- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

Taking center stage

Pat Boone, the white shoe-wearing crooner who turns 71 Wednesday and continues to perform, is taking on critics who say he found early success by recording covers of R&B; songs that were first recorded by black artists.

His first hit, “Two Hearts, Two Kisses,” a remake of an R&B; song by The Charms, first put him on the national show biz map in April 1955.

“It put a lot of songs on mainstream radio that wouldn’t have been otherwise heard,” says Mr. Boone, who takes the stage today at 12:30 p.m. for “The Memorial Day Observance at The Wall,” the annual holiday program at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“It was a very different time,” he says. “Radio wasn’t playing black artists, but these were good, melodic songs that deserved a wider audience.”

The controversy, however, didn’t hamper Mr. Boone’s ascent to fame as one of the country’s leading pop music stars of the bobby socks era. He notched 61 hits, including 13 gold singles such as “Love Letters in the Sand,” and starred in dozens of films, among them “April Love” (from his hit record of the same name) and “State Fair” with Ann-Margret.

During today’s event, Mr. Boone — who shocked the crowd at the MTV Music Awards in 1997 when, counter to his clean-cut image, he appeared clad in leather, chains and without his trademark white bucks — will perform a medley from his hit CD “American Glory.” He’s also planning to release five new recordings over the next year, including a country tune, “Ready to Rock,” on July 12.

Schwimmer’s dilemma

Former “Friends” star David Schwimmer threatened to storm offstage on the opening night of his London play “Some Girls” — because he spotted a paparazzo photographing him during a semi-nude scene.

Mr. Schwimmer says the photog ruined his West End debut in Neil LaBute’s play, by taking non-stop pictures from the wings of the Gielgud Theatre during a scene that involved the 38-year-old stripping down to his underwear, reports the Internet Movie Database.

“I was the only person who saw him and because I am onstage all the time I couldn’t tell anyone, but I was willing to walk off,” IMDB quotes Mr. Schwimmer as saying.

When asked if he thought the photographer had purposely come to catch him in his boxer shorts, he replied, “I don’t know, but if he did, he needed a giant lens.”

Man overboard

Signature Theatre’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer researched Japanese theater forms, and especially kabuki, in preparation for “Pacific Overtures,” a double entendre title for the Stephen Sondheim musical about Japanese-American relations during the last 150 years.

The story of the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 and the opening of Japan to the West as conceived by the eminent musical theater master is considered one of Mr. Sondheim’s largest, most inventive and difficult works.

For budget reasons, Mr. Schaeffer, who designed the sets and directed the production, knew he had to trim his cast to 10; a considerable reduction from the original cast which had as many as 45 characters. But the truly radical element is the choice of a woman — veteran actor and company co-founder Donna Migliaccio — to play the chief role of Reciter, a character that had always been portrayed by a man.

“I found that kabuki started with all-women,” Mr. Schaeffer says. “Then the men got mad and took it away from them. Donna said ‘I could do this part,’ and that was that.” Of course, he consulted with Mr. Sondheim — who wrote the music and lyrics — and John Weidman, who wrote the book. Mr. Sondheim is expected to see the production in June.

The musical continues through July 3 at the Arlington playhouse.

Compiled by R. Denise Yourse and Ann Geracimos from staff, Web and wire reports.

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