Las Vegas entertainer Clint Holmes, remembered as Joan Rivers' sidekick on her late-night talk show and as an "Entertainment Tonight" correspondent, will see the Chicago premiere of his autobiographical showbiz musical, Comfortable Shoes, opening Sept. 29 at Chicago's Royal George Theatre.
The musical, which had its world premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 1995-96 (with Holmes and La Chanze), is billed as "an uplifting new musical about one man's personal journey of a life filled with music, conflict, love and acceptance," on themes of identity, race and multiculturalism. It's penned by British-born Holmes (book and lyrics), one of Las Vegas' most popular entertainers and Nelson Kole (music), the musical director and composer for many of Vegas' top headliners. Tickets are on sale through Nov. 10. Previews began Sept. 24.
A spokesperson for the Chicago staging said the show has been rewritten since 1996 and is almost "completely different" from past versions.
The show is Holmes' life story — "a story of diversity, personal triumphs, and most importantly, of acceptance and being comfortable with oneself," according to production notes.
Holmes was born in England, the son of an African American jazz musician (his father) and a British opera singer (his mother). His first big break came when Joan Rivers invited him to be her sidekick and announcer on "The Late Show." This was followed by a two-year stint on "Entertainment Tonight," where he served as their musical feature and event correspondent. He is currently starring in Clint Holmes at Harrah's, a nightly show in the main showroom at Harrah's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Mark Dow directs and stages the musical numbers. The assistant director and choreographer is Harrison McEldowney. The producers are Steve Wilson and Mark Dow of Concentrix Entertainment and Rory Rosegarten. The associate producer and general manager is Karen Leahy.
Composer Kole's professional career began on the Las Vegas strip where he played keyboard for headliners such as Dionne Warwick and Frank Sinatra. He soon became musical director-arranger for many entertainers including Don Rickles, Clint Holmes, Ann Jillian, Lorna Luft and Ben Vereen. He collaborated with Billy Crystal writing "out-take" songs for Crystal’s character, Mike (the one eyed one) in the Disney/Pixar animated feature, "Monsters, Inc." He recently completed his second season as co-composer and arranger on Comedy Central's series "Prime Time Glick" starring Martin Short. His journey into musical theatre began with Dennis the Musical, an adaptation of the popular "Dennis the Menace" comic strip character starring Tom Poston as Mr. Wilson.
Comfortable Shoes stars Christopher Jackson as Clay (the character based on Clint Holmes) who recently completed almost two years on Broadway as Simba in The Lion King. Featured performers include Carol Kuykendall as Clay's mother, Audrey, who has performed on numerous Chicago area stages from the Goodman to the Marriott and was a member of the Chicago and touring companies of Show Boat; Justin Reynolds, making his professional stage debut, as young Clay; Stanley White as Clay's father, Eddie, who has performed at such area venues as Candlelight, Marriott and Drury Lane Oak Brook in Five Guys Named Moe, Hot Mikado and Show Boat; Shané Williams, who audiences will recognize from her work on CBS-TV's "Early Edition" as Clay's wife, Brenda; and E. Faye Butler, one of Chicago’s favorite musical-theatre stars who has been receiving national raves for her work as Dinah Washington in Dinah Was, as Brenda's mother, Helen.
Other cast members in multiple roles include Alan Ball, Amy Montgomery, Gordon McClure.
The musical director is Ron Walters. Orchestrations and arrangements are by Nelson Kole. Designers are Vicki Baral & Gerry Hariton (scenic), Todd Clark (lighting), Joe Fosco (sound) and Jordan Ross (costume).
In 1989, director Dow founded Chicago's famed River North Dance Company. He has directed music videos for Columbia and Warner Brothers, choreographed the film, "Prelude to a Kiss," and was a contributing choreographer for the film "A League of Their Own."
Performances are 8 PM Tuesdays-Fridays; 5 & 9 PM Saturdays; 3 and 7 PM Sundays. Tickets are priced at $35-$49.50. (There is no matinee performance on Sunday Sept. 29.)
Chicago's Royal George Theatre is located at 1641 N. Halsted. For tickets or information, call (312) 988-9000 or visit comfortableshoesthemusical.com.
— By Kenneth Jones