Rita McKenzie Resurrects Ethel Merman's Broadway in Motor City Starting Sept. 9 | Playbill

News Rita McKenzie Resurrects Ethel Merman's Broadway in Motor City Starting Sept. 9
That noise you hear coming from the Midwest is an approximation of Ethel Merman's brassy voice. Rita McKenzie, the actress who performed Ethel Merman's Broadway in an Off-Broadway engagement and is heard on the 1995 cast album — begins a fall engagement of the revue at Detroit's historic Gem Theatre Sept. 9.
Rita Mckenzie as Ethel Merman
Rita Mckenzie as Ethel Merman Photo by Martha Swope

Ethel Merman's Broadway, conceived and directed by Christopher Powich and featuring McKenzie's award-winning performance, "revisits a theatrical era filled with charm, wit, personality, and most of all, some of Broadway's greatest music," according to production notes. "With words and music by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jule Styne and Irving Berlin, the songs come alive in the incomparable style of Ethel Merman."

Performances will play the Motor City to Nov. 21.


Expect to hear some of the greatest hits of singer-actress Merman's career, including "There's No Business Like Show Business," "I Got Rhythm" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses." The late actress was active on Broadway from the 1930s to the 1960s, appearing in such landmark shows as Girl Crazy, Anything Goes, Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy.

McKenzie began her internationally acclaimed portrayal of "The Merm" Off-Broadway at the John Houseman Theater in New York City and later performed at Carnegie Hall. She took her act to the Pasadena Playhouse in California; Harrah's Casino Hotel in Atlantic City; and on an eight-city tour in Japan. Her credits include playing Olive Madison in a national tour of Neil Simon's female version of The Odd Couple, co-starring Barbara Eden; a tour with Eden in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; a tour with Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna in Bermuda Avenue Triangle; and the Los Angeles premiere of the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless! (also on the cast album), among many other credits. Powich conceived and directed both the Off-Broadway production of Ethel Merman's Broadway at the John Houseman Theater and the Pasadena Playhouse production. Powich also wrote and directed McKenzie's nationally acclaimed Symphony Pops tribute to Ethel Merman. He directed McKenzie and Carole Shelley in the reenactment of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin's famous 1955 television medley at Rainbow and Stars Nightclub in New York. Powich directed the world premiere of the comedy Snap Shots by Ralph Fredericks at the O'Neill Theater in Waterford, CT, and in Boston. He will direct Snap Shots for an Off-Broadway run in 2010.

For more information about the Gem run, call ticketmaster.com at (313) 963-9800; visit www.gemtheatre.com; or visit the box office at 333 Madison Ave, Detroit MI.

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