Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: November 14, 1999
By: Laura Deni


AIDA opens in Chicago
The Disney backed Elton John/Tim Rice rock musical began previews in Chicago at the revamped Cadillic Theater with the press not permitted to see the show until Dec. 9. Therefore, members of the press sent people they knew to the theater.
Rumors have three young stars - Heather Headley, Sherie Scott and Adam Pascal - doing breakout performances in a production with a story line about a Nubian princess who is forced into slavery and must share the man she loves with another woman. The production, which has been totally re-done since it opened in Atlanta last year, is in Chicago only thru Jan. 9 and then heads to Broadway for a March 23 opening at the Palace Theatre.

The Chicago engagement has already been plagued by problems. Last night - Saturday Nov. 13- an on-stage accident resulted in Headley and Pascal being rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Both sustained minor injuries and were released a few hours later.

Reportedly the packed theater sat horrified as the two actors were suspended in their "tomb," a scene which takes place towards the play's conclusion. The set broke from the support and plunged the actors 15 feet to the stage.

A voice over the loudspeaker asked if there was a doctor in the house, and requested that all patrons leave the theater. Because the scenery fell so close to the front of the stage it was impossible to lower the curtain. Eventually a scrim was dropped.

Paramedics loaded Headley onto a stretcher after applying a neck brace.

Performances have been canceled until Wednesday, Nov. 17.


Ben Hur: The Musical, a $9 million production complete with Arabian horses and camels, trotted on stage last night, Nov. 13, at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando Florida and received lukewarm reviews.

CHARLTON HESTON won a Best Actor Oscar for the 1959 MGM film
The massive undertaking takes place in A.D. Jerusalem where the story unfolds. There's a 23-piece orchestra, a cast of 50 singers and actors, who wage the ancient battle in a two hour production that includes 35 drops and sets. The famed chariot race, which Charlton Heston brought to the big screen, takes place in the 2,657 sea theater on a 145-foot-wide stage with a 60-foot-wide proscenium arch. The chariot race features eight full-size lifelike animatronic Arabian horses costing $75,000 each. There is a full-scale sea battled with a 40-foot-wide, two-story tall Roman war galley, and a wall of fire 40 feet wide and 12 feet high, that erupts from the stage, and cannons on the war galleys hurl bursting fire balls.

Opening night criticism centered around a not too convincing sound system, lack of depth in the written book, unfavorable comparisons to the classic movie which won 11 Academy Awards, and criticism that Ben Hur:The Musical was basically a high tech, big budget church pageant.

The audience will cast their opinion through ticket sales.

The production has a year's lease with a 3-year option at the convention center's Linda W. Chapin Auditorium.

Produced by Orlando based Global Impact Productions, the intent is to bring the production to Broadway in three years.

The producers aren't shy in using the stage to proselytize Christianity and their effort to teach "forgiveness and redemption." They are also dollar smart in confessing that people will come to see the chariot race and they are hawking a plethora of Ben Hur merchandise.

Production features: Robert Patteri as Judah Ben-Hur, Stephen Jones as Messala and Mark Ferrera as Sheik Ilderim. Executive Producer Bob Reeder, Director Amick Byram, Scenic Designer Peter Wolf, Composer Paul Johnson, Composer/Musical director Ron Owen, and Librettist Chip Hand.


The adoring fans who made the pilgrimage to the Mandalay Events Center in Las Vegas last Thursday showed their adulation to Ricky Martin by standing and screaming for his entire show.

RICKY MARTIN seasoned showman
If they had bothered to pay attention to anything other than their own surging pubescent hormonal urges they would have gotten an eyeful.

One of Martin's female dancers, almost attired in a two-piece bikini, shook herself right out of the costume.

Martin, who started out as one of the Menudo boys before becoming too old for the act, transferred his talents to Broadway as Martin Les Miserables before putting his own stamp on hip shaking. He's got showmanship down pat. At 27, he's been performing for 15 years. Fifteen years from now his tush thrusts may not be as fast, but he's in for the long term. The screaming fans that pack the venues now will stay with him for decades.

