptist Church.

Martina McBride is scheduled for Tuesday Night, May 11. Eric Church performs May 18; Charlie Daniels Band entertains May 14 and 18; Vince Gill is in the spotlight May 25; George Jones entertains May 11; Brad Paisley is slated for May 25; Ricky Skaggs has May 15 and 25 dates; Mel Tillis is up on May 20; and Steve Wariner is scheduled for a May 25th shows.

Nashville based Gaylord Entertainment Co., owner of country music’s Grand Ole Opry, announced that the theater will be closed for months. The nearby 2881-room Opryland Resort was flooded after the Cumberland River breached levees. About 1,500 hotel guests and employees were evacuated Sunday. Gaylord said its flood insurance coverage is limited to $50 million. The company gave no estimate of damages.

Schermerhorn Symphony Center Main Entrance
The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is seriously waterlogged and has lost thousands of dollars in musical equipment.

Their two 10-foot basements were full of water, and staffers were unable to move anything out before the power failed.

That basement area contained not only the blowers that travel upwards through the pipes for the massive organ, but two Steinway pianos and a full catering facility - all under water.

So is the elevator.

Officials report the losses are staggering - too much for even a guess.

Symphony center will be silent for some time.

The Community Hymn Sing was canceled. The scheduled ticketed performance by pop singer Christopher Cross changed into a free outdoor concert in the public square in front of City Hall. Anyone who bought a ticket for the original Cross date can get credit toward a future concert.

In that free event Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero and Resident Conductor Albert-George Schram lead a program of symphonic favorites, and recording legend Cross joined the orchestra to perform a selection of his hits. Attendees were advised to bring their own chairs or blankets.

In explaining the free concert the Nashville Symphony issued a statement saying they "decided to present this concert as a way of helping the community find solace and healing. This night of great music will help remind everyone that there's hope for our community, and that together we can overcome the obstacles before us."

Other performances are being shifted to different venues. The May 15 Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel and performances of Bluebeard's Castle on May 20-22 have been relocated to TPAC's Andrew Jackson Hall. Show Hope Present's Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella on Friday, May 14, has been relocated to Allen Arena at David Lipscomb University. The symphony said most of its remaining concerts for the rest of this season will be held in alternate venues.

Country Music Hall of Fame surrounded by flood waters. Photo: Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame fared the best.

"We would like to thank all of our friends and patrons who have expressed concern about our situation and offered to help," said Director Kyle Young. "The Museum has sustained minor damage, but the exhibits and collections-located on the second, third and fourth floors of the building-are safe and dry and were never in danger." Those exhibits include vintage recordings, Elvis Presley's gold-plated Cadillac and Bill Monroe's Gibson F-5 Master Model mandolin.

"At the height of the downtown flooding on Monday, the Museum had five and a half feet of water in one of its mechanical rooms, which is located below ground level. Water also came into the Ford Theater, which is at street level on the corner of Fourth Avenue South and Demonbreun Street. The theater sustained some minor damage, and personnel from American Constructors (which built the Museum) have already begun repair and restoration efforts."

"Additionally, Museum staff continue to work on updates to the Museum's permanent exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, and those revisions will be completed as scheduled on May 14, 2010. The accompanying opening weekend programs set for May 14-15 will also take place as planned."

On Friday morning Tina Wright Director of Media Relations for The Country Music Hall of Fame happily told Broadway To Vegas "we re-opened for business this morning at 9 a.m."

According to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau: "The music is still playing, attractions and hotels are open, and the greatest support you can give Nashville is to come and visit."

