Busch and Lypsinka Are Dueling Divas in Benefit Adaptation of Legends! March 23

News   Busch and Lypsinka Are Dueling Divas in Benefit Adaptation of Legends! March 23 The late James Kirkwood's Legends!, a comedy about showbiz divas, has been freshly dragged off the shelf and adapted by John Epperson for a March 23 benefit reading featuring Charles Busch, Whoopi Goldberg and Lypsinka at Town Hall in Manhattan.
Charles Busch, Whoopi Goldberg and Lypsinka
Charles Busch, Whoopi Goldberg and Lypsinka Photo by Timothy White

The first-ever New York City presentation of the bitchy comedy that first starred Mary Martin and Carol Channing (in a 1986 tour that never made it to Broadway) is directed by Mark Waldrop (Bea Arthur on Broadway, When Pigs Fly). The Epperson rewrite updates the story to 2009, beefs up the role of Aretha the maid for Goldberg, and includes nips, tucks — and a new ending.

The presentation — to benefit Friends in Deed - The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness — will include on-stage surprises throughout the evening, according to organizers.

Tony-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning actor, writer, director and drag legend Charles Busch (star of the film adaptation of his play Die Mommie Die and author of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife) takes on the role of former film fatale, Sylvia Glenn.

Award-winning actor, writer, fashionista and lip-synching pioneer Lypsinka (I Could Go On Lip-Synching!, The Passion of the Crawford, and his recent Medea-based play My Deah) plays the "seemingly-saintly" Leatrice Monsee.

Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg (star of "Ghost," producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie, host of AMC's "Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel" and the album "Whoopi Goldberg, plus current moderator of ABC's "The View") plays the quick-witted servant Aretha. This Legends! also stars Bryan Batt ("Mad Men") as Martin Klemmer, the producer scheming to get the two film stars to work together, and has narration by deadpan writer-actress Fran Lebowitz. Also featured are Dashaun Young (currently playing Simba in The Lion King) as stripper Boom-Boom Johnson and Todd DuBail (national tours of Joseph… and Grease) as the policeman.

Kirkwood is the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning writer of A Chorus Line and "P.S. Your Cat Is Dead."

Here's how the organizers bill the event: "A hilarious comedy about two glamorous, Hollywood has-beens and arch-rivals forced to consider working together on a new project to resuscitate their careers, Legends! is one of the most notorious theatrical properties ever written — notably for what happened behind-the-scenes. Originally presented in a 1986 year-long, pre-Broadway tour starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin, it closed on the road before making it to New York. The juicy on and off-stage antics were chronicled and immortalized in playwright James Kirkwood's own non-fiction account, 'Diary of a Mad Playwright: Perilous Adventures on the Road with Mary Martin and Carol Channing.' In 2007, the play was again presented as a pre-Broadway national tour, this time helmed by 'Dynasty' co-stars Joan Collins and Linda Evans. Also failing to make it to New York, the production had its backstage wars chronicled in lurid detail by Ms. Collins in a two-part series in London's Daily Mail."

Batt plays closeted art director Salvatore Romano on TV's "Mad Men." His Broadway credits include La Cage aux Folles, Sunset Boulevard, Beauty and the Beast. He created the role of Darius in the stage and film versions of Jeffrey.

The production team includes set designer and three-time Emmy Award winner Ray Clause, costume designer Fabio Toblini, lighting and sound consultant Matt Berman, lighting designer Rocky Noel, choreographer Josh Rhodes. Hairstyles are by Katherine Carr and Gerard Kelly.

Town Hall is located at 123 West 43rd Street.

Tickets for VIP seating is $250, which includes admission to an after-party. For that price range, call (800) 996-5433.

Tickets ($100, $75 and $60) are available through TicketMaster at www.ticketmaster.com or (212) 307-4100 or at the Town Hall box office (123 West 43rd Street).

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Founded by Mike Nichols and Cynthia O'Neal in 1991, Friends in Deed – The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness "has helped transform many thousands of lives through a wide array of free programs and services. It provides emotional and spiritual support for anyone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening physical illnesses. Support is also available for family, friends, and caregivers of those who are ill, and anyone dealing with grief and bereavement. Friends In Deed also runs an HIV prevention program for teens in New York City public schools, having already reached over 100,000 at-risk students. All services are free of charge." For more information, visit www.friendsindeed.org or call (212) 925-2009.

Original <i>Legends</i> stars Mary Martin and Carol Channing with playwright James Kirkwood (center).
Original Legends stars Mary Martin and Carol Channing with playwright James Kirkwood (center). Photo by Gifford Wallace
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