'Kiss Me, Kate' Star Honors Her Lineage as Granddaughter to Kathryn Grayson

By: Jan. 23, 2011

The Relevant Stage presents the Broadway classic "Kiss Me, Kate" choreographed by Marisa Martinez and Keenon Hooks, with costume design by Kara McLeod, February 17 - 28 runs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:00 p.m. at The Warner Grand Theatre 478 West Sixth Street, San Pedro. General admission tickets are: $20 adult, $15 senior (55+)/college student, and $5 18 and under; prestige seating (first five rows, reserved seat) $30 adult, $25 senior/college student, and $10, 18 and under. Tickets are available at Williams Book Store in Downtown San Pedro, or online at therelevantstage.com or 1-800-838-3006.

ABOUT Kristin Towers-ROWLES (as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine:

Kristin grew up with complete strangers telling her how much they loved and worshiped her "Granny" - it wasn't until she was a teenager that she truly realized how special her family history really is. In Jan. 2010, while rehearsing I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change, Ray Buffer offered Kristin the wonderful opportunity to do Kiss Me, Kate in 2011 as an homage to her Grandmother, Kathryn Grayson. A few weeks later, on Feb. 17th, 2010 at the age of 88 years old, her Grandmother passed away. This performance is dedicated to the memory of her beloved Grandmother, whose beauty, talent and spirit touched her family and the world; making an indelible mark on Movie & Broadway musicals for eternity. Since joining TRS in 2010, Kristin has played Woman 1 in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, Muriel Eubanks in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Agent McynTyr in The One & Only & Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Kristin is an LA Native who graduated Best Actress/Singer from Hollywood High Performing Arts & then trained in Musical Theatre at AMDA in NYC. International and National Tours include Phantom of the Opera/Les Miserables in Concert (Christine/Cosette), HMS Pinafore (Josephine) and The Mikado (Yum Yum). Recent regional credits include Pippin (Fastrada), Guys & Dolls (Sarah) & Nunsense (Sister Mary Amnesia). Kristin will next be seen in Sunday in the Park with George (Dot/Marie) at the Complex in Hollywood Mar. 4-13, ‘11 w/ The Still Hungry Theater Company & The Chantilly Sisters at West Valley Playhouse thru April 2011. Then, July 24th, 2011, Kristin will debut her solo show, A Lovely Lineage at Sterlings Upstairs at Vitellos. Kristin is blessed to be a wife to her awesome hubby, Ryan, & mom to her 3 gorgeous daughters. www.kristintowers-rowles.com

ABOUT RAY BUFFER (as FrEd Graham/Petruchio):

Ray is the Founder, Artistic and Managing Director of The Relevant Stage Theatre Company at Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, California. He is an actor, director, vocalist, composer, filmmaker and producer residing in San Pedro, CA. Ray spent the first 30 years of his life in Florida, where he studied musical theatre and music, gaining his BFA before moving to Southern California in 1999. He has worked for various professional theatres and entertainment attractions as an actor, director and stage manager. Credits include, Lawrence Jameson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Jamie Wellerstein in The Last Five Years, Uncle Chris in I Remember Mama, Jud Fry in Oklahoma!, Tevye and Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof, Bill Sikes in Oliver!, Stanley Sanders in Smoke On the Mountain, Lank Hawkins in Crazy For You, and Fudge in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Directing credits include but are not limited to: Noises Off!, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Over There/Over Here, and Pajama Game. As an Equity stage manager of over 350 performances, he has worked with such greats as Phyllis Diller, Jayne Meadows and the late, Steve Allen. He is also a keyboardist and has composed music for the film, Dangerous Perspectives and for the theatre productions, Parade of Fairytales, 6th Street Burlesque and Coffee & Cabaret. He has appeared on various television shows and in films, such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Hulk, Surviving Christmas and She Spies and Eyes, to name a few. He has also worked in Marketing and Development for non-profit theatres such as Spotlite Players, Boca Raton Theatre Guild, Jan McArt's Royal Palm Dinner Theatre and The Laguna Playhouse. Ray also served as General Manager for the Long Beach Opera. He is the Chorus Master for a series of concerts called Christmas with the Mantovani Orchestra and Singers. With writing partner Robert Gross, he also created The Christmas Carol - an annual production, and Singing Jailbirds. He also travels to schools and cinemas bringing the documentary he co-produced, Rats & Bullies: The Dawn-Marie Wesley Story to students, parents and teachers around the world. www.raybuffer.com

