Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: September 30, 2001
By: Laura Deni


Jay Leno endeared himself to the State of Nevada and Las Vegas in particular, when the comedian proved just what kind of a stand up guy he is by coming to Las Vegas - to put on two free shows - Friday and Saturday night - for local residents and hotel guests.

Las Vegas has been hurting since September 11. Because of the drop in tourism over 10,000 of the 45,000 Las Vegas Culinary Workers have lost their jobs. In an effort to encourage tourism Leno took to the stage at the MGM-Grand.

Leno commented that Las Vegas has a tough time understanding the word free. Hotel officials spent the week calling Leno in Los Angeles asking him what he meant by the word free show. He'd explain that it meant no charge - free. Two hours later he'd get another call inquiring if that meant he intended to donate his salary. No, he would patiently try to explain - it meant the entire event was free. After numerous phone calls trying to learn the definition of free the hotel finally understood that Leno really did mean - free!

That is significant because frequently artists who jump on a charity bandwagon are donating net proceeds. Many times that ranges from zero to slim pickings. Or, they are donating a "percentage." Percentages can be extremely deceiving. Leno is a stand up, straight shooting, warm-hearted guy. When he says free - that's what he meant. No hidden charges.

"All I ask is that you tip your waiter or waitress," said Leno, who not only received nothing tangible from his performances, but unlike some celebrities had no CD, book or movie to promote.

At first Leno was doing one show, slated for last night. Because of enormous interest Leno added a Friday night show, with both performances beginning at 10 p.m.

The original game plan was that tickets would be passed out on a first come, first served basis. Nevada residents with identification would be allowed two tickets per person. Hotel guests had to show proof of room registration. The give away would be from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

What neither the hotel nor Leno anticipated was the demand.

Tickets were almost too popular. Security became concerned, forcing the hotel into a covert free ducats distribution mode of operation.

"People started lining up at 3.a.m," said a hotel official.

Three in the morning???

"That's right, three in the morning," responded the official. "There was such a demand - so many people hanging around, many of them wearing large backpacks, that security and the hotel felt it was in the best interest to give out the tickets early."

First the hotel issued wrist bands, just like they do for people who want to purchase tickets for rock stars.

"Because we had enough people with the wrist bands for all of the tickets, we stopped issuing wrist bands and passed out the tickets," continued the hotel official.

The showroom seats over 1700.

At 9:30 a.m. there was no crowd, just a herd of astonished looking security guards turning away people who thought if they arrived a half hour early for the ticket give away they would be there in plenty of time

The hotel then changed it's strategy to a - we'll give away the tickets but we won't tell you when approach - which security said was an attempt at crowd control and to insure safety.

Numbered wristbands would be distributed beginning at an unspecified hour early in the morning. Once the number of people congregated that required security to manage a line, the tickets would be distributed in the order of the wristband numbers. However, those who obtained a wristband were not guaranteed a ticket, since more wristbands than tickets were distributed.

"There was such a demand that the hotel gave out the tickets early," repeated a security guard. "You would have thought Jay Leno was one of those rock stars that the teeny bopper girls love. To be able to see Leno perform free - that brought out the people, even if it meant lining up in the middle of the night.

Those who managed to get in weren't disappointed.

Leno met with members of the Blue Man Group back stage, who then joined Leno in the show.


Last night, Dangerfield's Comedy club in New York City marked its 32nd anniversary.
Dangerfield's is owned by Hollywood's king of the one-liner Rodney Dangerfield, and his partner Tony Bevacqua. The club is the longest running, most successful comedy venue on the planet, perhaps getting more respect that its owner.

In light of the September 11th tragedy last night's milestone was low keyed.

After Sept 11th the club was closed two nights.

"As far as I know nothing is happening as far as screening the comic's material," club spokesman Marvin Drager told Broadway To Vegas. "The club is booked by Linda Pohl. Once the trauma of the tragedy eases somewhat, people are looking for some sort of relief from the pressure of the situation."

The joint features top contemporary comedians who have appeared in leading clubs throughout the country, in motion pictures and on television shows such as those hosted by Lay Leno and David Letterman. Rodney Dangerfield's HBO specials were taped at the club.

