Review: “Brothers Gershwin: George and Ira”

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The Los Angeles Independent L.A.
Review: “Brothers Gershwin: George and Ira”
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The event was wonderful.

The “Brothers Gershwin: George and Ira” benefit performance for Aids Project L.A. at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills on March 21-22 couldn’t have been any better.

It was an outstanding evening chock full of talent staged and directed by David Galligan with spectacular choreography by Lee Martino, Dan Mojica, and Travis Payne. Mary Ekler and Gerald Sternbach (Reprise Theatre at UCLA) were the musical directors.

This show represented the 25th silver anniversary of the Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event. The proceeds went to A.P.L.A., which is in its 26th year of providing HIV/AIDS prevention education and direct services throughout L.A. County.

Michael Kearns, who wears many hats as an actor, writer, producer, director and teacher, was the recipient of the S.T.A.G.E. Producers Award. Michael is one of the four co-founders of S.T.A.G.E. and was honored for his commitment to the world-wide battle against HIV/AIDS.

Attendees were treated to some of George and Ira’s most memorable songs

Among one of the many highlights of the evening for me was Mary Jo Catlett’s, (“Madame Buttterball” as she referred to herself) delightfully comedic song, “By Strauss.” Not to be outdone, Bruce Vilanch sang “I Love To Rhyme”/Bla, Bla, Bla and did some hilarious patter. Jai Rodriguez sang a poignant and soulful “But Not For Me.” Vicki Lewis, seductively perched on the piano, gave us a change of pace with her sexy, steamy “Treat Me Rough” and “Slap That Bass” which she sang with the cast of “Forever Plaid.” There was smooth crooning from the still handsome James Darren (“A Foggy Day”). Oldies, but definitely goodies, Betty Garrett and Ian Abercrombie sang “I’m A Poached Egg.” Then there was more humor as Carole Cook, almost outdone by her magnificent costume, sang “Strike Up The Band.” As she sang, a huge drum rolled out and the band struck matches. Sam Harris started his “Swanee” in a traditional style but decided to do it “his way” and sang and danced in the style reminiscent of Al Jolson. One of the members of “Forever Plaid” actually mooned during “My One And Only Highland Fling.”

Every year, artists from television, film, theater and cabaret generously donate their time and talent for these benefits. This year, some performers who are Broadway’s newest stars included John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys”), Michael K. Lee (“Miss Saigon,” “Rent,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway), and Shoshana Bean (“Hairspray” and “Wicked”). The cast of performers, too numerous to mention here, went on and on.

S.T.A.G.E. has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS organizations over the last 25 years. With all the controversy about the billions in bailouts, it is good to know that 100 percent of the net proceeds from “The Brothers Gershwin” benefit performance will go to directly to A.P.L.A.

For future performances, interested persons may call (866) 679-0958.

Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She teaches On Camera and Improv workshops at Beverly Hills Adult School. She just shot two “Little Caesars” spots and also is on Gene Simmons “Family Jewels” and “The Osbourne Variety Show.” She has a comedy pilot, “Ghost Recon” for HBO in the works.