In Cash's Five Feet High and Rising, the verse states:

"My mama always taught me that good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord.
We couldn't see much good in the flood waters when they were causing us to have to leave our home,
But when the water went down, we found that it has washed a load of rich black bottom dirt across our land.
The following year we had the best cotton crop we'd ever had." Five Feet High And Rising lyrics © Chappell & Co


A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS the Walnut Street Theater's inaugural Gala Concert fundraiser, the Philadelphia based venue is opening the entire mainstage theatre to subscribers and friends for a one-night-only concert event. Singing their personal favorite Broadway numbers and sharing behind-the-scenes stories will be Walnut performers: Ben Dibble, Jennie Eisenhower, Joilet Harris, David Jackson, Mark Jacoby, Ben Lipitz, Mary Martello, Mike O'Brien, Katie O'Shaughnessey, Fran Prisco and Denise Whelan. Friday, May 14, 2010 at The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY'S 2010 GALA Honorary Chair: Mike Nichols. Honorary Co-Chairs: Olympia Dukalis, Dianne Wiest, Walter Bobbie and James Lapine.

The event honors celebrated producer, casting director & CSC board member Rosemaire Tichler.

Cocktail reception followed by dinner and a live auction. Monday, May 17 at Twenty Four Fifth in NYC.


This event will star: Tim Bagley, Dan Bucatinsky, Tate Donovan, David Eigenberg, Clark Gregg, Emmy Award-winner Lisa Kudrow, Alec Mapa, Jon Tenney and Dylan Walsh.

Director Grey starred in the original production of The Normal Heart at The Public Theater, in which he played the central role of Ned, based semi-autobiographically on playwright Kramer. The Normal Heart focuses on "the terrifying early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York and the criminal silence of official America in dealing with it."

The event which benefits the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic which provides quality free and low-cost medical care for people living with HIV/AIDS is being held at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles on Monday, May 17, 2010.


Stephen Sachs will direct Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress Christine Lahti and a cast of Side Man veterans including Kevin Geer, Joseph Lyle Taylor and Tony-winner Frank Wood, Garret Dillahunt, and Stephanie Zimbalist when L.A. Theatre Works records Side Man for radio at the Skirball Cultural Center May 12-16. Also in the cast is L.A. Theatre Works regular Kyle Colerider-Krugh.

Side Man is a rich and moving tribute to a lost era of jazz and big bands, a time before the birth of rock 'n' roll when jazz musicians were legends. Smoothly gliding between present and past, it tells the story of a time, before The Beatles and Elvis, when jazzmen were as heroic as ball players and there was no shortage of Saturday night gigs. Side Man is both a tribute to the men whose lives were their music and a drama about one musician's family left in the wake of that passion.

Each of the five performances will be recorded in front of a live audience, and the final CD will air on L.A. Theatre Works' nationally syndicated radio theater series, which broadcasts weekly on public radio stations nationwide. May 12-16. L.A. Theatre Works at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE A BROOKLYN CHRISTMAS a reading of Vincent Gogliormella and Charles Messina’s comedic screenplay takes place May 11 at 45 Bleeker Street in NYC.

Messina will direct the event for professionals and potential investors, in which the main roles will be read by Michael Rispoli, Mario Cantione and Robert Cuccioli. Others participating include: Antoinette LaVecchia, William DeMeo, Lou Martini Jr., Ernest Mingione, Autumn Ready Potter, Louis Vanaria, Nick Fondulis, Alex Corrado and Radio City Music Hall's Very Own Santa Claus Charles Edward Hall.

THE 37TH ANNUAL DAYTIME EMMY AWARDS will be broadcast Sunday, June 27 from the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas on the CBS Television Network. This is the first time the awards ceremony will take place in Las Vegas.

"The Daytime Emmy Awards are one of the cornerstones of our business and we are thrilled to be back on CBS," said Herb Granath, Chairman, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). "Last year's show was one of the most entertaining events in our history, and this year's Las Vegas-based broadcast promises to be even more exciting." Associated Television International (ATI) will produce the show with ATI President and Emmy Award winner David McKenzie serving as executive producer. In a statement he indicated that "moving the show to Las Vegas allows us a dazzling range of production choices."

Nominations will be announced on May 12.

The Daytime Emmy Awards recognize outstanding achievement in all fields of daytime television production and will be presented to individuals and programs broadcast during the 2009 calendar year.

