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New version of 'Louis & Keely' musical to open at El Portal Theatre

November 25, 2009 | 11:37 am

Broder People are starting to call it the musical that keeps on giving.

The team behind the popular "Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara" is mounting a revised version of the stage show at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. The production,  retitled "A Vegas Holiday! Songs from 'Live at the Sahara,'" will play for a limited run from Dec. 19-31.

The El Portal said that the new version of the musical will be different from the Taylor Hackford-directed production that recently closed at the Geffen Playhouse following an eight-month run. But it will feature the same two lead actors, Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith -- who are currently rewriting the book in preparation for a planned national tour -- as well as the same band members.

Hackford is not participating in the new version of the show.

Jay Irwin, a co-manager at the El Portal, told Culture Monster that he received a message from Smith in which the actress outlined details for the new production. According to the message, the actors will be performing all of the songs in character from the original show plus some of the onstage banter. 

However, the musical will contain none of the offstage scenes that audiences saw in the Geffen production, including scenes in the characters' apartment.

Broder and Smith "are planning a couple of surprises but I don't know more about that yet," Irwin said. "The show is also open to special guests and we're working on that right now."

The musical tells the story of Las Vegas performer Louis Prima and his on-again, off-again relationship with singer Keely Smith.

Pegge Forrest, who is also a co-manager at the El Portal, said that they have been trying to get "Louis & Keely" since its first incarnation at Sacred Fools Theatre in 2008.

The El Portal came somewhat close to scoring the production after the show transfered to the Matrix Theater but the production ended up going to the Geffen Playhouse under Hackford, who revised the show by adding more biographical backstory and a subplot involving Frank Sinatra.

After reading a story in Culture Monster about the show's planned short national tour (and Broadway aspirations), the people at the El Portal re-established contact with the producers. Plans for the El Portal engagement came together in October.

It's not clear if the El Portal version of the show will be the one that ends up on tour. Producers of the musical still have not announced cities or dates for the tour, which is scheduled to take place next year.

Earlier this month, the widow of Louis Prima, Gia Maione Prima, caused a stir by speaking out against the Geffen production. She faulted what she saw as the show's many biographical inaccuracies as well as its lewd portrayal of her late husband.

Maione Prima said she was basing her claims on the cast album recording of the musical.

-- David Ng

Photo: Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

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