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OFFBEAT: Peter Gallagher/Hershey Felder ideal duo for Drury Lane Water Tower stage
MAN IN DEMAND - - Actor Peter Gallagher shares plenty of songs and stories in his new 90-minute no intermission one man show he's calling "Don't Give Up on Me: Songs and Stories from an Actor's Life." Gallagher just completed a five week test run of the show in Chicago, Dec. 14, 2009, following similar runs in both Los Angeles and New York before launching a national tour. (Times File Photo)

I finally had the chance to see actor/entertainer Peter Gallagher's new one-man show on Monday, which was, alas, his final night of performances at the downtown Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place.

Gallagher has been in Chicago "testing the waters" with his new show since Nov. 22, sharing the space with the equally great Hershey Felder, who is continuing to perform his own popular one-man piano shows on the same stage through the new year.

Many might associate Gallagher with his successful acting career, including his long run on the FOX television series "The OC," and his memorable film roles in "American Beauty," "While You Were Sleeping" and "Sex, Lies and Video Tape" and others. In fact, he filmed three feature films during his career in Chicago, one of which was "While You Were Sleeping." And in Robert Altman's classic Hollywood tell-all 1992 drama "The Player," Gallagher not only got to play a slick clawing-to-the-top film executive named Larry Levy, but he also got to be in a red carpet scene featuring Cher (in a cameo) as his date.

But even before I arrived to my theater seat, I already knew Gallagher is also a great singing talent with an amazing voice.

Before Monday, I'd never had the pleasure of hearing him sing in person.

But, I have heard him do some amazing performances on television, including duets with Patti LuPone and others.

On Broadway, he starred in "Guys and Dolls" and "Noises Off," the latter with LuPone, among other stage classics.

So Gallagher has plenty of material, songs and stories to pick from to include in his 90-minute intermission free show which he's calling "Don't Give Up on Me: Songs and Stories from an Actor's Life."

Besides a lone "ghost light," that bare bulb stage beacon found in theaters, a tiny table with two chairs and the backing of four musicians (piano, drums, bass and guitar), there is only Gallagher in the spotlight.

His song selection ranges from "What's New Pussycat?" and "Danny Boy" to "Fly Me to the Moon," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "The Glory of Love" and "A Song for You," all performed with precision and passion.

But it's Gallagher's career stories which really seal the deal and cement this show as a must-see.

(He's already tried out a couple versions at a small theater in Los Angeles and at Michael Feinstein's club in New York.)

During the course of the evening, Gallagher shares stories about working with the greats of show business, from Jack Lemmon, Peter O'Toole and James Cagney to Stubby Kaye and Richard Burton.

He also gives some heartwarming glimpses into his youth, including stories about his parents, including his mother Mary's final 20-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.

This is a dedicated performer worthy of a career standing ovation and someone who appreciates both his past and the potential for the future. Speaking of which, all during his five-week stint here in the Windy City, he's been commuting back to Los Angeles each week while filming an episode of the cable FX network's series "Rescue Me" co-starring his pal Denis Leary. And on Friday, he begins filming in the new movie "Burlesque" by Screen Gems Studio and co-starring Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Alan Cumming and Kristen Bell.

For more information about Gallagher, visit his Web site at petergallagher.com.

And a reminder about the continuation of award-winning Felder's hit "George Gershwin Alone," directed by Joel Zwick. It will play the Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut from Dec. 23 to Dec. 30 for a special holiday engagement and then he'll host a special New Year's Eve performance of "The Great American Song Book Sing-A-Long" playing two performances 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Dec. 31.

The 10 p.m. performance is followed by a champagne dessert reception.

Tickets for "George Gershwin Alone" are currently on sale and range in price from $55 to $60. Tickets for the New Year's Eve presentation of "The Great American Song Book Sing-A-Long" are $100 for the 7 p.m. performance and $150 for the 10 p.m. performance. For show times and dates, visit eightyeightentertainment.com or call (312) 642-2000.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or 219.852.4327.

Today's Celebrity Birthdays

Actress Joyce Bulifant ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show") is 72. Actress Liv Ullman is 71. Journalist Lesley Stahl ("60 Minutes") is 68. Writer-producer Steven Bochco is 66. Guitarist Tony Hicks of The Hollies and actress Patti Deutsch ("Match Game" and "Monsters Inc.") are 63. Singer Benny Anderson of ABBA is 63. Actor Ben Cross ("Chariots of Fire" and "Dark Shadows") is 62. Singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top is 60. Actress Alison LaPlaca ("The John Larroquette Show") is 50. Actors Sam Robards and Jon Tenney ("Brooklyn South") are 48. Chicago Bear William "The Refrigerator" Perry is 47. Actor Benjamin Bratt ("Law and Order") and country singer Jeff Carson are 46. Singer Michael McCary of Boyz II Men is 38. Actress Hallee Hirsh ("JAG") is 22. Actress Anna Popplewell ("The Chronicles of Narnia" films) is 21.

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