Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stefanie Powers Gets "Looped" in Fort Lauderdale


A Finely-Tuned “Looped” at Parker Playhouse

By Skip Sheffield

Playwright Matthew Lombardo has evidently been amplifying and fine-tuning his play “Looped,” continuing through March 3 at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
A beaming Lombardo was on hand in the lobby opening night. I had met him in the play’s initial run in 2008, when it played at the Cuillo Center in West Palm Beach. I also met the star, Valerie Harper, who originated the role and played the larger-than-life stage and screen actress Tallulah Bankhead.
Due to health issues, Harper was unable to reprise her role for a second shot at Broadway.
Harper’s good friend Stephanie Powers was tapped to take over as Tallulah. Take over she most definitely has.
“Looped” is funnier and more affecting the second time around. Though Harper poured her heart and soul into the role of a once-major star in decline, Powers may be better suited for the role. Physically she looks more like a stage and movie star, and in reality she is probably better-known and more popular than Valerie Harper.
Whatever the reason, Powers in short order has nailed the role. Her timing is impeccable, and though she stumbled a few times verbally, her confidence and sense of entitlement were unwavering.
“Looped” is inspired by an actual looping or re-dubbing session for Bankhead’s last film, “Die! Die! My Darling.” It was a potboiler British horror film, with Bankhead as a religious zealot and Stephanie Powers- yes that Stephanie Powers- as a young woman who becomes her target for vengeance.
What should have been a 10-minute exercise in the summer of 1965 turned into a daylong endurance test for film editor Danny Miller (Brian Hutchison) and a sound technician known only as Steve (Matthew Longo).
Bankhead sets the mood by being three hours late before making her very theatrical entrance in a mink coat and dark glasses. Bankhead procrastinates and mocks the two men, making unreasonable demands, which they meekly fulfill. A major demand is for booze, as Bankhead cheerfully proclaims she is an alcoholic, and coke-head too.
Bankhead is boastful of her sexuality and promiscuity with either sex.
You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know Bankhead’s outrageous personae is a mask for inner pain. Businesslike Danny has his inner turmoil as well, which is explored in detail in Act Two by Brian Hutchison, who originated the role. It is this soul-searching that elevates “Looped” above mere clever one-liner comedy.
“Looped” didn’t do very well in its initial 2010 run on Broadway, closing after only 52 performances. My hunch is that the time is right for this finely-tuned revival. Catch it while you can.
Tickets are $28-$66.50. Call 954-462-0222.

Yoonie Han Recital at Steinway Piano Gallery

If you missed Yoonie Han’s performance at the Feb. 24 concert with Boca Raton Symphonia, you have one more chance to experience this brilliant young Korean pianist.
Piano Lovers present Han in a performance of Liszt at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at Steinway Piano gallery. Tickets are $20 advance and $30 at the door.
Also at Steinway Gallery, pianist Sofiya Uryvayeva plays at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 3, presented by Brandeis University. Tickets are $20 members and $25 guests.
At 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7 there will be a free recital of FAU piano students.
Call 561-982-8887.

Chicago” at Boca Raton Theatre Guild

Boca Raton Theatre Guild presents the musical “Chicago” March 1-17 at the Willow Theatre of Sugar Sand Park.
Avi Hoffman starts as flim-flam flamboyant lawyer Billy Flynn and Patti Gardner co-stars as his client Roxie Hart, accused of murdering her husband in 1920s gangland Chicago. Playing Roxie’s rival Velma is Krisha Marcano. Sally Bondi is prison Matron Ma Morton as Ken Clement is Roxie’s woebegone husband Amos Hart.
Tickets are $35 at the box office, 561-347-3948 or BRTG at

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stefanie Powers Takes on Tallulah Bankhead

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Tallulah Bankhead (L) and Stefanie Powers in "Die! Die! My Darling"