JENNY GERSTEN associate producer of the nonprofit Public Theater company in New York that was founded by Joseph Papp, will succeed Nicholas Martin as the artistic director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival beginning in October.

Gersten's appointment as artistic director marks the first woman to helm the Massachusetts summer festival, which was founded in 1955 by Ralph Renzi, News Director of Williams College, and David C. Bryant, chairman of the College’s active drama program. Gersten, 41, previously served as associate producer at Williamstown from 1996-2004.

Martin will lead the Williamstown Theatre Festival throughout the upcoming 2010 summer season. Gersten, who has been with the Public Theater for the last three years, will exit the company in late summer.

will be honored by Manhattan School of Music at its 84th commencement ceremony on Friday, May 14, at Riverside Church in New York City. They will receive the Degree of Doctor of Musical Arts, honoris causa.

Lansbury is currently appearing as Madame Armfeldt in revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

Alan M. Ades is a twenty-year member of Manhattan School of Music’s Board of Trustees, as well as Advisory Director of the Metropolitan Opera and the George London Foundation for Singers.

Orin O'Brien
Maestro Anton Coppola has conducted for almost all of the important opera companies in America, including the San Francisco and New York City Opera.

For more than 15 years, he was the director of the symphony and opera departments at Manhattan School of Music, where he instituted the Master’s program in conducting.

The Presidential Medal for Distinguished Service will be given to Dr. Arkady Aronov, a member of MSM's piano faculty and Orin O'Brien, an American double bassist.

She has been a member of the New York Philharmonic since joining in 1966 under the direction of Leonard Bernstein and was the first woman to join the orchestra in its history. She currently teaches at the Julliard School, where she was co-chair of the double bass department from 1992 to 2002, Manhattan School of Music, and Mannes College The New School for Music.

O'Brien is a founding faculty member of the Manhattan School's Orchestral Performance Program.

THE EUGENE O'NEILL THEATER CENTER in Waterford, CT has won the 2010 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The honor will be presented at the Tony Awards ceremony on June 13.


VERSACE the Italian fashion house has been awarded $20m in damages by the Central District Court in Los Angeles for trademark violations and willful counterfeiting.

Following a 2003 complaint from Versace, claiming that counterfeit goods bearing the Versace brand were being sold, police charged 110 people in southern California and Arizona in for selling fake Versace goods. 72 retail shops in southern California were seized during the case.

In a statement released Thursday Verace CEO Gian Giacomo Ferraris termed the award "historic" and said it proves that trading in counterfeiting goods can be successfully "taken on and defeated."


SANDY DUNCAN a three time Tony-nominee, has withdrawn from the George Street Playhouse production of Creating Claire, the world premiere play by Joe DiPietro, due to "a significant illness," according to a statement from the theater.

"I wish Sandy all the best for a speedy recovery," said GSP artistic director David Saint, who also directs the show.

In the fall of 1971, during her first season of the television series Funny Face, she underwent surgery for a benign tumor behind her left eye, which damaged the optic nerve. She lost sight in the eye, but is still able to move it normally.

JULIE WILSON the cabaret and theatre veteran has canceled her Metropolitan Room, NYC engagements due to health issues. She had been set to open May 5 with additional performances on May 6 and 7 and May 13, 14 and 15.

BRET MICHAELS who defied medical odds in surviving a serious brain hemorrage has left the hospital and is recovering in a rehabilitation facility. He starred on Broadway in Rock of Ages. During the 2009 Tony Awards Michaels and Poison performed Nothin' But a Good Time with the cast of Rock of Ages. As Michaels left the stage, he was hit by a piece of scenery and knocked to the ground. According to Michaels' spokeswoman, the singer had X-rays taken after getting hit in the head by a falling set piece.

Publicist Joann Mignano said Michaels fractured his nose and had to get three stitches in his lip. Because of a past neck injury, she said he underwent a CAT scan as a precaution.

Although injured, Michaels remained in good spirits. He wiped off blood with a towel and laughed backstage as host Neil Patrick Harris teased that the singer "gave head banging a whole new meaning." Brett Michaels is part of the NBC's show Celebrity Apprentice 3.