He's an expert dancer, sings more effectively in Spanish than he does in English and comes across as a nice guy. As if all of his body movements on stage weren't enough exercise, the guy travels with a bicycle for his daily rides around town.


SPLASH'S KIM BARRANCO models Yearick's costume for the all new Splash Show.
Stephen Yearick has spent twenty years designing gowns for the famous and those who need to be in their company. Twenty-two of the last twenty-seven Miss America's have paraded in his gowns. This year his gowns graced more Tony Award nominees than any other designer.

Now Yearick is bringing is statement-making creations to Las Vegas to design costumes for the Revamped Splash production show at the Riviera Hotel.

The designer who has dressed Nancy Reagan, Glenn Close, Vanessa Williams, and the late Eva Gabor, says he "loves to see women make an entrance and steal the show."

Combining traditional Las Vegas showgirl costume elements of feathers, long flowing capes, glamorous gowns and glitzy headgear. With his own sense of the sensual and style, Yearick's bold and imaginative creations will certainly make the showgirls showstoppers.

The Splash production show, which debuted at the Riviera in 1986, has been skewered and mocked by critics since the curtain went up. The show, which has reinvented itself several times has never gained critical respect. Now Splash is undergoing one of its most dramatic renovations ever; a $1.2 million revamp of the entire production. Bringing Yearick on board is a major step is bringing the show into new millennium competition.

For the Vegas show Yearick's creations utilize narrow bands of Austrian crystal-studded satin spandex, which wrap around the showgirls, accenting their sensual lines. Beaded bustiers, glittering, glamorous jewels at their wrists and about their heads are a parade of blues, pinks, and purples. Each showgirl will wear her own spectacular costume specifically designed for her by Yearick, some with lavish headpieces shimmering with fiber-optic fantasy light.

Splash reopens on Christmas Day.


BELLO NOCK winner of the coveted Silver Clown Award
The Big Apple Circus has brought a family institution back to New York City, bringing their 22nd production to at Lincoln Center, NYC through Jan. 9

When the performers aren't delighting families with circus antics the clowns are participating in their Clown Care Unit program which brings laughter and joy to the bedsides of acutely and chronically ill children year-round.

HOSPITAL CLOWNS bring smiles and joy
CCU "clown doctors" are specially selected professional performers who are trained to work in the sensitive hospital environment. Annually, they make 180,000 one-on-one bedside visits in pediatric services throughout the hospital, including: intensive care units, bone marrow transplant centers, burn treatment centers, pediatric AIDS units, emergency rooms, acute care clinics, impatient wards, physical therapy units, and outpatient wards.

There are currently Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit programs operating in several cities nationwide, including Boston, Chicago, New Haven, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

WOODCOCK ELEPHANTS from Russia gracefully dance with Regina
The Big Apple Circle presents a combination of Broadway-style theater and world-class circus artistry.

Produced by Founder, Artistic Director and Ringmaster Paul Binder, this year's production has been conceived by co-founder and creative director Michael Christensen and Canadian director Michel Barette, who also directs the show.

Music composed by Canadian composer Brigitte Larochelle.

The performers are choreographed by Gail Gilbert, clad in colorful costumes by Parisian designer David Belugou, with sets by Dan Kuchar. Lighting by Sarah Sidman.

The Big Apple Circus is a not-for-profit performing arts institution committed to kids and their families.

The Circus will travel to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and other major cities on and eleven-city, ten-month tour.


A story that began on the western plains and focused the attention of the world on Laramie, Wyoming - the beating death of a gay college student - will be told on stage in Denver. The Denver Center Theatre Company in association with Moises Kaufman's Tectonic Theatre Project will produce the World Premiere of "The Laramie Project" - a new play written by award winning Kaufman with members of his company. Kaufman will also direct the production.

