Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara Opens March 19 in L.A.; Hackford Directs

News   Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara Opens March 19 in L.A.; Hackford Directs Hollywood director Taylor Hackford's staging of the expanded and revised award-winning Los Angeles musical, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, opens March 19 after previews from March 15 at the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A.

On March 16, the earlier 2008 Sacred Fools Theatre Co. production of Louis & Keely was named a winner in the Best Production category of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. The previous director, Jeremy Aldridge, won in the Direction category.

The new refreshed staging by Hackford continues to April 26. The musical play, co-written and starring Jake Broder and Vanessa Smith, won the 2008 Ovation Award for Best Musical, and was nominated for five LA Weekly Theater Awards (including Musical of the Year) and four Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards (including Best Production and Best Actor). Two new performers have been added to the cast, which now totals four, plus a band.

There is hope for a future commercial life for the production.

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Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara "follows the life and love of Vegas' infamous onstage couple Louis Prima and Keely Smith." The original production of Louis & Keely, which was produced by the Sacred Fools Theatre Company, opened in June 2008. After an extended summer run at Sacred Fools, the production found a new home at Hollywood's Matrix Theater in October 2008 and ran for 15 sold-out weeks.

"I saw Louis & Keely during its initial run at Sacred Fools, and was immediately struck by the music, the story, and most of all, by its stars and creators — Jake Broder and Vanessa Smith," said director Hackford, in a statement. "This was a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre that came together through will and sheer talent, and I wanted to help Jake and Vanessa expand and develop this show so it could reach its ultimate potential."

Hackford is most well-known for his film work, including "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Against All Odds," "The Devil's Advocate," "La Bamba," "Proof of Life" and most recently "Ray," which was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara marks Hackford's stage directorial debut. He was attached to the stage musical Leap of Faith.

Hackford has joined forces with Broder and Smith "to guide the revision process." He estimates about 40 percent of the script is different from the original production. This includes the addition of six new songs: "I Wish You Love," "Hey Boy, Hey Girl," "What is this Thing Called Love," "Night Train," "Ai, Ai, Ai" and "I Can't Believe that You're in Love with Me," as well as new characters — including Frank Sinatra.

Creators Broder and Smith revisit their roles as Louis and Keely respectively, and new cast members Nick Cagle and Erin Matthews play various other characters in the couple's story.

In addition to the four actors, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara features a seven-piece live swing band, playing Prima's Vegas band The Witnesses.

Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara is set to run at the Geffen Playhouse's Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater through April 26, "with the possibility for extension pending audience demand."

The intimate Audrey Skirball Theater will be configured with four rows of premium stage-front seating ($65) in addition to the standard orchestra seating ($55).

Ticket prices for preview performances — March 15 at 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM, March 17 at 8 PM and March 18 at 8 PM — will be $55 for premium seats and $45 for standard seats.

Tickets are on sale now at the Geffen Playhouse box office, online at GeffenPlayhouse.com, via credit card phone order at (310) 208-5454, at all Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling Ticketmaster at (213) 480-3232.

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The Geffen Playhouse in the Westwood section of L.A. opened in 1995. The company is helmed by producing director and president of the board Gilbert (Gil) Cates, artistic director Randall Arney, managing director Susan Barton and chairman of the board Frank Mancuso.