Friends In Deed will present a legendary trio as Charles Busch, Whoopi Goldberg and Lypsinka star in the first-ever New York presentation of the infamous Broadway-play-that-wasn't, LEGENDS!. Written by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner James Kirkwood (A Chorus Line), the play will be presented in a special One Night Only staged reading benefit on Monday evening, March 23 at 8PM at Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street).
Directed by Mark Waldrop, the presentation will feature a script that has been adapted for this reading by John Epperson. Also starring Bryan Batt ("Mad Men") with additional casting to be announced, the special event is a benefit for Friends In Deed - The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening IllnessTM.
A hilarious comedy about two glamorous, Hollywood has-beens and arch-rivals forced to consider working together on a new project to resuscitate their careers, LEGENDS! is one of the most notorious theatrical properties ever written - notably for what happened behind-the-scenes. Originally presented in a 1986 year-long, pre-Broadway tour starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin, it closed on the road before making it to New York. The juicy on and off-stage antics were chronicled and immortalized in playwright James Kirkwood's own non-fiction account, Diary of a Mad Playwright: Perilous Adventures on the Road with Mary Martin and Carol Channing. In 2007, the play was again presented as a pre-Broadway national tour, this time helmed by "Dynasty" co-stars Joan Collins and Linda Evans. Also failing to make it to New York, the production had its backstage wars chronicled in lurid detail by Ms. Collins in a two-part series in London's Daily Mail.
Tony-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning actor, writer, director and drag legend Charles Busch (star of the film adaptation of his play Die Mommie Die and author of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife) will take on the role of former film fatale, Sylvia Glenn.
Award-winning actor, writer, fashionista and lip-synching pioneer who defies categorization Lypsinka (I Could Go On Lip-Synching!, The Passion of the Crawford, his recent Medea-based play My Deah) will sink her claws into the part of the seemingly-saintly Leatrice Monsee.
Rounding out the trio is Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award-winning icon Whoopi Goldberg (star of Ghost, producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie, host of AMC's "Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel" and the album Whoopi Goldberg; plus current moderator of ABC's "The View"), who will essay the role of the quick-witted servant Aretha.
"Mad Men" series regular Bryan Batt (as closeted art director Salvatore Romano) will play Martin Klemmer, the producer scheming to get the two film stars to work together. No stranger to the stage, he's been featured in nearly a dozen Broadway shows (La Cage aux Folles, Sunset Boulevard, Beauty & the Beast) and created the role of Darius in the stage and film versions of Jeffrey.
LEGENDS! is being directed by Mark Waldrop, whose credits include Bea Arthur On Broadway and the Drama Desk Award-winning Off-Broadway revue, When Pigs Fly, for which he also provided book and lyrics. As a lyricist, he is the recipient of the prestigious Edward Kleban Award.
Set Designer is three-time Emmy Award winner Ray Klausen, Costume Designer is Fabio Toblini and Lighting & Sound Designer and Production Manager is Matt Berman. Choreography is by Josh Rhodes. Costumes will be made by Eric Winterling, Inc., Euroco Costumes, Inc., Studio Rouge and Tricorne, Inc. Hairstyles are by Katherine Carr and Gerard Kelly.
Additional casting will be announced in the coming weeks, and the evening will also feature some onstage surprises.
Founded by Mike Nichols and Cynthia O'Neal in 1991, Friends In Deed - The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening IllnessTM - has helped transform many thousands of lives through a wide array of free programs and services. It provides emotional and spiritual support for anyone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening physical illnesses. Support is also available for family, friends, and caregivers of those who are ill, and anyone dealing with grief and bereavement. Friends In Deed also runs an HIV prevention program for teens in NYC public schools, having already reached over 100,000 at-risk students. All services are free of charge. For more information, visit www.friendsindeed.org or call (212) 925-2009.
$250 VIP Seating, which will include admission to an after-party, is currently available by calling (800) 996-5433.
Tickets ($100, $75 and $60) will be available soon through TicketMaster at www.ticketmaster.com or (212) 307-4100. Beginning March 2, tickets will be available at the Town Hall box office (123 West 43rd Street). Town Hall box offices hours are Monday through Saturday, 12 Noon - 6PM.
