- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

A league of his own

Associated Press

Country music superstar Tim McGraw plays a former high school football player in the movie “Friday Night Lights,” and now he’s become a part owner of the Arena Football League’s Nashville Kats.

Bud Adams, owner of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, announced Monday that Mr. McGraw had joined him and Mark Bloom as co-owners of the franchise Mr. Adams revived after the team moved to Atlanta.

“I’m part of the community here — loving football, being part of the community and wanting to support anything that helps this community out,” said Mr. McGraw, whose latest album is “Live Like You Were Dying.”

He’ll also be doing his part to boost attendance by performing for Kats season-ticket holders and sponsors next year.

Jon Bon Jovi is part owner of the Philadelphia Soul AFL team, and Mr. McGraw joked that he’d do anything to help promote his own new team — even if it means getting on the field with Mr. Bon Jovi.

“If he gets out there, I’ll get out there because I know I can cream him,” Mr. McGraw said.

New King crowned

Associated Press

The understudy is finally taking center stage.

Cheyenne Jackson, who understudied the lead in “All Shook Up,” has taken over the starring role in the Broadway-bound musical that uses songs by Elvis Presley.

Mr. Jackson replaces Jarrod Emick, who left the show because of a contract dispute.

“In the end, we simply could not agree on the terms,” producer Jonathan Pollard said in a statement.

“All Shook Up,” which opens March 24 at Broadway’s Palace Theatre, tells the story of a mysterious guitar-playing stranger who brings romance and rock ‘n’ roll into the life of a small-town girl, played by Jenn Gambatese. The show, with a book by Joe DiPietro, is directed by Christopher Ashley. Preview performances begin Feb. 20.

Mr. Jackson has appeared on Broadway in such musicals as “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Aida,” understudying lead roles in both shows.

Act of fate

New York Daily News

The story of how unknown actress Sharon Warren came to play the pivotal role of Ray Charles’ mother, Aretha, in the hot new movie “Ray” begins with a misdemeanor.

“I had parked illegally in an expensive neighborhood in Atlanta to go to a costume fitting for a play I was in,” Miss Warren says.

“On my way back to the car, I stopped outside this hotel, the Residence Inn, and suddenly thought, ‘Maybe I should go in.’

“When I did, somebody said, ‘Go to the second floor.’ Only then did I find out they were auditioning for ‘Unchain My Heart’ [the original title for “Ray”]. They said, ‘We like your nerve. Get us a head shot.’”

“Ray” director Taylor Hackford calls her unexpected arrival “a Cinderella story.”

“I hadn’t been able to find an actress who could embody what Ray Charles told me his mother was,” Mr. Hackford says, “a bone-thin person who had died when she was 31, but who had incredible fierceness of spirit.

“And then Sharon walked in off the street.”

For the past five years, the twentysomething Miss Warren has lived frugally in Atlanta, supporting herself as a temp, a maid and a saleswoman.

“Sometimes when the money came up short, I had to sleep in my car,” says the actress, who dropped out of Auburn University in 1999 to pursue acting.

“And for three months, I lived in a youth hostel for $10 a night. That was an exciting time. I was acting and earning my Equity card. I was a bohemian.

“Now I’m a bohemian with a film credit.”

Brandy, Atlantic kaput

Associated Press

Brandy is looking for a new record label.

The 25-year-old singer-actress has split from her longtime label, Atlantic Records, her publicist, Courtney Barnes, announced Monday.

The departure came after relatively disappointing sales of her last album, “Afrodisiac.” Although the album generated the moderate hit “Talk About Our Love” with Kanye West, it disappeared quickly from the charts.

It was a departure from her previous three albums, all of which sold at least 1 million copies.

Mr. Barnes says Brandy is looking at other labels and also plans to be co-executive producer of a comedy series for Fox TV next year.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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