ABOUT Kathryn Grayson:

Born Zelma Kathryn Elizabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, NC on Feb. 9, 1922, she moved to St. Louis, MO with her family in 1927, where she later studied voice training with singer Frances Marshall of the Chicago Civic Opera. Grayson's vocal talents were evident at an early age. After moving to Los Angeles with her family for more professional training, she was signed to a contract with RCA Redseal Records at the age of 15 after a label executive heard her performing in church. Her goal during this period was the operatic stage, but it was soon squashed by MGM executive Sam Katz, who sought a rival for Universal's singing ingénue Deanna Durbin, and signed Grayson to a contract with the studio. At the time, Grayson was prepared to make her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, but MGM chief Louis B. Mayer convinced her to direct her attention towards her burgeoning film career, reportedly by faking a heart attack.

As Kathryn Grayson - a stage name built from her middle name and her mother's maiden name - she made her film debut in the low-budget comedy programmer "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary" (1941), which allowed moviegoers to hear her singing voice for the first time. More films of that ilk soon followed, including "Rio Rita" (1942), which teamed her with Abbott & Costello, but by the mid-1940s, she was firmly ensconced as a musical star, thanks to pictures like the World War II morale booster "Thousands Cheer" (1943) and the Oscar-winning "Anchors Aweigh" (1945). In both films, Grayson held her own with Gene Kelly, as well as newly minted movie actor Frank Sinatra, which signified to audiences and studio execs alike that she was a bonafide star.

More musicals followed, including "Till the Clouds Roll By" (1946), the fictionalized biopic of composer Jerome Kern - which served as a preview of her turn in "Show Boat" six years later - and two additional teamings with Sinatra - "It Happened in Brooklyn" (1947) and the campy "Kissing Bandit" (1947). The 1950s proved to be Grayson's most popular and successful decade on film ; she earned top billing in "That Midnight Kiss" (1949), which marked the debut of opera talent Mario Lanza, and the pair reunited for "The Toast of New Orleans" (1950).

Stage musical star Howard Keel was her ideal screen partner - the duo first joined forces on the 1951 Technicolor remake of "Show Boat," and its success led to additional screen collaborations in "Lovely to Look At" (1952) and their most enduring film musical, "Kiss Me Kate" (1953), which gave her not only some of her best musical numbers, but a chance to flex an acting muscle as the hot-headed theater diva Lili Vanessi, who matches wits and words with her ex-husband (Keel) while co-starring in a musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew." Grayson was also leading lady and musical partner to such top male musical stars of the period as Gordon MacRae in "The Desert Song" (1953) and Van Johnson in "Grounds for Marriage" (1951). Her final screen acting role came in "The Vagabond King" (1956), opposite Maltese opera star Oreste Kirkop, who was a last minute replacement for the temperamental Lanza. She segued briefly into television, where she earned an Emmy nomination for a 1955 episode of "General Electric Theatre" (CBS, 1953-1962), but by the following decade, she was appearing exclusively on stage.

In 1960, she finally achieved her earliest goal by making her operatic debut in some of the medium's most iconic productions, including "Madame Butterfly" and "La Boheme." Grayson also replaced Julie Andrews in the Broadway production of "Camelot," and later crisscrossed the United States for over a year with the wildly successful national tour. Grayson also reunited with Keel for a popular nightclub and Las Vegas act, as well as a tour of Australia.