"The comedy is pretty much the same. They aren't going to get into anything that is making fun of the event. It's not like a political joke. Politicians or presidents are fair game as soon as they are elected. A national tragedy is something else. There is no humor in it or attached to it. In comedy you have to find the humor in events or people's habits. But, something like this - there is no humor to be extracted," emphasized Drager.

RODNEY DANGERFIELD never franchised his name
Rodney never expanded into other cities or franchised his name. Is that the key to the club's success.

"It's hard to say. It may be," responded Drager. "It's almost like sports theme restaurants where they expand into markets and then have difficulty in sustaining. This club has always been run on a solid foundation They are very sensitive to the fact that Rodney's name is associated with it. He's a household name."

"This place has become like an icon in New York. It's in the same location as where it originally opened, which is rather unique today. They run a very tight ship. They are very astute with their programming. They give value. "A 32nd anniversary is very significant, especially in this business"

"I can point to one thing which I think is of importance," Drager continued. "We don't have any minimum charges. We just have a cover charge. I haven't seen that with any other clubs. They usually have a cover charge and a minimum charge."

The pride and joy of the seemingly immortal King of the One Liners, there's no question as to why Dangerfield's is a prominent venue for comics, usually acting as a stepping stone to much larger performances. The club seats 225 and is one of the largest comedy clubs in the city, complete with comfortable sofas, a full bar and a kitchen.

"We do serve food. It's a modified menu - steaks, chicken and shrimp. It's not a gourmet dining room and we don't intend for it to be," said Drager.

"He and his partner, Tony Bevacqua, are very astute and this is a very traitorous business. The two of them met when Rodney was appearing at a club that is no longer in existence called The Living Room on second Avenue. Tony was a bass player in the band. They struck up a friendship and subsequently decided they would open a club of their own and use it as a showcase for Rodney. That was before Rodney became the superstar that he is," explained Drager.

"Like he says - it took him 40 years to become an over night sensation," Drager joked.

"We get a tremendous amount of patrons from all over the world. A lot of that is due to the success of his motion pictures, which are even more successful overseas than they are here. He has a tremendous following. We get patrons from Australia, from England - from all over," Drager reported.

Since the club is open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, it means it has been responsible for six hours of comedy each night, or 70,080 hours, or 4,204,800 minutes or 252,288,000 seconds of comedy. Rodney did the math.


A SING-IN FOR AMERICA A marvelous collection of Broadway stars will perform in A Sing-In for America Oct. 1 at Los Angeles' Wadsworth Theatre. Hosting the show are John Ritter, who starred in Neil Simon's The Dinner Party and Amy Yasbeck of Wings.

JOHN RITTER Photo By: Laura Deni
The talented performers includes George Gershwin Alone composer-performer Hershey Felder, Jane Eyre's James Barbour and Tom Sawyer's Linda Purl.

Also performing are Beauty and the Beast's Fred Applegate, The Lion King's Kevin Bailey, Eileen Barnett of Nine, The Who's Tommy's Marcia Mitzman Gavin, Crazy for You star Harry Groener, The Phantom of the Opera's Dale Kristien, Caroline in the City's Amy Pietz, Cabaret's Amanda McBroom, TV's Alan Thicke, Cybil's Alicia Witt, Best in Show's Fred Willard and Joanne Worley of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Funds from the event will benefit the American Red Cross disaster Relief Fund, providing for the families of those affected by tragedy. Producers Richard Willis and Joel Zwick, along with Felder, Barbour, Cole and Crivello, organized A Sing-In for America.

There is no charge for the event, but reservations are required. The Wadsworth Theatre is located in Brentwood.

THE NEW YORK CITY OPERA will give a benefit performance October 8 of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman to raise money to aid the victims of the World Trade Center tragedy and their families. The production will star Mark Delavan as the Dutchman and Susan B. Anthony as Senta. The evening will also honor New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The terrorist attacks caused the cancellation of City Opera's opening-night gala performance of The Flying Dutchman on Sept. 11.

"It is fit to honor Mayor Giuliani for his extraordinary leadership through this indescribable moment," City Opera general director Paul Kellogg said. "He has brought out the best in all of us through his own example." Giuliani is also an opera buff. Tickets for The Flying Dutchman benefit are $100 and $50. The money raised will go to aid the victims, families, rescue workers and the relief effort.