ENRON the musical by Lucy Prebble, which was a smash in England, will close on Broadway, Sunday, May 9, 2010, at a loss of $4 million. Enron will have played 22 previews and 16 regular performances.

by Matthew Lopez has two regional premieres being mounted this month. The New England Premiere, on Stage 2 at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA, will be directed by Christopher Innvar. The West Coast Premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego is being helmed by Giovanna Sardelli.

Set in Virginia following the final days of the Civil War, a severely wounded Jewish Confederate soldier returns to his childhood home in Richmond, VA. The house is in ruins and has been abandoned except for two newly freed slaves, reared in the Jewish faith by the soldier’s family. As they await the family’s return, the three men share a Passover Seder. Though a new chapter of history is unfolding, dangerous secrets of the past threaten to destroy their family, their connected history and their shared faith.

The Barrington Stage Company cast features LeRoy McClain, Clarke Peters and Nick Westrate. The Old Globe production stars Avery Glymph, Charlie Robinson and Mark J. Sullivan.

The creative team for the Old Globe mounting includes Robert Mark Morgan (Scenic Design), Denitsa D. Bliznakova (Costume Design), Lap Chi Chu (Lighting Design), Jill BC DuBoff (Sound Design) and Diana Moser (Stage Manager).

The creatives for the Barrington Stage offering are Brad Berrodge (Sound Design), Kate J. Cudworth (Stage Manager), Sandra Goldmark (Scenic Designer), Kristina Lucka (Costume Designer) and Scott Pinkney (Lighting Design).

Matthew Lopez
The Whipping Man premiered at Luna Stage in Montclair, N.J. and has received productions at Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul and Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton. At the Old Globe in San Diego The Whipping Man is in previews on the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, with the official opening set for May 13. Performances through June 13. The Barrington Stage Company production in Pittsfield runs May 26, 2010 - June 13, 2010.

In related news, On May 6 Matthew Lopez was named Playwright-in-Residence at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego. The two-year residency includes a commission for a new play. Lopez will also take part in the Globe’s education outreach and audience development activities.

His plays include Zoey's Perfect Wedding; Reverberation and Tio Pepe, which was presented at The Public Theater as part of the 2008 Summer Play Festival. His work has also been seen and developed at Manhattan Theatre Club, The New Group, McCarter Theatre Center, Ars Nova and the Lark Play Development Center.

“Matthew Lopez is an emerging voice in the American theater,” said Old Globe Executive Producer Lou Spisto. “A fresh perspective and a narrative drive are the hallmarks of his developing talent. This residency will give him some time and opportunity to grow as a writer and learn more about his work as audiences respond to it.”

KILLING WOMEN by 2009 Wasserstein Award winner Marisa Wegrzyn. Directed by Adam Fitzgerald.

The cast includes Autumn Hurlbert, Lori Prince and Michael Puzzo.

Killing Women is a comic exploration of the ironies and insanities of corporate America where even professional assassins are fighting for their benefits. When Abby (Prince), a star on the rise, is simultaneously denied a promotion and asked to kill another woman (Hurlbert), tempers flare, guns fire and out comes a life-or-death game of Monopoly. Killing Women asks what happens when a woman is not taken seriously, but she is given a gun.

The show will begin previews Thursday, May 13 in the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, NYC with an official opening on Sunday, May 16.

THIS WILD NIGHT by Chloë Moss. Directed by Anne Kauffman.

Starring ' Emmy Award winner Edie Falco and Alison Pill.

This Wide Night is described as: "A prison sentence isn't over once you leave jail. Having just begun to rebuild a life on the outside, Marie (Pill) is confronted with her past when former cellmate Lorraine (Falco) shows up unannounced on her doorstep. The two outcasts, once so close on the inside, struggle to navigate a friendship beyond the prison walls - which may threaten their prospects to start over."