From “Hart to Hart” to Tallulah Bankhead

By Skip Sheffield

If she had a choice, Stefanie Powers would have preferred being cast as Tallulah Bankhead under different circumstances.
Movie, stage and television star Stefanie Powers replaces Valerie Harper in “Looped,” opening Tuesday, Feb. 26 and continuing through Sunday, March 3 at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
Harper worked closely with playwright Matthew Lombardo in recreating the eccentric, outrageous character of stage and screen star Tallulah Bankhead. “Looped” had a pre-Broadway tryout at the Cuillo Center (now Palm Beach Dramaworks) in West Palm Beach. Harper was forced to bow out due to an ongoing battle against lung cancer.
“Valerie is a dear, dear friend, and she will be back,” asserts Powers. “She put an awful lot of herself in the role of Tallulah. It is always a challenge to play someone else without it becoming a parody.”
Tallulah was such a larger-than-life character it is easy to exaggerate her. “Looped” is a double-entendre title that means both the process of looping, or over-dubbing new dialogue, and getting “looped” as in drunk. Bankhead was a heavy drinker and drug-user, and when she showed up for a looping session for her last film, “Die! Die! My Darling,” a horror film from Hammer Studios in England. Powers has a unique insight. She was in the film as a 20-something ingĂ©nue.
“I didn’t know anything, but I think I can be forgiven” she says. “What 20-year-old knows anything? I didn’t understand the response associated with her hilarity.”
Powers did know Bankhead was a radio star second only to Bob Hope. She has been rehearsing and researching her role feverishly in preparation for the revival of “Looped” on Broadway.
“I hope those who enjoyed Valerie in the role will come back and see what I have done with it,” she says. “It has been a very interesting journey about an interesting, complex and misunderstood woman.”
Tickets are $28, $46.50 and $66.50. Call 954-462-0222,

“Anything Goes” at Boca Raton High School

The award-winning Drama Troupe 2564 of BRCHS revives the 1934 Tony Award-winning musical “Anything Goes” Feb. 28 through March 3 at the Kathryn Lindgren Theatre. The shipboard show includes the Cole Porter classics “You’re the Top,” “Blow Gabriel, Blow,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and the title song.
Lawrence Richardson plays fugitive gangster Moonface Martin, Vivian Martinez is wealthy debutante Hope Harcourt, Kyle Laing is her long-lost love Billy and Danielle Overton is nightclub singer Reno Sweeny.
Tickets are $10 advance, $15 at the door. VIP advance seating is $15 and group is $9. Call 5612-338-1533 or go to

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Suddenly Solo" in Older Age


A Practical Guide for Mature, Widowed or Divorced Men

By Skip Sheffield

Harold “Hal” Spielman lost Mary, his wife of 32 years, five years ago. It was the culmination of her 14-year battle against breast cancer. Spielman, now 85, retired a year later from the large, worldwide marketing and advertising research company he founded in New York. Spielman’s life changes at first seemed overwhelming.
“I was truly alone for the first time in my life,” Spielman recalls. “I felt rather lost. I searched for some practical advice and support and I found there was virtually nothing available for men in my position. There are about a zillion advice books for widowed or divorced women, but nothing for men.”
It dawned on Hal Spielman, a sociologist by education and research and marketing expert by practice, that maybe he could be just the guy to offer advice and practical suggestions to widowed and divorced men; particularly of older age.
Spielberg now calls himself a “Partner” and a “Life Explorer.” The first thing he did was set up a web site, An outgrowth is a slim paperback volume of the same name, written with the help of Marc Sibert, a golfing buddy and seasoned professional writer.
A number of popular myths are exploded in “Suddenly Solo,” which is sub-titled “A lifestyle road map for the mature, widowed or divorced man.” One of the most glaring facts is that only nine percent of women say it is “very important” to have a man in their life. By contrast 22 percent of men say it is “very important” to have a woman in their life. No wonder older men can feel lost.
Based on his research interviews (more than 1,000 men and 600 women in their 60s and 70s), Spielman learned that a woman’s breasts are not as important to men as women think they are. Spielman found men first look at a woman’s eyes, then earrings or jewelry, then the face, necklace and finally cleavage.
“If you focus too much on physical appearance you are bound to be disappointed,” he states. “Mature men are not just interested in big-boobed young blondes. Of course a woman your own age will have wrinkles and be less than physically ideal. I have had both my knees and hips replaced.”
Conversely, women find sense of humor, honesty and integrity far more important than a man’s physical appearance.
“Suddenly Solo” was written to be light, breezy and humorous but backed by hard factual research. It is divided into five “Stages,” or chapters, with sub-headings. The first is Separation, which is a “most difficult time” regardless of reason. Stage Two concerns being alone and dealing with loneliness, conceding “it’s a couple’s world.”
Stage Three becomes more practical with “New Connections,” addressing the question as to when or why a man should resume dating.
Stage Four more directly focuses on “The Search.”
Finally Stage Five is “Moving on- A New Life.” That new life may not mean re-marriage. “Suddenly Solo” explores the phenomenon of RCF (Really Close Friends), who may or may not be wife material.
Spielman himself has an “RCF” who lives here in Florida, where he has a home in Lake Worth. Spielman’s principal residence remains Sands Point, New York.
You have the opportunity to meet Hal Spielman at the Boomer Times booth at the Delray Beach International Tennis Center during the International Tennis Championships. Spielman will be there from 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 27 and 28.
To contact Spielman, go to or e-mail