For more information and updates, visit www.friendsindeed.org.
Charles Busch (Sylvia Glenn) is the author and star of such plays as Psycho Beach Party, Times Square Angel, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset, You Should Be So Lucky, Queen Amarantha, Flipping My Wig and Shanghai Moon. His play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom ran five years in New York and is one of the longest-running plays in Off-Broadway history. He wrote a new libretto for the 1955 musical Ankles Aweigh for Goodspeed Opera and adapted the book of the Truman Capote/Harold Arlen musical House of Flowers for a tour directed by Geoffrey Holder which starred Patti LaBelle. He co-authored and appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Swingtime Canteen, where he had the great honor of singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" with Maxene Andrews of the Andrews Sisters. He has also written books for the musical The Green Heart (Manhattan Theatre Club) and the Broadway musical Taboo. Busch starred as the fabulous Mame Dennis in a memorable staged reading of Auntie Mame at the American Place Theatre in 1999 with the late Peggy Cass recreating her original role of Agnes Gooch. He's also played Mame in full productions at Maine's Ogunquit Playhouse and the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. In 2000, MTC produced his play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife starring Linda Lavin, Tony Roberts and Michele Lee. It was nominated for a Drama Desk for Best Play and won Busch the Outer Critics' Circle John Gassner Award for Playwriting. It moved to Broadway, was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play and ran 777 performances. He has written and starred in the film versions of his plays Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the 2003 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Performance. That same year he was given a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement. Television work includes two seasons as Nat Ginzburg in the HBO series "Oz," plus appearances on "Lipstick Jungle" and "One Life to Live." His first novel Whores of Lost Atlantis was first published in 1993. His plays were published together in the anthology The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and Other Plays (Grove Press) and his films in the recent Die Mommie Die and Psycho Beach Party: The Screenplays of Charles Busch (Alyson Books). In 2005, Charles appeared with his long-time stage partner, Julie Halston, in a gala benefit for the Actors' Fund of America at Broadway's Music Box Theatre entitled Charles Busch and Julie Halston: Together on Broadway. Mr. Busch made his directorial debut with the film A Very Serious Person, which premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival (Honorable Mention). His play Our Leading Lady was presented by MTC in 2007 starring Kate Mulgrew. The New York stage premiere of Die Mommie Die opened at the New World Stages in 2007, with Charles reprising his starring performance. His latest play, The Third Story, premiered at LaJolla Playhouse and is currently being staged by MCC at the Lortel Theatre. He is the subject of the critically-acclaimed documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch. A native New Yorker, Busch graduated from Northwestern University and is a member of the Dramatist's Guild. www.charlesbusch.com.
Whoopi Goldberg (Aretha) is one of an elite group of artists who have won the Grammy (Whoopi Goldberg, 1985), the Academy Award (Ghost, 1991), the Golden Globe (The Color Purple, 1985 and Ghost, 1991), the Emmy (as host of AMC's "Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel," 2002) and a Tony (producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie, 2002). Whoopi worked in theatre and improvisation in San Diego and the Bay Area. It was there that she created the characters which became "The Spook Show" and evolved into her hit Broadway show, Grammy Award-winning album and the HBO special that helped launch her career. Whoopi made her motion picture debut in The Color Purple (Academy Award nomination, Golden Globe Award) and her performance in Ghost earned her the Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Other films include Jumpin' Jack Flash; Clara's Heart; The Long Walk Home; Soapdish; The Player; Sarafina!; Sister Act; Made in America; Corrina, Corrina; Boys on the Side; Eddie; The Associate; Ghosts of Mississippi; How Stella Got Her Groove Back; Girl, Interrupted; Kingdom Come; Rat Race; and The Lion King. On Television, Whoopi appeared for five seasons on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," starred in "Bagdad Café," hosted her own syndicated late-night talk show and starred in and executive produced the NBC sitcom, "Whoopi." In addition to many television dramas, movies and mini-series (include "In the Gloaming," "The Wonderful World of Disney's Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella," "A Knight in Camelot," "Alice in Wonderland" "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns" and "It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie"), her many television appearances include her own HBO specials, hosting three of ABC's "A Gala for the President at Ford's Theatre," nine "Comic Relief" telecasts, four Academy Awards (three Emmy