Vilanch, Mistretta, Stewart and More Star in MTU's HAIRSPRAY, Beg. Tonight
Emmy winning actor/comedian Bruce Vilanch joins several Broadway Veterans and the students of Musical Theatre University in their very first fully-staged musical production, HAIRSPRAY, which will be presented for three performances, tonight, January 31 through February 2, at The Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School. Vilanch will reprise his critically acclaimed turn as Edna Turnblad in the Tony Award winning musical, based on the cult film by John Waters, alongside Broadway actors Sal Mistretta, Lisa Robinson and Gwen Stewart, and featuring the talented, young Musical Theatre University students.
Musical Theatre University (MTU) is a comprehensive, pre-professional, after-school performing arts conservatory designed for young performers, grades 8-12 selected by audition from throughout the Coachella Valley, who have aspirations for careers in professional theatre. MTU is a partnership between The American Foundation For Arts Education and The Palm Springs Unified School District and the students are provided with this advanced instruction free of charge so that no young person is ever denied an education based on ability to pay. In addition to their classroom instruction, students have the opportunity to perform in four professionally staged productions each season, working alongside both industry professionals and local professionals, to give then the opportunity to practice their craft in a "real world" theatrical environment. Musical Theatre University is in residence on The Rancho Mirage High School campus and all performances are held in the 600 seat Helene Galen Theatre,
One of the most sought-after joke-smiths in the entertainment industry, Bruce Vilanch has become a recognizable face in his own right, thanks to the feature-length documentary "Get Bruce!" (1999) and his one-time stint as a regular on "Hollywood Squares" (1998 ), for which he also served as head writer. Impressed by his review of her cabaret performance in 1970, Bette Midler hired him to punch up her act where he gave birth to Midler's famed Sophie Tucker jokes. He later moved to Los Angeles where he wrote for variety shows like the original "Donny and Marie" and "The Brady Bunch Hour" (both ABC) and provided material for Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers. He has maintained his connection with Midler through the years, working on such projects as the feature "Divine Madness" (1980) and the TV special "Bette Midler--Diva Las Vegas" (HBO, 1997), as well as writing for her short-lived but lively sitcom, "Bette!" (CBS, 2000 ).
He made his feature debut as a dress manufacturer in "Mahogany' (1975), starring Diana Ross, and also contributed material to her live act. Vilanch began contributing to the Academy Awards telecasts in 1989, collaborating with the likes of Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman, and graduated to head writer in 2000. Mr. Vilanch has also written for The Tony's, The Grammy's and The Emmy's. He made his Broadway debut in his one-man show "Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous" in 2000 and in 2005 starred as Edna Turnblad in the musical "Hairspray" after playing the role for two years in the show's first national tour.
The Musical Theatre University student actors includes Amisha Bhandari (La Quinta) as Tracy Turnblad, Matthew Hocutt (Cathedral City) as Link Larkin, Sasha Chasen (Rancho Mirage) as Amber, Robert Garcia (Coachella) as Seaweed, Leanna Concepcion (Highland) as Penny and a cast of thirty young singers and dancers. Vilanch and the MTU students are also joined by Broadway veterans Sal Mistretta (Broadways "Sweeney Todd", "Evita" and "Sunset Boulevard") as Wilber Turnblad, Lisa Robinson (Broadway's "Baby" and "Annie") as Velma Von Tussle and Gwen Stewart (Broadway's "Rent", "Starmites" and "Big River" ) as Motormouth Maybelle.