ANDRE AGASSI'S SIXTH GRAND SLAM FOR CHILDREN with the tennis great serving as host, took place last night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Agassi's being revered as a tennis great is surpassed only by the devotion Las Vegas residents have for Agassi as a human being.

Since the benefit began in 1995, the event has raised more than $14 million for a variety of charitable organizations that help children. There was no benefit last year to give the deep pocket sponsors a chance to re-fill their gift giving coffers. Last night's event broke all records bringing in $4.1 million. Agassi underwrites all the expenses of the foundation that bears his name. The expenses for the benefit, which top $1 million, are paid for by corporate sponsors. Last night's line up included Elton John, Brian McKnight, Don Henley, Tim McGraw, Dennis Miller, Robin Williams, Stevie Wonder and Ray Romano.

The benefit began with Agassi hosting the unveiling of commemorative artwork by Loppo Martinez, who was on hand for the event. The art, Agassi stressed, is "symbolic of the outpouring of love and caring for at-risk children."

Individual tickets to the performance have always been kept in the reasonable to cheap range. This year, priced at $40-$85, the $65 and $85 tickets were available until the last minute. No seats were left empty. Agassi gives away unsold tickets to children from various charitable organizations, so that they can enjoy the evening.

Corporate sale of banquet tables -- $5,000-$75,000 -- on the arena floor, which include a gourmet dinner and goodie bags, were sold out months ago. The auction raises the most money with Agassi frequently being the high bidder. When two people thought they had the $175,000 high bid for a package that includes Agassi and his mom-to-be love Stefanie Graf giving private tennis lessons, Andre simply duplicated the package. Andre also did his own share of bidding - although he was not the high bidder for the item of - Kenny G performing at your wedding.

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A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC stars Hayley Mills, Claire Bloom and Robert Cuccioli at 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle, Washington.

An enchanting and sophisticated dream of a musical that sparkles and bubbles like expensive champagne. Based on Ingmar Bergman's classic film, Smiles of a Summer Night, this five-time Tony Award winning romantic comedy celebrates the desperations and delights of romantic attraction, as a trio of mismatched couples try to find their way to love. The exquisite waltz-filled score by the musical theater's greatest living writer, Stephen Sondheim, includes his most popular song, Send In the Clowns.

The spectacular cast is headed by Hayley Mills as the renowned stage actress Desiree Armfeldt, and Claire Bloom as her mother, Madame Armfeldt. The roles of Desiree's lovers is played by award-winning performer Robert Cuccioli as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm and Stephen Godwin as Fredrik Egerman.

Also featured in the cast are Suzanne Bouchard, Laura Griffith, Anne Egerman, Kendra Kassebaum, Tim Martin Gleason, Cara Rudd and David Quicksall. The quintet of Liebeslieders will be played by Seattle performers Eric Jensen, Victoria Rose Gydov, Mary Jo DuGaw, Aaron Shanks and Beth Zumann.

Hayley Mills made her acting debut as a child in the 1959 British film Tiger Bay, and went on to make six Disney films including Pollyanna, for which she received a special Oscar, and The Parent Trap. Other film credits include Whistle Down the Wind, The Chalk Garden, The Trouble With Angels and Agatha Christie's Appointment with Death. Her many stage appearances in London include roles in The Three Sisters, The Wild Duck, Rebecca, Peter Pan, The Importance of Being Earnest and Talley's Folly with Jonathan Pryce. She made her U.S. stage debut starring as Anna in the national tour of The King and I, a role she also played in the acclaimed 1991-1992 Australian revival. Mills made her off-Broadway debut in 2000, in Noel Coward's evening of two one-act plays, Suite in Two Keys.

Claire Bloom has enjoyed a long and distinguished career on stage and screen. Her portrayal of Blanche du Bois in the London production of A Streetcar Named Desire garnered three major English theatrical awards. She was chosen by Charlie Chaplin to be his leading lady in the 1952 film Limelight. In New York, she has played lead roles in A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Rashomon and Turn of the Screw, among others; Recently she played Clytemnestra in Electra, a performance that earned her an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Tony nomination. Her many television appearances include Brideshead Revisited, in which she and Laurence Olivier played Lady and Lord Marchmain. She has appeared as narrator with leading orchestras including the New York, Los Angeles and London philharmonics and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Robert Cuccioli earned a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award and a 1997 Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of the title roles in the Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde. He also garnered Chicago's prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award for Jekyll & Hyde's successful 34-week tour. He made his Broadway debut as Javert in Les Miserables and his off-Broadway credits include And the World Goes 'Round, for which he won another Outer Critics Circle Award. Cuccioli played Lancelot in the North American tours of Camelot starring Richard Harris.