nominations) and the 2008 Tony Awards. She currently appears as moderator on ABC's long-running talk show "The View." As a producer, she executive produced The Lifetime original drama series "Strong Medicine," the longest-running original drama created for basic cable and the first cable show to go into syndication. From 1998-2002, she executive produced and appeared in the center square on the Emmy-winning "Hollywood Squares." She executive produced Lifetime's "What Makes a Family," Showtime's "Ruby's Bucket of Blood" and executive produced and starred in TNT's "Call Me Claus" and Showtime's "Good Fences." Theatrically, Whoopi executive produced the hit Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (six Tony Awards, including Best Musical). She was also a producer on George C. Wolfe's Harlem Song, her own Tony and Emmy-nominated Whoopi...The 20th Anniversary (also on HBO) and the Broadway revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (in which she also starred). She will also produce Sister Act for the stage which will open in London in June 2009. Her other Broadway appearances include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Xanadu. In 1992, Whoopi made her debut as an author with her children's book, "Alice." Her other titles include "Book," "Whoopi's Big Book of Manners" and "Sugar Plum Ballerinas." In 2008, she introduced her own line of bedding, called G Beds by Whoopi. Whoopi has been honored with multiple NAACP Image Awards, numerous People's Choice Awards and five Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, as well as various awards and honors for her many humanitarian efforts. In addition, Whoopi has placed prints of her hands, feet and braids in the forecourt of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre and received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Whoopi is also a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.
John Epperson (Leatrice Monsee / Adaptation) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a long way from the exciting worlds in which LYPSINKA travels: movies (Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Wigstock: The Movie, Angels In America, Kinsey, Another Gay Movie and Another Gay Sequel); television (HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard, and Dragtime; George Michael's video Too Funky, PBS's The United States Of Poetry and special features on the Mommie Dearest and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? DVDs); fashion (appearing in the Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles shows of haute couture designer Thierry Mugler, modeling for Valentino, Pauline Trigere, Barneys New York, and launching lines of cosmetics for Prescriptives and Isabella Rossellini); advertisements (The Gap, LA Eyeworks, Naya Spring Water, Ilford Film); theater including I Could Go On Lip-Synching!, The Fabulous Lypsinka Show, Lypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-Synched, Lypsinka! A Day In The Life (New York Theater Workshop, two Drama Desk nominations, including Most Unique Theatrical Experience; revived in 1993 Off Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre), Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching, Lypsinka Must Be Destroyed!, Lypsinka IS Harriet Craig!, Lypsinka! The Boxed Set (2001 Drama Desk nomination, Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award win for Outstanding Non-Resident Production / Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, wins for Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle Award, Best Sound Design and L.A. Weekly Theatre Award for Best Solo Performance); and special events (such as Doin' What Comes Natur'lly, on Broadway with Bette Midler, Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, and London's Meltdown Festival curated by Morrissey). Formerly a rehearsal pianist at American Ballet Theater, Mr. Epperson's theatrical career was launched in the mid-1980s when he wrote the book, lyrics and music of Ballet Of The Dolls and Dial "M" For Model at La Mama ETC. 1999 brought Epperson's dramatic stage debut in Messages For Gary at The New York Fringe Festival. In 2004 Mr. Epperson appeared Off Broadway in The Roaring Girle with The Foundry Theatre. The same year he was the subject of a stage festival at DC's Studio Theatre, which included his autobiographical piece John Epperson: Show Trash, As I Lay Lip-Synching, and his play, My Deah, the Medea tale set in The New South. Also in 2004 Epperson played The Stepmother in the New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at Lincoln Center's New York State Theater. The play My Deah opened in an Obie Award-winning production Off Broadway in October 2006 and is now published and licensed by Samuel French. His acclaimed Off Broadway show The Passion of the Crawford, a fantasia on the personality of Joan Crawford, toured to California and Washington, D.C. Lypsinka launched the 2007 Spring collection of MAC Cosmetics centered around the Barbie doll. Epperson and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS. He provided the preface for the Rizzoli photo book Persona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. Mr. Epperson has also written for The Guardian (U.K.), The New York Times, The Washington Post and Interview. The sequel to My Deah is in the works. www.lypsinka.com