Grayson remained active on stage throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including turns in drama with "Night Watch" in 1982 and farce with "Noises Off" in 1987. She also returned to television during this period with a recurring role on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), and toured the country with a one-woman show, "An Evening with Kathryn Grayson" into the late 1990s. In her final years, Grayson gave private singing lessons in her Los Angeles home, and served as supervisor for a Voice and Choral Studies Program at Idaho State University that bore her name. Grayson died in her sleep at the age of 88 on Feb. 17, 2010.

Cole Porter's jazzy take on Shakespeare takes the stage in San Pedro. For Kristin Towers-Rowles, this will be the first time she has attempted to play a role made famous by her grandmother, star of the screen and stage, Kathryn Grayson. Originally planned in January 2010 to be performed at this time as a tribute to her grandmother while she was living, the production takes on an additional poignancy opening on the exact one year anniversary of her death, February 17, 2011. Don't miss your chance to see this fabulous production in San Pedro for a limited engagement of two weekends. Opening February 17, and playing for 12 performances until February 27.

The complete cast of "Kiss Me, Kate" includes:

Hattie (Lilli Vanessi's Dresser) - MONIQUE WARREN
Ralph (Stage Manager)/Ensemble singer - DAVID TERRELL
Lois Lane/Bianca Minola - JESSICA Marie Taylor
Bill Calhoun/Lucentio - DREW FITZSIMMONS
Lilli Vanessi/Katharine Minola - Kristin Towers-ROWLES
Harry Trevor/Baptista Minola - VITO ROPPO
Stagehand #1 (electrician)/Cab Driver/Nathaniel - servant to Petruchio/Padua mandolin player/2nd male solo for "Cantiamo D'Amore" - CALVIN TUCKER
First Man/"Aide" to Katherine/half of the donkey for Finale Act Two - GREG ABBOTT
Second Man/"Aide" to Katherine/ half of the donkey for Finale Act Two - Michael Jay ARONOVITZ
Flynt - Aide to General Howell/Gremio (first suitor) - JAYSON PULS
Riley - Aide to General Howell/Hortensio (second suitor)/1st Male Solo for "Cantiamo D'Amore - Steve Weber
Stagehand #2 (assistant electrician)/Philip, servant to Petruchio/Half of the donkey for "We Open In Venice."/3rd Male Solo for "Cantiamo D'Amore - Andrew LuCERO
Stagehand #3 & Driver for General Howell/Haberdasher/Half of the donkey for "We Open In Venice." - JUSTIN P. James
GenerAl Harrison Howell - Martin Feldman
Wardrobe Lady/Ensemble singer ("Bianca" singer) - AMY WELCH
Seamstress /Ensemble singer ("Bianca" singer) - SHELLY HACCO
Ensemble Singer for female quartet ("Bianca" singer) - EILEEN O'DONNELL
Ensemble Singer for female quartet ("Bianca" singer) - JENNY UM
Dance Captain/Ensemble singer and Dancer/Padua Inn Waitress (female) - BRITTANY SINDICICH (KISS ME KATE DANCE CAPTAIN)
Ensemble Dancer (female) - NUNAMI SUNAGA
Ensemble Dancer (female) - SARA BADAWI
Ensemble Dancer (female) - SUZANNE BADAWI
Gregory, servant to Petruchio/Ensemble Dancer (male) - JONathan Taylor
Pops (Stage Doorman)/Padua Priest - MICHAEL GERMAN
Ensemble Singer ("Bianca" singer) - ARIELLA FIORE
Ensemble Singer ("Bianca" singer) - ROBYN ROTHSTEIN
Ensemble Singers/Company Singers & Dancers/Citizens of Padua - DORIAN HARKLESS, STEPHEN PU, and ALEX JAMES SALAS


The Relevant Stage is a 501(c)3 non-profit theatre company in residence at Warner Grand Theatre - a facility of the City of Los Angeles. Since 2007, The Relevant Stage has brought high caliber performing arts and entertainment to downtown San Pedro. TRS seeks to present relevant themes and issues using the performing arts. In addition to main stage performances for all ages, TRS operates an educational summer youth program called TRS Youthorizons, and a year-round senior citizen life-enrichment program, called, The Poppins Project. http://therelevantstage.com


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