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gatekeepers a Most Important Documentary Film

Dror Moreh

Oscar-Nominated “The Gatekeepers” a Very Important Film

By Skip Sheffield

Even if it weren’t nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary Film “The Gatekeepers” would be very important for everyone who cares about humankind.
“The Gatekeepers” tells the tale previously untold of the Shin Bet, Israel’s ultra-secret internal security service. Filmmaker Dror Moreh convinced six former heads of Shin Bet to tell their story. The conclusion all six men come to is bound to make “The Gatekeepers” controversial. The fact that Shin Bet is the first line of dense against terrorism in Israel and throughout the Middle East makes that conclusion even more significant.
“It is an eye-opener as a Jew,” said Dror Moreh by telephone. “These six men fought all their lives for Israel. This film is in no way pro-Palestine. That is a short-sighted opinion. Go see the film and decide for yourself.”
Moreh interviewed every head of Shin Bet from 1980 up to 2010. The video interviews are interwoven with newsreel footage of war, terrorist strikes, recreated events and civilian interviews. Computer-generated charts and graphics are employed the make the problems easier to comprehend.
The conflict between Jews and Arab members of former Palestine date back to biblical times, but the conflict sharpened with the formation of the State of Israel from formerly British-occupied Palestine in 1948. The conflict ratcheted up after the Six-Day-War of 1967, in which Israel defeated Palestinian attackers and seized land to create a buffer zone called the Gaza Strip between Egypt and Israel.
Moreh’s documentary covers the violence and carnage that has been carried out in the name of religion and national sovereignty. Israel withdrew from the Gaza in 2005 and the radical Muslim Hamas took over in 2007. The most intense area of conflict is the disputed West Bank, which has been walled off from the rest of Jerusalem.
At times it seems to Shin Bet faced hopeless, thankless dilemmas, yet it is the unanimous conclusion of the six Shin Bet leaders that dialogue must continue between Arab and Israeli factions. One of the most telling reveals of the film is that there are certain Jewish religious groups that are every bit as radical and potentially destructive as radical Muslims.
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” notes one of the leaders. “In the war against terror forget about morality.”
A lifelong resident of Jerusalem, Moreh, 51, explains further.
“The conflict really began when Jews began returning to their homeland 20, 30, 40 years before the creation of the State of Israel,” said Moreh. “The intention of this film is in the best interests of Israel, sincerely promoting dialogue that means what you say and say what you mean.”
The unanimous conclusion of the six leaders is that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is not only immoral, but ineffective. Those are strong words, but they are based on firsthand experience.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Raisin" a Contemporary Classic at Palm Beach Dramaworks