While this show is being performed at The 5th Avenue, ACT's production department is creating all of the sets, costumes and props. The development and communications departments from the two theatres combined resources and expertise to raise the necessary funds and to market this all-new production of the five-time Tony Award-winning musical.

Once a vaudeville and silent picture palace, the uniquely beautiful 5th Avenue Theatre features a breathtaking Chinese interior inspired by the Forbidden City in Beijing. Now home to The 5th Avenue Musical Theatre Company, a nonprofit producer and presenter of musical theatre, also hosts concerts, lectures, and films.

KISS ME KATE didn't get kissed off after all. Slated to shutter last Sunday, in a dramatic scene, the producers took to the stage just as the matinee curtain was to go up, and announced that the show would continue for a few more weeks - thanks to financial concessions including the cast not only taking a 25 percent pay cut, but agreeing to take another twenty-five percent of their salary and purchase tickets to their own show. Those tickets have been given to Broadway Cares to distribute to disaster workers. The hope is that soon tourism will increase and patrons will once again flock to the theater

THE MUSIC MAN is also still marching along. With closing notices posted for Sept. 30 the hook was pulled back "after union employees of the production agreed to make concessions to help defray the drastic weekly losses which the musical has been experiencing since the disaster of Sept. 11," according to a producers' statement. In addition to the pay cuts agreed to by the show's employees the Nederlander Organization is not charging the production rent, and the producers and royalty recipients of The Music Man are waiving their fees. Also giving concessions are the show's suppliers and vendors.

THE SEARCH FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE starring Lily Tomlin, written by Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin. The show is 15 years old and unbelievably current. Those in the audience opening night included Joan Baez and Rita Moreno. Theater on the Square, San Francisco.

EAT THE RUNT keeps right on running off-Broadway at American Place Theatre with tickets on sale through Dec. 30.

Producers Matthew von Waaden, Weil Richmond, and Matt Richmond have found that this audience-pleaser about survival seems to be just the ticket for audiences looking for a little comic relief and finding few comedies on the boards.

All of the actors learned all of the roles in Avery Crozier's script, and they perform a "mini-audition" for the audience at the top of each show. The audience gets to play "casting director" by voting on who should play which role. Audiences are intrigued to think that they could see the same show with a different set of actors in the roles. Many return, curious to discover the impact of a different cast doing the same script. There is no improvisation in Eat The Runt, just a changing dynamic in every scene depending on the casting.

The show runs 1 hour and 45 minutes and is playing at American Place Theatre, New York City.

ARE YOU DAVE GORMAN? is a one-man show put together by Dave Gorman about other men named Dave Gorman. The comedy was born when Gorman and his London flatmate experienced a rain-drenched Wednesday evening. They sat at a cigarette-strewn table way in the back of a dusty London Pub. Tequila was involved - a lot of Tequila. They heard a rumor that the assistant manager of a Scotland East Fife Football Club was also named Dave Gorman and the next morning hopped a train and went to meet him. They've been looking for Dave Gormans all over the world ever since, traveling 24,000 miles, spent thousands of pounds, and visited four continents.

The show, about Gorman's experiences meeting other same-named people, was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and moved to London's West End. It's also been performed at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen.

Gorman has even offered pregnant women one thousand pounds to name their unborn children in his honor.

Are You Dave Gorman? is being produced by Westbeth Theatre Center in association with Avalon Promotions and is part of BBC America's deadfunny Live Comedy Series. The Westbeth Theatre Center Sept. 26-Nov. 3, officially opening Oct. 4.

FOSSE scheduled for October 9-14 at Flint Center, Cupertino, CA is canceled. Refunds are available at place of purchase.

HONG KONG BALLET'S October 5 performance at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA is canceled.

