Los Angeles Event Coverage: BROADWAY MY WAY (The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. at Saban Theatre)

Post image for Los Angeles Event Coverage: BROADWAY MY WAY (The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. at Saban Theatre)

by Tony Frankel on April 8, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

LADIES IN THEIR GOLDEN YEARS REAWAKEN BROADWAY’S GOLDEN AGE

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterThe Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (best known by its acronym S.T.A.G.E.) presented its 29th cavalcade of stars this year at the snazzy Art Deco-styled 1930 Saban Theatre (originally the Fox Wilshire). This annual fundraiser (created by Michael Kearns and James Carroll Pickett in 1984) raised more than $285,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) by showcasing more than 25 stage and screen luminaries who presented an eclectic mix of Broadway showstoppers. Each year has its own theme, from Sondheim to Bacharach, but this year allowed entertainers to perform popular melodies in their own style.

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterWhile many numbers were dazzling in their own right, it was the array of grande dames of the American stage that defied expectations. Patricia Morison, the original Lilli Vanessi in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate (1948), ably reprised “Wunderbar,” assisted by Davis Gaines (who has performed as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera more than 2000 times); it may not be polite to mention a lady’s age, but Morison, woefully underused in her Hollywood career, will be 100 next year. 90-year-old Janis Paige, the original Babe in Adler and Ross’ The Pajama Game (1954), entertained with a shockingly energetic Follies-esque autobiographical rendering of “That’s Life,” with special lyrics by Eric Kornfeld (Paige was married to “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” composer, Ray Gilbert, until his death in 1976). Pat Marshall, who actually replaced Paige in The Pajama Game in 1955, performed the bittersweet and lovely Weill/Anderson ballad “It Never Was You” with breathtaking soulfulness (Marshall was married to comedy writer Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing…) for 53 years until his death in 2009).

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterJo Anne Worley whooped it up with Berlin’s “Can You Use Any Money Today?” from Call Me Madam, tossing out fake $100 bills with her picture on them. Shirley Jones also sounded swell, performing “Till There Was You,” from Willson’s The Music Man with son Patrick Cassidy, but it was a shapely, youthful Florence Henderson who blew the roof off the house with Kander & Ebb’s “When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago. Garbed in a tight, black dominatrix outfit replete with whip, Henderson parodied her Brady Mom image with humor and panache as she sexed it up with slinky chorus boys, and reminded us why she was a Broadway star (among other shows, she originated the title role in Harold Rome’s Fanny, which opened the same year as The Pajama Game).

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterMadison Claire Parks’ recent outing in Oklahoma! proved that she is bestowed with beauty, chops, and personality, but the granddaughter of the late S.T.A.G.E. entertainer Betty Garrett presented a vaulting, lyrical and powerful version of The Phantom of the Opera‘s “Think of Me” that had joyful spectators leaping from their chairs. Tom Lowe, who performed as Elvis in Vegas! The Show (reviewed here) executed a heart-wrenching, masterful interpretation of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from that other well-known British Invasion musical (the Harvard graduate also speaks fluent Mandarin along with six other languages).

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterRepeat visitors to S.T.A.G.E. included Carol Cooke, who got the biggest laugh of the night when she began Gershwin’s “Strike up the Band”; with a simple “Let the drums roll out,” a bass drum went traversing across the stage and stopped in front the deadpan comedienne, who told us a thousand words with her eyes, never even gazing at the drum. Bruce Vilanch, dressed in tight-fitting red long-johns, suspenders and pink tutu, did a ridiculously riotous send-up of A Chorus Line’s “At the Ballet,” tossing in some of his classic groaners in between verses.

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterThe appropriate eleven o’ clock number was delivered by Tyne Daly, who proved why she is still the best Mama Rose by belting out “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy, followed by an all-company finale. Directed by David Galligan (who has helmed since S.T.A.G.E.’s inception), this exciting evening was even more professional than expected thanks to John McDaniel’s music direction, piano playing and orchestral leadership. Other Broadway stars who comprised the company included Jim Bailey (still awe-inspiring as Judy Garland), Mary Jo Catlett, Karen Culliver, Joely Fisher, Kathy Garrick, Gordon Goodman, Marsha Kramer, Jane Lanier, Vicki Lewis, Kimberley Locke, The Mumos, Alex Newell, Michael Orland, Valarie Pettiford, Andrew Rannells, Lisa Vroman, Lillias White, and Terri White.

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterTony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban Theater

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterTony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban Theater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban TheaterTony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban Theater

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban Theaterphotos by Chris Kane

The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E.
Benefiting AIDS Project Los Angeles
played April 6, 2013
for more info, visit http://www.stagela.com/home.php

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema review of The 29th Annual S.T.A.G.E. benefiting APLA at Saban Theater

 

 

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