On November 14, 1998, a month after University of Wyoming gay college student Matthew Shepard was murdered - beaten and left to die hanging on a fence - Playwright 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 several more times to Wyoming and conducted over two hundred intensely personal documented interviews. The writers / actors who conducted the interviews will develop and perform the play in Denver.

Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney are serving life sentences for Shepard's killing.

The Laramie Project will premiere at The Ricketson Theatre on February 26, 2000 and run through April 1 prior to a planned opening in New York.

Kaufman's staging of his play Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde ran for over 600 performances in New York and went on to Los Angeles (Mark Taper Forum), San Francisco (Theater on the Square), Toronto (Canadian Stage) and London's West End (Gielgud Theatre). The play has been produced in over 40 cities in the U.S.

The Laramie Project production at the Denver Center Theatre Company is sponsored by The Denver Post. DCTC support for new American plays is provided by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

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JEFF AWARDS Chicago's version of the Tony Awards were presented and the Goodman Theatre's production of Death of a Salesman took honors as best play with Brian Dennehy adding another award to his collection as best actor in a principal role. Dennehy is headed into the London production. His co-star Elizabeth Franz took home the award for best actress in a supporting role. Death of a Salesman opened in Chicago in September, 1998 winning raves before moving to New York. Other winners included; Best new work to Rebecca Gilman for Spinning Into Butter, staged at The Goodman Theatre and Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

RUDY GIULIANI hizzoner of NYC will be saluted Nov. 16 at the Minskoff Theater with a political fund raiser and a new Broadway show. The $500 a head soiree' will include a performance of Saturday Night Fever, followed by a party at the Marriott Marquis. James Nederlander is chairing the event. Don't expect Jerry Seinfeld and his fiance, who was related to the Nederlander family for a few moments, to attend.

BILLY WILDER will be feted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Jan. 13. The 93-year-old Academy Award winner is expected to attend. A three-week retrospective by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and American Cinematheque will feature a collection of Wilder films for which he received 21 Oscar nominations. Wilder took home the award for writing and directing The Lost Weekend and for the screenplay for Sunset Boulevard. He also copped the statuettes for writing, directing and producing The Apartment. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1 for the screenings which begin Jan. 14 at UCLA's James Bridges Theater and the Cinematheque's Egyptian Theater.

CHAMBER MUSIC RESIDENCIES PROGRAM WINNERS The New York based Chamber Music America awards grants to rural American cities for the establishment of chamber music ensembles. Three cities have been tapped to receive the grants. They are; Ellsworth, Maine, Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Arkansas city, Kansas. Twenty cities applied for the grants. In determining the winning cities Nancy Christensen, education director for Chamber Music American in New York stated; "Each was selected for a reason. In Grand Forks, it was the symphony and the university; Ellsworth has a restored auditorium, and Arkansas City has the community college." The Chamber Music Rural Residencies Program was established in 1992 by the National Endowment for the Arts and is now a Chamber Music America grant program. The program is designed to assist emerging ensembles - members who have recently completed their academic training - in achieving their career goals while fulfilling the musical needs of rural communities.


WOODY HARRELSON loves his oxygen bar and eats mostly raw foods
Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art will be honored Nov. 15 at the third annual Creative Coalition fund-raiser Seconding the First, which celebrates First Amendment causes.

Woody Harrelson who is making his Broadway debut in The Rainmaker, at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, will read from Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, and Christopher Reeve will present a First Amendment award to president Jeff Bezos.

Susan Sarandon will introduce Lehman.

Expected to attend are; Richard Belzer, Andy Dick, Arianna Huffington, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller and Lou Reed.

CAROL & CAROL CAVALCADE OF STARS a benefit for Six Figures Theatre Company at the West End Theater, NYC November 17 features Sara Berg as Carol Burnett, Richard Skipper as Carol Channing, James Beamon and Lauren Bacall, Cayte Thorpe as Ethel Merman, Anne Kissell as Roseanne, Wendy Joy Franklin as Lena Horne and special guest start Kim Coles of Living Single as Tina turner.

opens November 18 at the Martin Beck Theater.

