Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara

Like a lot of baby-boomers, Tim and I grew-up listening to American “standards” as well as rock ‘n roll. In fact, a shared love of Frank Sinatra was one of the things that drew us together. We’re also big fans of Bobby Darin (during his “Frank period”) and Louie Prima and Keely Smith, whom we remember seeing several times on the Ed Sullivan Show when we were kids.

Louie and Keely were the Sonny and Cher of their day. Not only did songwriter-singer Louie Prima marry a much younger woman (22 years his junior), he—like Sonny did with Cher—also helped make her into a legendary songstress. What was always most fascinating to me, though, was the way they interacted on stage. Louie was uncontrollable, leaping around the stage like a banshee, while Keely stood cool as a cucumber, refusing to be moved by his antics. Sonny and Cher imitated this schtick a decade later, but (even to my young eyes) never did it quite as well.

Last year, a play called Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara opened to rave reviews at the Sacred Fools Theater in East Hollywood. We were too late to get tickets, but did see it when it moved to The Matrix on Melrose a few months later. We were totally blown away. Written and performed by Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith, the play chronicles Louie and Keely’s relationship from the time they met to the end of their marriage. Smith is good as Keely; but it’s really Broder’s show as he sings, jumps and sweats his way through more than ten highly energetic songs. We were exhausted by the time we left the theater.

Though Tim isn’t much for repeat performances, he did eagerly agree to see the show again when it returned to L.A. two weeks ago. Now at the Geffen’s intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater in Westwood, the play has been reworked (i.e., tightened) by Oscar-nominated director Taylor Hackford, who is also a big Louie and Keely fan. New characters have been added, including Sinatra, who plays a major role in the couple’s ultimate breakup. I didn’t think it was possible, but this revamped version is even better than the original.

So if you’re in the L.A. area and love the old Vegas singers of our youth, then I highly recommend grabbing tickets to Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara. The play runs till April 26 and is well worth the price of admission.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Since Suzanne gave me an MP3 player for an anniversary present, plus a subscription to Rhapsody, an online downloading service type thing, I have been entranced. It's through this that I discovered Louis Prima..it's a trip and it's a continuing trip as I explore the fabtastic world of music, and soooo much never made Australia or if it did it was such a teeny niche market. I totally dig your wonderful blog, folk!