Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: Tilles Center's CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY will have you 'Hooked on Phonics... I Mean Histrionics'

Review: Tilles Center's CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY will have you 'Hooked on Phonics... I Mean Histrionics'

Review: Tilles Center's CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY will have you 'Hooked on Phonics... I Mean Histrionics'

Back in 2005, Comedy Central had a roast for Pamela Anderson. One of the roasters on the dais was the late, great Bea Arthur; she was there as both she and Anderson are advocates of P.E.T.A., which the roast was a fundraiser for. Instead of following the typical route of insulting Anderson and the other celebrities on the dais, Arthur decided to perform a live reading of Pamela Anderson's autobiographical novel Star Struck. Anderson's words mixed with Ms. Arthur's wry delivery and infamous glares led this to be one of the funniest sets of the evening. After seeing that performance, I literally thought "My God, what a brilliant idea. Wouldn't it be amazing if Bea Arthur, or any celebrity, performed dramatic readings of celebrity memoirs?" Luckily, Emmy award nominee Eugene Pack capitalized on this idea with co-creator Dayle Reyfel and together they brought Celebrity Autobiography to life.

The show's journey began in 1998 in Los Angeles. In 2005, the show was produced as a comedy special for the cable network Bravo, back when the channel specialized in arts/entertainment as opposed to reality tv entertainment. From the special, the show found a home off-Broadway in 2008, where it went on to win the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. In 2018, the show finally made the jump to Broadway for a very limited run. Celebrity Autobiography made its triumphant return to NY opening the Tilles Center's 2022-2023 season on September 17, 2022 and returned to its original home, The Triad, on September 18, 2022.

Eugene Pack opened the show by speaking about how the show was created. Pack's inspiration for the show was Vanna White. In 1987, Vanna White came out with her autobiography Vanna Speaks. Upon seeing White's book on display, Pack thought "What the hell could she have to speak about?" He read the book and couldn't believe what he was reading. He explained a chapter in her book where Vanna describes how she flipped the letter panels on Wheel of Fortune and sometimes experienced difficulties flipping them. Pack and Reyfel then had the brilliant idea of creating a comedy show where a rotating cast of actors/celebrities perform excerpts of celebrity autobiographies. Pack also made it a point to let the audience know that everything the audience hears is 100% true. All text is in each author's own words and have not been altered in any way shape or form. Having now seen this production and hearing these excerpts first hand, the show is absolutely, ridiculously funny.

The show which played at Tilles Center's Krasnoff Theater, included an excellent cast that featured some Long Island natives. In addition to the show's creators, Pack (from Massapequa) and Reyfel, the cast also included: Garden City's Susan Lucci, Huntington's Ralph Macchio, and Hewlett-Woodmere's Alan Zweibel. The show also featured appearances by: Tate Donovan, Caroline Aaron and Mario Cantone. The entire cast was phenomenal. Mario Cantone is a force to be reckoned with. All of his impersonations were spot on especially Kathleen Turner and Liza Minnelli. Cantone easily could do a solo show edition of Celebrity Autobiography incorporating all of his impressions; that show would be a guaranteed hit. Cantone seriously needs to do another solo show on Broadway ASAP. Legendary TV writer and 5-time Emmy award winner Alan Zweibel was HILARIOUS. He had the entire audience in hysterics with his readings of Justin Bieber, Geraldo Rivera and Joe Namath. Susan Lucci did a spot-on impression of the late Ivana Trump. I currently am campaigning for her to play Ivana in an upcoming TV movie; hint...hint.... make it happen Lifetime!

Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel also did a brilliant job creating some bio mash-ups. Where else could you hear:

Pack's performance as Tiger Woods was a true stand-out performance of the night; His nuanced performance really provided a different meaning to Tiger's "art of the swing" and "ball handling"...or was this Tiger's intention all along?

The show's finale has the entire cast take on different roles presenting the infamous Hollywood love triangle of Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor, as told from each of their perspectives. This piece alone could be its own play; Pack and Reyfel should definitely consider this. It was like watching a mash-up of Showtime's The Affair and FX's Feud. It was funny, interesting and entertaining. After I saw the show, I actually went to the library and borrowed the finale group of autobiographies to read more.

Celebrity Autobiography was a truly entertaining evening of non-stop laughs. Since it's inception this show has been performed around the world. If it ever is in your neck of the woods, do yourself a favor, go see it, and have a lot of laughs.




From This Author - Nicholas Pontolillo


Review: Modern Classics Theatre Company's production of THE SHADOW BOX at BACCA Arts CenterReview: Modern Classics Theatre Company's production of THE SHADOW BOX at BACCA Arts Center
November 15, 2022

What did our critic think of THE SHADOW BOX at BACCA Arts Center? With his 1977 Pulitzer Prize Winning play, The Shadow Box, Michael Cristofer creates his own display case, a shadow box if you will, showcasing life's unfortunate one sure thing, death. In the play's program, a quote is provided from renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She stated, 'There are five different stages that a person will go through when he faces the fact of his own death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages will last for different periods of time; they will replace each other, or exist at times side by side...But the one thing that usually persists through all these signs is hope.' Cristofer allows the audience to see these varying stages of grief through his characters. The play takes place at three hospice cottages where we see how death affects three terminally ill patients and their loved ones. Shadow boxes are usually created to display memories and keepsakes. Cristofer uses the cottages metaphorically to showcase the grieving process.

Review: Tilles Center's CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY will have you 'Hooked on Phonics... I Mean Histrionics'Review: Tilles Center's CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY will have you 'Hooked on Phonics... I Mean Histrionics'
October 4, 2022

What did our critic think of CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY at Tilles Center? Back in 2005, Comedy Central had a roast for Pamela Anderson. One of the roasters on the dais was the late, great Bea Arthur; she was there as both she and Anderson are advocates of P.E.T.A., which the roast was a fundraiser for. Instead of following the typical route of insulting Anderson and the other celebrities on the dais, Arthur decided to perform a live reading of Pamela Anderson's autobiographical novel Star Struck. Anderson's words mixed with Ms. Arthur's wry delivery and infamous glares led this to be one of the funniest sets of the evening. After seeing that performance, I literally thought 'My God, what a brilliant idea. Wouldn't it be amazing if Bea Arthur, or any celebrity, performed dramatic readings of celebrity memoirs?' Luckily, Emmy award nominee Eugene Pack capitalized on this idea with co-creator Dayle Reyfel and together they brought Celebrity Autobiography to life.

Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is "S'Wonderful" at The Argyle Theater
October 3, 2022

What did our critic think of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at The Argyle Theater?

Review: Freda Payne and her 'Band' of Gold Marvel in ELLA: FIRST LADY OF SONG at The Madison Theatre At Molloy CollegeReview: Freda Payne and her 'Band' of Gold Marvel in ELLA: FIRST LADY OF SONG at The Madison Theatre At Molloy College
August 28, 2022

What did our critic think of ELLA: FIRST LADY OF SONG at The Madison Theatre At Molloy College?

Review: Bye Bye Birdie...Hello Albert!
BYE BYE BIRDIE at The Noel S. Ruiz Theater At CMPACReview: Bye Bye Birdie...Hello Albert! BYE BYE BIRDIE at The Noel S. Ruiz Theater At CMPAC
August 14, 2022

What did our critic think of BYE BYE BIRDIE at The Noel S. Ruiz Theater At CMPAC?