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Ethel Merman's Broadway is Coming to CA!


Rita McKenzie stars in her Acclaimed Award-Winning Off-Broadway Musical "Ethel Merman's Broadway" Saluting the Queen of Broadway's Golden Age

Twenty-eight Performances Only! The Hermosa Beach Playhouse - January 18-30, 2005 San Fernando Valley Playhouse at El Portal Theatre - February 2-13, 2005

Rita McKenzie, one of Broadway, Hollywood and television's most versatile actresses, returns to Southern California in her internationally acclaimed tour de force show, ETHEL MERMAN'S BROADWAY, which re-creates the life and times of Ethel Merman, the Queen of Broadway's Golden Age. This off-Broadway hit plays twenty-eight Los Angeles area performances only from January 18 to 30 (press opening Friday, January 21) at The Hermosa Beach Playhouse in Hermosa Beach, followed by February 2 to 13 at the San Fernando Valley Playhouse at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.

Producer Scott Stander says that now is the perfect time for the show. "With the huge interest about Broadway from the PBS series, audiences want to know more than ever what the great stars of the Golden Era were all about. Ms. McKenzie began performing Ethel Merman's Broadway 15 years ago. She has found that audiences all over the country want to recreate the experience with Merman, who as a performer was all but a force of nature on stage. And Rita McKenzie fits the bill perfectly."

Tickets are available for the Hermosa Beach Playhouse by calling 310-372-4477 and for the San Fernando Valley Playhouse at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood by calling 818-764-2400.

For four decades, Ethel Merman was the reigning royalty of the Broadway stage. She was at her peak during the most creative and brilliant time of what is considered one of America's singular art forms. During her era, Merman introduced songs, characters and stories that have remained a permanent part of our culture. She first sang the songs of many of the great songwriters of her era – Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman – who all considered Merman among the greatest interpreters of their work.

The songs she introduced during this era (and which are featured in the show) include "I Got Rhythm," "Anything Goes," "It's Delovely," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "They Say It's Wonderful," "Small World," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Some People," and "Rose's Turn" from shows such as Anything Goes, Annie Get Your Gun, and Gypsy. They forever belong to her voice and persona. Even as others sing them, it is hard not to hear Ethel's voice belting them up to the second balcony.

Launched off-Broadway at New York's John Houseman Theater, Rita McKenzie's personal success with Ethel Merman's Broadway triggered an international tour, taking her to Carnegie Hall, Pasadena Playhouse, Harrah's Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and on an SRO eight-city tour of Japan. The production is currently planning Toronto and London engagements as well.

Ms. McKenzie also toured the country in Merman's signature part as Annie Oakley in the 50th anniversary production of Annie Get Your Gun opposite Glenn Yarbrough. She has also played Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes and of course, Mama Rose in Gypsy.

She starred in the Los Angeles premiere of the off-Broadway musical Ruthless! and can be heard on the original cast album. She created the role of Phoebe Farber in Sam Harris' production of Hurry! Hurry! Hollywood! in Los Angeles, and she played Maggie Jones in 42nd Street with Mariette Hartley. Her other starring roles include Aldonza in Man of la Mancha, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, Belle Poltrine in Little Me, Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cleo in The Most Happy Fella, Widow Corney in Oliver!, and Nurse Custer in Whoopee!

Rita McKenzie recently performed in a national tour of Neil Simon's female version of The Odd Couple. Co-starring with Barbara Eden, McKenzie was honored for her outstanding portrayal of Olive Madison with a National Broadway Theatre nomination as Best Actress in a Touring Play. Ms's. McKenzie and Eden previously completed a successful tour of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

An accomplished TV and film actress, Ms. McKenzie played Alice, the housekeeper, on Fox's "The Brady Bunch: The Final Days," has guest-starred on NBC's "Caroline in the City," and will be recalled for her roles as Mrs. Littlejohn on NBC's "Frazier," Rita Marcus on the Family Channel's "Big Brother Jake," and her recurring role on "Daddy Dearest," starring Richard Lewis and Don Rickles.

In addition to having conceived and directed both the off-Broadway and Pasadena Playhouse productions of Ethel Merman's Broadway, director Christopher Powich wrote and directed McKenzie's nationally acclaimed symphony "pops" tribute to Ethel Merman. He directed McKenzie and Carole Shelley in a re-enactment of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin's famous 1995 television medley at New York's Rainbow and Stars Nightclub. Mr. Powich directed the premiere production of Ralph Frederick's Snap Shots at the O'Neill Center in Waterford, CT and in Boston. He is currently preparing a revival production for Off Broadway. He continued his association with McKenzie when he created, directed and performed with her in "Class Act," a night club revue which toured the Eastern United States.

Ron Snyder was musical director for Celebration Theatre's productions of Pinafore and The Ballad of Little Mikey, written by Mark Savage. Pinafore ran for two years here and Snyder won two LA Weekly Awards for Musical Director and Best Musical. He was also musical director for Dracula – A Musical Nightmare at Sacred Fools Theatre (LA Weekly and Ovation nominations). Ron played for West Coast Ensemble's production of Sunday in the Park with George, directed by Calvin Remsberg, as well as was rehearsal pianist for the Los Angeles premiere production of Selena. He recently performed Cinderella adapted by Dimitri Toscas at the Falcon Theatre for Garry Marshall.

Snyder worked with Melanie Griffith as her rehearsal pianist for her Broadway debut as Roxie Hart in Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre. He played for Julie Sheppard's show, JUDY Live at the Palace at the Los Angeles Renberg Theatre. He has accompanied many of Los Angeles' best cabaret singers at the RoseTattoo, Luna Park, Romeo & Juliet's, Maldanado's, the Cinegrill, the Gardenia, and Monteleone's West. Snyder was musical director for Jim Bailey and has performed in Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Las Vegas and the London Palladium.

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