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13th Street Rep's THEATER BOYS Cast Album Out 10/18

Famed gossip columnist Liz Smith -- "the Grande Dame of Dish" -- has won countless honors, including an Emmy Award, in her long career. But she's never before been depicted on the stage. In "Theater Boys" -- the new musical comedy by ASCAP Award-winner Chip Deffaa, now playing at the 13th Street Repertory Theater -- she's not only a character in the show, she's the subject of a whole song about her, a rousing fast-boogie simply titled "Liz Smith." That song will also be heard on the show's cast album (sung by Ricky Schroder and the ensemble), being released October 18th.

Philip Louis Calabro and Ben Orlando alternate on stage in the role of "Liz Smith," wearing costumes designed by Orlando. Deffaa, who's been a faithful reader of Liz Smith for decades, quips: "It takes two actors to portray a gossip columnist of this magnitude. Well, maybe three actors -- since we have still another actor, Cody Dericks, portraying Miss Smith on our premiere recording."

And while the musical comedy "Theater Boys" is a work of fiction, the storyline involving Liz Smith is based on a real incident -- in which Smith met actor Luis Villabon, strongly plugged him and the show he was then in ("Naked Boys Singing"), and wound up significantly boosting the fortunes of both the performer and the show. In "Theater Boys," the character inspired by Villabon is supposed to appearing in a show called "Naked Maids Dusting" -- a thinly disguised version of "Naked Boys Singing" (in which Villabon originated the role of "the Naked Maid").

"It's all in good fun," says Deffaa. Villabon, who attended the show's opening (along with other theater and cabaret notables ranging from Steve Ross to Willard Beckham, to Julia Santana, to Lee Roy Reams), loved seeing himself depicted -- after a fashion -- on the stage. And actor Philip Louis Callabro was presented, after the show, with the theater company's "Luis Villabon Award."

Liz Smith has not yet seen the show. "But we hope she'll come," Deffaa says. "I've always thought she's the epitome of what a gossip columnist should be -- warm, witty, informed, opinionated, outspoken -- and thoroughly New York. She may have been born in Texas, but she's lived in New York since 1949."

The author of 15 published plays and eight published books, Deffaa wrote for The New York Post for 18 years. He was proud to long appear in the same newspaper as Liz Smith (whose column has also been syndicated in some 70 newspapers, besides being carried online). His salute to Smith in the new show is, in part, a way of tipping his hat to a onetime Post associate. Deffaa has snuck references to The New York Post into many of his plays. For example, in Deffaa's Off-Broadway hit "George M. Cohan Tonight!" -- which has been produced everywhere from London to Seoul -- the very first words uttered by Cohan in play are: "So I was reading The New York Post the other day...."

"I really loved working for The Post," says Deffaa, who only left the paper when theater work began demanding all of his energies. "It was great fun to write for The Post, and I wrote for some terrific editors, like Vinnie Musetto, Steve Cuozzo, Matt Diebel. I tried to work their names into the show, too-but couldn't find any words to rhyme with Musetto or Cuozzo, or Diebel."

"Theater Boys" also includes affectionate passing references, in songs, to several other erstwhile New York Post colleagues of Deffaa's, from peppery political columnist Andrea Peyser (whose name Deffaa somehow manages to rhyme with "Liza") to tireless photojournalist Aubrey Reuben, to tart entertainment reporter Michael Riedel.

As well as references to countless other contemporaries in the entertainment industry, from Jamie DeRoy, Seth Rudetsky, Tommy Tune, Billy Stritch, and Jim Caruso, to Mario Cantone, Baby Jane Dexter, Susan Stroman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. All three Keenan-Bolgers (Andrew, Celia, Maggie) are briefly depicted in the show. "Just a way of tipping my hat to some people I like and admire," Deffaa says.

"Theater Boys," which also includes a recorded cameo contribution by Carol Channing, is playing in repertory this fall with Deffaa's "One Night with Fanny Brice," at the 13th Street Rep. The company includes Michael Czyz, Andrew Lanctot, Danny Coelho, Will Meredith, Joseph Spitale, Bam Donnenberg, Ben Orlando, Mark Andrew Garner, Tyler DuBoys, Alex Acevedo, Kate Solomon-Tilley, Hawkins Gardow, Taylor Martin, Joris de Graaf, Ken Adams, Richard Danley. For more information, visit www.13thstreetrep.org.



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