The creative team includes Rachel Hauck, scenic design; Emily Rebholz, costume design; Matt Frey, lighting design; Robert Kaplowitz, sound design; Deborah Hecht, dialect and vocal coach; Desiree Maurer, props master; April Kline, production stage manager; and Dave Nelson, production manager.

The play premiered at The Soho Theatre, London and won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Currently in previews, the officially opening is May 16 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre in NYC.

WHITE LIES by Ben Andron. Directed by Bob Cline.

Starring Tony winner Betty Buckley, Tuc Watkins and Peter Scolari with Christy Carlson Romano, Rena Strober, Andrea Grano and Jimmy Ray Bennett.

Some guys are scared stiff at the prospect of settling down, getting married, having kids - and Joe White is no exception. He’s a divorce lawyer, representing one of his many ex-girlfriends, and above all else, he’s a bachelor who wouldn’t have it any other way. So when his mother desperately wants him to start a family, he’ll do the next best thing: make one up. What could go wrong?

The production features set design by Robert Andrew Kovach, lighting design by Solomon Weisbard, costume design by Michael Bevins, sound design by Nathan Leigh and video design by Ron Eyal.

Off-Broadway at New World Stages in NYC.

THE FORREST written by Alexander Ostrovosky, translated by Kathleen Tolan and directed by Brian Kulick, the Artistic Director of Classic Stage Company.

Starring two-time Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest and Obie Award-winning actor John Douglas Thompson. The cast also features Adam Driver, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Herb Foster, Lisa Joyce, Lizbeth MacKay, George Morfogen, John Christopher Jones and Tony Torn.

Before Chekhov, there was Alexander Ostrovsky, Russia's first great theatrical reformer, who forged comedy and drama into a remarkably rich theatrical mix, paving the way for a generation of modern Russian playwrights. In this romantic romp, the most dangerous creatures in the forest are two vagabond actors, posing as gentry, who crash a nearby estate, turning an orderly manor upside down.

Scenic design is by Tony Award winner Santo Loquasto, with lighting by Tony Award winner Peter Kaczorowski, costumes by Marco Piemontese, and original music and sound design by Christian Frederickson and Ryan Rumery.

At the Classic Stage Company in NYC for a limited engagement running through Sunday, May 30.

RHINO inspired by Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist masterpiece Rhinoceros. Imagined and directed by Evren Odcikin. Created and performed by El Beh, Allison Combs, Erin Gilley, and Ross Pasquale.

Don't you feel the pressure to change? Your neighbor has become one. And so has your wife. With their beautiful horns, rough skin, and cacophonous trumpeting - don't you think they are just a little bit better than you? The answers to these questions (with even more questions raised) are at the center of Rhino.

Created and performed by an ensemble of four, Rhino invites the audience to fully immerse themselves. With an ever evolving landscape requiring the audience to move about the Boxcar Playhouse space, this original piece defines what experimental theatre is all about. Physical transformations, ideological conformity, and that nagging feeling you might never ever fit in come together in this sometimes hard-hitting, but always playful work of art.

The design team includes Sara Huddleston (sound), Amy Knight (costumes), and Evren Odcikin (sets).

At San Francisco's Boxcar Theatre through May 29.


PATTI LuPONE performs Thursday, May 13, at The Granada in Santa Barbara, CA. On Saturday the show is at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

ROD STEWART has two two-nighters this week. The first gig opens Tuesday, May 11, at The 02 in Dublin. On Saturday the second begins at Odyssey Arena in Belfast.

TAYLOR SWIFT opens a two night stand Wednesday, /May 12, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. On Friday another two nighters begins at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.

MICHAEL BUBLE is on tour in the United Kingdom this week. He'll be on stage Tuesday, May 11, at Liverpool Echo Arena in Liverpool. On Wednesday the tour stops at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle upon Tyne. Friday finds him at the LG Arena in Birmingham. On Saturday he opens a two night gig at The 02 in London.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD performs Monday, May 10, at the Ford Park Arena in Beaumont, TX. The tour stops at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin on Wednesday. On Thursday she performs at the American Bank Center Arena in Corpus Christi, TX. Saturday the show is at the Tucson Arena in Tucson, AZ.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA hosted by Dana Lorge and Richard Skipper. Barry Levitt on keyboard & Saadi Zain on bass. Wednesday's guests include: Lori Evanson, Linda Fields, Cindy Marchionda, Leslie Orofino, Barbara Porteus and Marlene Sampson. Wednesday, May 12. Iguana VIP Lounge in NYC.