GEORGE M! a tribute to one of America's most beloved songwriters, George M. Cohen, opened the 85th season of. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in New Orleans on Sept. 28. The theater is one of the oldest community theaters in the United States. Founded in 1916, the theater moved to its current location at 616 St. Peter St. in 1922 and features both a mainstage and a children's theater.

WARRIOR: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY is a new musical by composer-playwright-songwriter Marcus Hummon who has written for Wynonna, The Dixie Chicks, Sara Evans and Tim McGraw. The world premiere opened Thursday at the Country Music Hall of Fame's Ford Theater in Nashville presented by the Actors Bridge Ensemble.

Jim Thorpe was born May 28, 1887 in a one-room cabin in Oklahoma. A member of the Sac and Fox tribe, his Indian name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translated to "Bright Path," something that Thorpe, for a time, had ahead of him.

Thorpe pulled off the never-matched feat of winning both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics. When the Amateur Athletic Union, discovered that Thorpe had played semiprofessional baseball, his amateur status was voided and Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic victories.

Thorpe went on to become a legendary professional football and baseball player, and served as the first president of what became the National Football League.

Football was his favorite sport. He led his Carlisle Indian School team to the national collegiate championship, scoring 25 touchdowns and 198 points. As a halfback he managed to lead the Canton Bulldogs football team to unofficial world championships in 1916, 1917, and 1919. Thorpe, at six feet, one-inch. 190 pounds, went on to play 6 years of Major League Baseball playing for the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Rock Island Independents, New York Giants, Canton Bulldogs and Chicago Cardinals.

When his playing days ended in 1928 with the Chicago Cardinals, Jim Thorpe had become an athletic attraction that crowds flocked to see.

This all took place before the days of lucrative endorsements and TV sports color commentators. After Thorpe's playing days were over, there was nowhere for him to go except into decline, enabling alcoholism to take control. To attempt to support his family he was forced to make speeches dressed as an Indian chief, kicking field goals at halftime shows, and working as a bar bouncer and ditch-digger.

At the time of his death March 28, 1953. his widow was left so penniless that she appealed to the governor of Oklahoma to help with burial expenses. Her request was refused. She ended up selling Thorpe's remains to a small town in Pennsylvania, which to this day markets his gravesite as a tourist attraction.

His Olympic status, as well as his gold medals, were restored posthumously in 1982. Congress designated Jim Thorpe as the greatest American athlete of the 20th century.

The cast of Warrior includes Jim Bagby, Milton Bagby, Pam Boylan, Alain Browning, Tim Orr Fudge, Jacqueline Graziano, Nathan Lacey, Tara Lacey, Jeff Lewis, Michael Prentice, Lisa Marie Smith, Becca Stevens and Dean Hall. Bill Feehely directs.

In Warrior the role of Jim Thorpe is played by Mark Luna, formerly a singer-songwriter who co-wrote the Lee Roy Parnell/Trisha Yearwood duet When a Woman Loves a Man.


TONY BENNETT and K.D. LANG's September 13 concert has been rescheduled for October 3 at the Chronicle Pavilion, Concord, CA. Then it's on to Reno, Nevada for performances Oct. 5-6 at the Silver Legacy Casino in the Grande Exposition Hall. Today Tony sings America the Beautiful at the football game at Giants Stadium, NYC.

MARCEL MARCEAU 78, on a cross country tour, brings his world of silence to Salt Lake City on Tuesday, October 2, at Kingsbury Hall.

GEORGE CARLIN has some choice words he'll share with the crowds October 4-17 MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas.

LINDA POWELL daughter of Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has withdrawn from a London production of Jitney a play about an African-American taxi firm in Pittsburgh. The play was a hit Off-Broadway a couple seasons back. She withdrew on grounds of personal security. The play will continue at the Lyttleton Theatre. Previews start on October 11, with the first night on October 16.

Linda is a founding member of the Willow Cabin Theater in New York City. She has been in numerous off-Broadway production. In film and television she had roles in The Human Factor, Reveral of Fortune and Blind Spot with Joanne Woodward.


HENRY FORD believed he was a reincarnated Civil War soldier who had died at Gettysburg.

JOHN WAYNE had a size 18-inch neck.

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE was afraid of cats.

Next Column: October 7, 2001
Copyright: September 30, 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

U.S. Postal Address: Post Office Box 60538, Las Vegas, NV 89160