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter from a book by Sam and Bella Spewack.

Musical direction by Paul Gemignani.

Choreography by Kathleen Marshall.

In addition to Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie, the production stars Amy Spanger and Michael Berresse.

Michael Blakemore directs.

CENTRAL PARK - THE OPERA is a unique collaboration by accomplished playwrights A. R. Gurney, Wendy Wasserstein and Terrence McNally. They each penned a one-act mystery about their favorite section of Central Park. After the scribes completed their literary creations the books were given to three composers who added music. Central Park - The Opera is being staged at the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, Nov. 16, 18 and 21.

MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT is written and performed by Spalding Gray, 56, who received a new lease on life thanks to his children; Forrest, 5; Theo, 8 months; and 11-year-old stepdaughter, Marissa. The author, who has had a life long quest of looking for himself, has found the guides in his new family. Staged Sunday and Monday evenings at the Vivian Beaumonth Theater at Lincoln Center, NYC.

THE PRICE opens November 15 at the Royal Theater, NYC.

ABBY' S SONG stars Jackie Angelescu as Abby with special guest star Paul Sorvino. A holiday musical telling the story of Abbey, a loveable girl who wants to "fly a rainbow," while everyone else is telling her to keep her feet on the ground. November 14-28 City Center, NYC.

THE DEAD comes to live at Playwright's Horizons, NYC. An adaptation of James Joyce's last episode of his Dubliners stories. Strong production stars; Blair Brown, Sally Ann Howes, Marni Nixon who made a career out of putting her voice in other people's mouths, Stephen Spinella and Christopher Walken. Music by Shaun Davey, book and lyrics by Richard Nelson. Hurry. The production is set to run only through November. 28.

GLIMMERGLASS a romantic love triangle, high adventure and the end of innocence are interwoven in this new musical inspired by James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. Book by Jonathan Bolt; Music by Douglas J. Cohen and lyrics by Ted Drachman. Opened its world premiere last Thursday at Goodspeed-at-Chester in Chester, Conn, running through December 5. On November 18 and December 2 audience members may participate in discussions with the cast and creative staff following the performance.

ROMEO AND JULIET Lake Tahoe Community Theater. William Shakespeare's ultimate story of love and hate/ This production features non-traditional casting. November 18-21.

FAME THE MUSICAL The hopes and dreams of a group of students attending New York City's High School of the Performing Arts. November 19-21 at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno, Nevada. The national touring company opens Nov. 23 at the Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles with a run through December 5.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM Etibicoke Musical Productions, Missassauga, Ontario. November 19-December 4 Also staged by the Naples Players, Naples, FL. November 18-December 18.

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC continues at the Thomaston Opera House, Thomaston, Conn. through Nov. 20. The production also opened at the Barn Theater, Montville, N.J. on November 12 running through December 4.

HELEN WASSELL, KATE MAILER, and AMY WILSON in Cusi Cram's Landlocked. Photo By: Carol Rosegg
an offbeat comedy by Cusi Cram, directed by Jim Gaylord, officially opens tonight, Nov. 14 at the Miranda Theatre, NYC.

Landlocked traces the manic romance of Anna, a Swiss-German college artist, and Pierre-Luigi, a Bolivan restaurant manager as they travel through Switzerland, Italy and finally Greece to find one another. A dentist, a sculptor and an underwater archeologist and an ex-garbage man from Rhode Island both aid and hinder their journey.

Landlocked received its world premiere at South Coast Rep and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award.

Jim Gaylord was a member of the directing corps at Williamstown Theatre Festival for two seasons. In 1996 he won the prestigious Boris Sagal directing Fellowship at the Festival.

Landlocked stars: Helen Wassell, Matt Servitto, Peter Hirsch, Kate Mailer, Amy Wilson and Michael Port.


