- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

In the hotly anticipated “Dreamgirls,” an adaptation of the popular Broadway musical about a trio of 1960s soul singers, Jennifer Hudson dominates every scene in which she appears — thrusting a sharp elbow at megastars such as Beyonce Knowles while she’s at it. Miss Hudson, an “American Idol” also-ran, didn’t come from nowhere. Still, it’s a pleasure to watch cream rise to the top.

Jack Nicholson — Ostensibly about a pair of road-tripping stoner motorcyclists, 1969’s “Easy Rider” turned out to be a launchpad for the young scene chewer, whose tragically funny alcoholic lawyer stole the show from stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

The Who — The “Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” television special, filmed in 1968, sat in the vaults for nearly 30 years. The eponymous headliners, physically exhausted and nursing a dissipated guitarist (the late Brian Jones) reportedly were unhappy with their performance — and worried, rightly, about being upstaged by this galvanizing foursome just on the brink of their rock-opera prime.

Danny Kaye — In 1940, theater legend Gertrude Lawrence was upstaged nightly in the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin musical “The Lady in the Dark” by Danny Kaye as homosexual fashion photographer Russell Paxton. In the circus dream sequence, Mr. Kaye sang a patter song that became one of his trademarks, “Tchaikovsky and Other Russians,” in which he speedily recited the names of 49 Russian composers. Thunderous applause greeted the conclusion of the song, and Mr. Weill and Mr. Gershwin worried that their star, about to sing “The Saga of Jenny,” couldn’t top him.

Bob Dylan — It also helps when you’re sleeping with the headliner: As his personal lover and public booster in the early 1960s, folk singer Joan Baez invited the budding, relatively unknown Minnesotan onstage with her, thereby introducing Mr. Dylan to a national audience.

The Simpsons — Cartoonist Matt Groening’s animated shorts starring the dysfunctional Simpson family (whom he claims he concocted in 15 minutes) premiered on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1987. Miss Ullman has faded into cult-actress obscurity, while Bart Simpson and the clan became a worldwide cultural phenomenon after the spinoff animated series bowed on Fox in 1989.



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