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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Aretha dishes with Dave about Ed Sullivan

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Aretha dishes with Dave about Ed Sullivan

It's not been an easy week for the memory of Ed Sullivan.

Los Angeles police are investigating the theft of a solid bronze statue of Sullivan from an outdoor exhibit at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The statue was taken Sunday from atop a pedestal in the academy's Hall of Fame Plaza in North Hollywood.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Special 95th birthday for bandleader Frank Gentille

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Special 95th birthday for bandleader Frank Gentille

Today is the 90th birthday for President Jimmy Carter.

But Chicagoland musician and bandleader claim-to-fame Frank Gentille, who shares the same birthday, still has him beat by five years. Gentille is celebrating his 95th birthday today.

And best of all, Gentille is still performing, usually seated behind his drums, happy to be on stage showcasing favorite tunes from the past 100 years.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'Native Son' at Court Theatre a compelling stage story

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'Native Son' at Court Theatre a compelling stage story
September 30, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Court Theatre in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood and American Blues Theater extended their joint world premiere of American Blues Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley's new adaptation of Richard Wright's classic novel "Native Son."

It's with good reason this thrilling and well-crafted production directed by Seret Scott is enjoying a longer stay for audiences, through Oct. 19, at the performance space at 5535 S. Ellis Ave.

Based on Wright's novel about poverty, oppression, freedom and justice, the 90-minute tale is set in Chicago around 1940 following a young black man named Bigger Thomas, who is eager for a better life.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Latest 'CATS' includes dog salute musical number

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Latest 'CATS' includes dog salute musical number
September 29, 2014 12:00 am  • 

As I've mentioned in previous reviews, the Broadway musical "CATS" is one of those productions you can see and enjoy again and again, and still notice something new.

For the new production of this fur-flying stage favorite from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paramount Theatre's run includes something that was especially new to me.

The two-and-a-half-hour, one intermission show, which continues with performances until Oct. 12 at this beautiful venue in Aurora, showcases a musical number and scene I don't believe I've ever seen in previous productions.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Crown Point Tri Kappa 2014 Kitchen Tour fit for a King

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Crown Point Tri Kappa 2014 Kitchen Tour fit for a King
September 28, 2014 12:00 am  • 

After visiting Elvis Presley's home Graceland in 1991 with my parents, I've always said I would return again. At the time, the kitchen was not included as part of the tour. The kitchen wing of the house was not added to the Graceland tour until 1993, since Elvis' Aunt Delta Presley Biggs continued to live at Graceland with her dog Edmond, until her death in 1993. (The rest of the mansion originally opened to the public on June 2, 1982 for tours.)

Until I make it to The King's kitchen, the Crown Point Tri Kappas have something just as special planned next month.

Sue Reitan of Crown Point, the 2014 Kitchen Tour chair, shared all the details with me as follows:

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Big names headline Munster Friends of Theatre luncheon

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Big names headline Munster Friends of Theatre luncheon
September 27, 2014 12:00 am  • 

It's time for the Seventh annual Friends of the Theatre Fall Fantasy Luncheon at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 22.

This is a great charity cause for next month's luncheon event. As for the details, the plated luncheon benefits our very own Theatre at the Center at the wonderful Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster. This stage is celebrating a 25th anniversary this year. The doors for this event, held at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, open at 10:30 a.m. for boutique shopping prior to the noon meal and my talk. Tickets are $40 and reservations are required by Oct. 10. Call Charlie Misovye at (219) 836-3258 for details about tickets.

I hold this Center for Performing Arts near and dear to my own heart, since some of the first celebrities I ever met were those who appeared on this stage in Munster, including the October 1995 appearance by Bill Marx, son of Harpo Marx, who performed on piano in a show called "From Harpo with Love" featuring the music of Harpo. It was also here that I met and was introduced in 1994 to the late great Maxene Andrews of the Andrews Sisters.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'Evil Dead' musical spoof cursed by sound demons

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'Evil Dead' musical spoof cursed by sound demons
September 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Wednesday's press night opening of the Broadway in Chicago quick run of "Evil Dead - The Musical" could have benefited from more fans who are part of the cult following for the original 1981 low-budget horror film.

This group would likely already have many of the movie's most memorable lines engrained in their brains, which certainly would have help since the production seemed possessed by sound engineering problems for much of the first act. But what came through loud and clear were the many foul language moments included in the campy show, which is not for sensitive ears.

Of course, this is not a show for every audience. But there are some funny and silly clever moments that make for a diversion for a night out if you like this sort of goofy stage fest, continuing until Oct. 12 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E Chestnut St. in Chicago.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'The Arsonists' smolders on stage at Strawdog

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'The Arsonists' smolders on stage at Strawdog
September 25, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Working in a newsroom, I learned early on that the criminal mind of an arsonist is a strange and complicated formula of impulse and planning with an obsession with fire.

Nobody was safe when an arsonist torched buildings throughout Valparaiso during the 1980s and 1990s.

Several city residents were nearly killed and millions of dollars worth of Valparaiso's homes and businesses burned to the ground during  the 15 years before serial arsonist Johnny Lee Maynard was linked to the crimes. He was arrested on arson charges in 1994 and put behind bars for a 20-year sentence to this year 2014.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'Women on the Verge' a funny first for audiences

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: 'Women on the Verge' a funny first for audiences
September 24, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Anyone who has ever felt "on the verge of a nervous breakdown" (and isn't that all of us as some point?) hopefully realizes a deep breath and consideration of the larger perspective of life helps to reconcile even the worse situations.

Add a dose of humor, to ward away the hopelessness, and frowns become smiles.

In today's hectic world of work and worry, a ticket to see the fantastically funny "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is just what the doctor ordered.

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OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Actress shines in world premiere Bette Davis play

OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: Actress shines in world premiere Bette Davis play
September 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The attention to detail and a dynamic performance are reasons why "Bette Davis on the Edge," as directed by Jane Brody and starring Christine St. John in the title role for this one-woman show, succeeds so nicely on stage.

Featuring lighting, set and sound design by Duane Thompson with elegant costume design by Anna Glowacki and graphic art by Tim Jarmain-Groves, "Bette Davis on the Edge" enjoyed its world premiere run during the past two weekends at the Mainstreet Theatre, at 807 Franklin St., in Michigan City.

The 90-minute play with one intermission covers a lot of territory about the life and career of Davis, who died at 81 in 1989. During her life, she packed in plenty of living, including two Oscar wins and four husbands.

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