“Raisin” a Modern Classic at Palm Beach Dramaworks

Palm Beach Dramaworks specializes in contemporary theater classics, artfully and soulfully realized.
A perfect example of this is their production of “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry.
Hansberry made history in 1959 as the first African-American and youngest playwright (29) ever of a Broadway play. The director, Lloyd Richard, was the first African-American Broadway director. Sadly “Raison” was a one-hit wonder for Hansberry, who died tragically young of pancreatic cancer at age 34.
Hansberry’s career grew posthumously. Her writings were adapted into a stage play and later a book called “To be Young, Gifted and Black,” which was a success in the 1968-1969 Broadway season. “Raisin” was adapted into the single-word musical production, which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1973. Bruce Norris wrote “Clybourne Park” in 2010 in response to “Raisin.” It had its Florida debut at Caldwell Theatre and won a Carbonell Award as Best New Play for the final season of that company. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 and Tony Award for Best Play in 2012.
Guest-directed by Seret Scott, “A Raisin in the Sun” is a largely autobiographical story of how Hansberry’s family broke the color barrier of a Chicago suburb.
Hansberry fictionalized her family name to Younger. Walter Lee Younger (Ethan Henry) is a proud, hard-working but sometimes hard-drinking, reckless family man. Ruth (Shirine Babb) is his strong, supportive, forgiving wife. Daughter Beneathe Younger (Janice Abbott Pratt) is the closest character to the playwright: whip-smart, ambitious and full of righteous indignation over racial prejudice. Joseph Asagai (Marckenson Charles) is Benethe’s Nigerian-born exchange student friend and George (Jordan Tisdale) is her boyfriend. Travis Younger is the 10-year-old son, played by Mekiel Benjamin and Joshua Valbrun in alternating performances. The family matriarch is the regal Ruth (Pat Bowie, made up to look much older).
Act One is mostly a simmering, ominous setup for the fiery Act Two. Ruth’s husband has died, leaving a $10,000 insurance policy to the family. Ruth wants to use the money to finance a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park, a previously all-white suburb. The rest of the money will go to help finance Beneathe’s college tuition and family expenses. Walter has other plans, cooked up with his shady friend Bobo (Micley LaFrance).
Everyone’s plans are put in jeopardy by Karl Linder (David A, Hyland). Smiling obsequiously, Karl claims to be head of the welcoming committee for the Clybourne Park Improvement Association. The only improvement the committee really wants is protection of the value of their homes against feared loss if a black family moves into the neighborhood.
Act Two is a conflagration resulting from a foolish decision, a senseless loss, and dire consequences. Each character has his or her chance to bare his or her soul. The results are spectacular, particularly with piteously grieving, regretful Walter and devastated Beneathe. In the final analysis, it is the quiet, stoic power of grandmother Ruth that gives the play its dramatic charge, wonderfully realized by Pat Bowie.
If you want to see a ground-breaking, modern classic, look no farther than “A Raisin in the Sun.” It runs through March 3 at 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets are $55 ($10 students) and group rates are available. Call 561-514-4042 or go to

Freaky Fun and Drama at Slow Burn Theatre


By Skip Sheffield

The freaks have overtaken West Boca Raton High School, and we mean that in the best possible way.
Slow Burn Theatre’s production of “Side Show” celebrates oddities, aberrations and mutations in music and song. The musical, by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger ran for just 91 performances on Broadway. It is onstage only through Sunday, Feb. 10 in the Performing Arts Auditorium, so catch it while you can.
The story centers on Daisy (Kaela Antolino) and Violet (Courtney Poston), characters based by the real life conjoined English-born Hilton "Siamese" twins. The girls were inextricably joined at the hip, but in the show they are able to separate temporarily for dramatic purposes.
“Side Show” is a miraculous example of getting maximum results from minimum resources. The cast is large (17) yet lavishly costumed by Rick Pena, who also plays Buddy, a struggling musician who discovers the twins in a carnival sideshow and drags his friend Terry Connor (co-director Matthew Korinko), an Orpheum Circuit vaudeville scout, to see the act.
Connor instantly sees the commercial potential in the untrained twins. Buddy and Terry convince Daisy and Violet to leave the carnival to achieve their star potential.
The greedy carnival boss (Conor Walton) fights and threatens them. Their best friend Jake (Jerel Brown) asks them to stay for reasons of his own, but he agrees to let them go when they say he can come with them.
Daisy and Violet, like the twins on which they are based, are two separate and distinct personalities forced to share the same corporate body. Daisy is more ambitious and star-struck. Violet yearns for love, romance and a conventional marriage. This inevitably leads to conflict, as it did for the real-life Hilton sisters. Dreams are expressed in “Like Everybody Else” and “Feelings You’ve Got to Hide;” reality in “The Devil You Know, “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” and “I Will Never Leave You.”
“Side Show” is also about exploitation. America is in the depths of the Depression and people are desperate to do anything for a buck. In the case of the Hilton sisters that includes staging a very public wedding ceremony. The Kardashian clan is nothing new.
As in real life, the ending of the Hilton Sisters’ story is bittersweet. This show thankfully does not follow it all the way to its sad conclusion. Instead it is uplifting in an odd way, celebrating strong souls who triumph over handicaps.
The singing in this show is simply beautiful with gorgeous harmonies by the entire ensemble, backed by an unseen but very responsive onstage band.  Both Kaela Antolino and Courtney Poston are strong singers. Poston is particularly strong in her projection, but she throttles back to felt perfectly for her “twin” duets.
Choreographer-director Patrick Fitzwater and his plucky troupe are truly miracle workers. The theater community lost a lot over the past year, but the future burns bright for “Slow Burn.”
Tickets are $30-$35. Call 866-811-4111 or go to