BILL COSBY telling funny stories Saturday, May 15, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. On Sunday he'll be getting laughs at the Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA.

JASON ANDREWS who performed as the close up-magician in pre-show events during the Las Vegas Forever Plaid engagement, will be making his debut appearance at Hollywood's The Magic Castle May 10-16.

KAREN MASON performs at the Metropolitan Room in NYC on May 15.

NICKELBACK on stage Monday, May 10, at the Idaho Center in Nampa, ID. On Friday the show is at the Bank Arena in Wichita, KS. Saturday the tour stops at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

TONY ORLANDO IN LET'S SALUTE AMERICA CONCERT inspired by America's love of the Yellow Ribbon as a symbol of freedom, hope, homecomings and of course, Tony's number one recording of 1973, Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree. It was number one for that year, became Orlando's theme song and grew into an American anthem of hope, homecoming, reunion and renewal. The salute includes Yellow Ribbon, a tribute to George M. Cohan's Yankee Doodle Dandy, a rendition of Toby Keith's American (Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue), Neil Diamond's America and Ray Charles' America The Beautiful. Tony also performs his other big hits. Two performances will take place on May 15 at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, La Mirada, CA.


Lynn Redgrave
died Sunday, May 1, 2010, surrounded by her children Ben, Pema and Annabel and close friends. She was 67.

"Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven year journey with breast cancer," Redgrave's children said in a statement Monday, May 2. "She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before. The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives. Our entire family asks for privacy through this difficult time."

She was nominated for two Oscars - once in 1967 for best actress in Georgy Girl and again in 1999 for best supporting actress in Gods and Monsters. Her career on stage, in film and on television spanned four decades.

A member of the Redgrave acting dynasty, she was born March 8, 1943 in London. She made her professional debut in a 1962 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal Court Theatre. Following a tour of Billy Liar and repertory work in Dundee, she made her West End debut at the Haymarket, in N.C. Hunter's The Tulip Tree with Celia Johnson and John Clements.

In 1967 she made her Broadway debut in Black Comedy with Michael Crawford and Geraldine Page. London appearances included Michael Frayn's The Two of Us with Richard Briers at the Garrick, David Hare's Slag at the Royal Court, and Born Yesterday, directed by Tom Stoppard at Greenwich. in 1973.

In 1974, she returned to Broadway in My Fat Friend. There soon followed Knock Knock with Charles Durning, Mrs Warren's Profession (Tony nomination) with Ruth Gordon, and Saint Joan. In the 1985/86 season she appeared with Rex Harrison, Claudette Colbert and Jeremy Brett in Aren't We All? and with Mary Tyler Moore in A.R. Gurney's Sweet Sue.

With her sister Vanessa as Olga, she returned to the London stage playing Masha in Three Sisters in 1991 at the Queen's Theatre, London.

She played Broadway again in Moon Over Buffalo (1996) with co-star Robert Goulet, and starred in the world premiere of Tennessee Williams' The Notebook of Trigorin, based on Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. She won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Talking Heads.

In 1989 she appeared on Broadway in Love Letters with her then husband John Clark, and thereafter they performed the play around the country, and on one occasion for the jury in the O. L. Simpson case. In 1993 she appeared on Broadway in the one-woman play Shakespeare For My Father, which Clark produced and directed. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

In 2005, Redgrave appeared at Quinnipiac University and Connecticut College in the play Sisters of the Garden, about the sisters Fanny and Rebekka Mendelssohn and Nadia and Lili Boulanger.

