BWW Previews: THE PAUL LYNDE SHOW STARRING MICHAEL AIRINGTON at Windows Showroom At Bally's Las Vegas
Paul Lynde, the brilliant comedic actor, lives on to entertain audiences in "The Paul Lynde Show starring Michael Airington." Generations remember Lynde from his performances on Broadway and in the film "Bye Bye Birdie," his television roles including Uncle Arthur on "Bewitched" and comedian extraordinaire in the center square on "The Hollywood Squares."
Written and performed by comedian and celebrity impersonator, Michael Airington, the one-man show is based on Airington's performances since the 1970s. The show also features voiceovers from the host of The Hollywood Squares, Peter Marshall, as well as an all-star three-man band.
As for performing as Lynde, "I was discovered when I was in the 10th grade in 1975 by country artist Mel Tillis. He was the Country Music Awards star of that year and it was because I had entered a radio ad while living in Norfolk [Virginia]. Next thing I know, I am opening for the CMA Star of the year when I was 15," he told BroadwayWorld.com. Also during this period, Lynde was one of the biggest stars on television and, as a young impressionist, "I was fascinated by his voice, which was so distinctive, and I started doing an impression of him."
Fast forward to 2003 when Airington was performing in Washington D.C. and decided to see Frank Gorshin as George Burns in "Good Night Gracie" in New York City. Airington was inspired to develop a similar show based on the life of Lynde even though he had been performing as Lynde off and on since the 1970s.
But Airington soon learned why it is called show "business" dealing with the economy, unethical investors, ego-driven co-producers and costs of producing a live show. But he never gave up and, while it took 13 years, he has brought the show to the Las Vegas Strip sharing the same showroom as Wayne Newton.
Best of all, Airington owns the rights for Lynde's likeness and career. Airington originally partnered with other writers for a treatment of the show and the other writers wanted to have Lynde die in the first five minutes and tell his story through an angel. Airington totally disagreed with the treatment. Through a series of events that ultimately led him to reaching out to the Screen Actor's Guild, his information was sent to Lynde's two nieces who receives Lynde's residual payments.
"The one niece, who lived in Mesa [Arizona], called me and mentioned the other two writers had also try to contact her. She asked me what the difference was in the show and I told her that mine had heart." He flew out, met with them, showed them both scripts and they gave Airington rights in perpetuity.
Airington noted that playwright Neil Simon was in the audience once and helped Airington to explain the dark and sad side of Lynde without pathos or bringing the audience down. Airington also spoke with entertainers Kay Ballard and Cloris Leachman who knew Lynde very well.
The show begins with Lynde as an overweight child to attending college and moving to New York City to pursue a career in entertainment. At age 35, Lynde's big break came portraying the father of a teenager in the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, "Bye Bye Birdie" with his big breakout song, "Kids." The show then explores, in a very humorous way, the movie version that focused on then newcomer Ann Margret instead of the original storyline.
With dry wit, Airington showcases Lynde's other movie roles, television roles and eventually his time on "The Hollywood Squares." It is a fast-paced show with authentic stories (but using fun while not real transitions) about Lynde told with comedy, emotion and a loving tribute to Lynde, who passed at age 55 in 1981.