EDIE FALCO is going across the pond in January to reprise her Broadway role of Terry, the alcoholic wife in Side Man.

BERNADETTE PETERS will be taking a working vacation when she takes off for a few weeks from starring in Annie Get Your Gun.

The dynamic talent has a gig New Year's Eve. She'll be entertaining at the swank Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. Their New Year's Eve "Weekend of Celebrations" offers performances by Peters, the Temptations and Riders in the Sky, indoor pyrotechnics show, nine-course dinner, black-tie gala hosted by comedians Argus Hamilton and Lyle Waggner followed by a Roaring 20 dance. Rates for the minimum three-day package begin at $2,500 per person, based on double occupancy.

While Bernadette is doing her Rocky Mountain high show Susan Lucci will take over the star slot in Annie Get Your Gun.

THE NEW YORK VOICES perform "from Count Basie to Earth, Wind & Fire" November 19 at Ham Hall, Las Vegas. The Grammy award winning group includes Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader, and Peter Eldridge.

BETTY BUCKLEY tonight, November 14 at the Cincinnati Music Hall. Buckley is slated for a Las Vegas appearance February 8 at the Art Ham Hall.

MAYNARD FERGUSON who has been entertaining jazz audience for four decades kicks off the Winter 1999-2000 series at Beaver Creek, Colorado on November 26.

BRIAN WHITE November 19 Country 2000, Dallas, Texas.

LES BALLETS AFRICAINS regarded as Africa's most renowned and accomplished dance company, performs Nov. 20 at the Brooklyn Center for the performing Arts at Brooklyn College. The dance company was created in 1952 by Guinean choreographer, Keita Fodeba, Les Ballets Africians became the country's national ensemble after the Republic of Guinea's independence in 1958. The company also includes singers and musicians playing traditional instruments including the Balaphone (precursor to the xylophone), Djembe (drum) and the Kora (stringed instrument).


TONY STOLEN BEN VEREEN who recently returned to New York after a successful Vegas engagement starring in Chicago, had his Tony Award filched. Ben's twenty-eight-year-old daughter, Malaika, has a boyfriend, Marc Ross, who appropriated the Tony that Ben won in 1973 for Pippin, when he was assisting Malaika in moving out of her father's apartment. Police were called.

BRUCE WILLIS was the post fight entertainment
turned out for the Lewis-Hollyfield Fight.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were there.

A hand holding Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf enjoyed each other.

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, David Spade who was dressed in black leather.

Eddie Murphy, who brought along some family members.

Ray Romano and, of course, Bruce Willis who provided the entertainment.

Willis and his musicians entertained at the post fight Planet Hollywood bash.

30 LPGA PLAYERS are in Las Vegas playing in the Page Net Championship, trying to turn their golfing addiction into a $1 million. England's Laura Davies is defending her championship. Last year she fired an 11-under par 277 to win the $215,000 first place check by four strokes over Brandie Burton, Karrie Webb and Pat Hurst.

SOCIETY OF INCENTIVE & TRAVEL EXECUTIVES will return to Las Vegas Dec. 5-9 after an absence of 10 years. Headquartered at the Bellagio hotel, the international conference will be kicked off by Robert Swan OBE, who made headlines as the first man to walk to both Poles.

ATTENTION STEVEN WYNN keep your day job. When you did the commercials with Frank Sinatra for your Golden Nugget hotel, you came across as cute and a perfect foil for Ol' Blue Eyes. Now you've attempted to broaden your act by bursting forth in song during a New York City investment conference sponsored by Deutsch Banc's Alex Brown, warbling sections from Jerry Herman's new Miss Spectacular show that will open in Vegas at the Mirage. Your chutzpah is commendable, but the singing act needs work.

Mention BROADWAY TO VEGAS for Special Consideration
Call (800) 942-9027

Next Column: November 21,1999
Copyright: November 14, 1999 All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Original Photographs 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