In September 2006, she appeared in Nightingale, the U.S. premier of her new one-woman play based upon her maternal grandmother Beatrice, at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum.

A naturalized American citizen, Queen Elizabeth awarded her an OBE in 2001 for her service to drama.

In addition to her children she is survived by six grandchildren, her sister Vanessa, and four nieces and nephews. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York were dimmed in her memory on Tuesday, May 4th, for one minute.

Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, commented, “In addition to Lynn Redgrave’s genius as a multi-talented performer and writer, she was very generous with her time and influence. My memories of her brilliant performances on stage are matched with seeing her dedicated activities offstage. Whether participating in an Actors Fund meeting or a walkathon for charity, her warmth and selflessness always made the day brighter. Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and audiences.”

A private funeral was held.

Helen Wagner
best known for her long running role as Nancy Hughes on the soap opera As The World Turns died May 1, 2010. She was 91.

Daughter of a doctor, she was born on September 3, 1918 in Lubbock, Texas, Wagner studied at Monmouth College in Illinois, earning degrees in dramatics and music. While working at her first professional stage job singing with the St. Louis Municipal Opera, Wagner caught the eye of Oscar Hammerstein, who then cast Wagner in the Broadway production of Sunny River.

Wagner's other Broadway credits include Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, The Bad Seed, My Name Is Acquilon and Love of Four Colonels. She toured as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire with Lee Marvin, and appeared in regional theater in Illinois as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter and in all of the women's roles in Lovers and Other Strangers.

Wagner played the role of Nancy Hughes on the CBS soap for the past 54 years and uttered the show's first words when it premiered in 1956: "Good morning, dear."

She is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest-running character played by one actor or actress on television.

On November 22, 1963, about ten minutes into that day's broadcast of As the World Turns, a scene in which Wagner's character was conferring with her father-in-law ("Grandpa" Hughes, played by Santoa Ortega) was interrupted by Walter Cronkite's first news bulletin that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. This bulletin was audio only as the studio camera was not ready until 20 minutes later. Wagner later remembered that she and Ortega continued with the scene - which was being broadcast live as was the norm in those days - despite the broadcast interruption, unaware of the unfolding national tragedy until they were told about it once the scene was finished.

In a June 8, 1994 radio interview with Peter Anthony Holder, the actress recalled a funny incident involving her character, Nancy, who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

"Well, I must tell you one thing that was very funny. When you're on the air you don't have the stove connected, because a hot stove is too much of a danger in that kind of situation. One day we did have it practical because they decided that they wanted to see Nancy frying chicken for the 4th of July picnic."

"So I was frying chicken for the 4th of July picnic and in the midst of everything, one of the timers on the stove went off. Well we had never used the stove before. None of us had any idea where the timer was. We were playing a much.....sort of laissez faire attitude towards this old thing, and meanwhile one of the stagehands was crawling behind the set, pulled the plug on the stove...(laughter) know the great cook Nancy didn't even know how her stove worked. "

Wagner's most recent appearances on As The World Turns were on November 25, 2009, during the show's Thanksgiving episode, and also on December 29, 2009. She appeared again on April 2, 2010. Wagner's final appearance on As the World Turns, taped in March, aired on April 5, 2010 - 54 years after her first appearance and less than a month before her death.

Although Wagner played Nancy for more than 50 years, she never won a Daytime Emmy Award for her work. She was, however, awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for her role on the show in May 2004.

In 1988, Wagner's alma mater, Monmouth College, awarded her with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. The following year, Wagner chaired a national committee that raised more than $1 million to replace the school's little theater with a state-of-the-art theater. On the opening night in Monmouth's new Wells Theater, Wagner played the role of Eleanor in The Lion in Winter.

In later years, when Wagner when wasn't on ATWT as often, she and her husband enjoyed traveling, including a two month trip to China. Wagner was a long time volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She had been married to Broadway producer Robert Willey from June, 1954 until his death in May, 2009.

Next Column: May 16, 2010
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Laura Deni

U.S. Postal Address: Post Office Box 60831, Las Vegas, NV 89160