Monday, May 11, 2009

Mae West: Vegas to 47th

MAE WEST gave Steve Rossi his punchy stage name. He was born 76 years ago in the roughneck section of Manhattan then known as "Italian Harlem" and was raised on the West Coast when his musician father was hired by NBC. Mostly known as a Las Vegas resident and night club entertainer, Steve Rossi was cast in "Senior Class," a light-hearted song-laden trip down memory lane, a few years ago. The show featured six golden agers: Steve Rossi, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Ronnie Schell, Ruta Lee, Gary Collins, Marcia Rodd. New producers dieted the ensemble down to a quartet — — and refocused the material before preparing it for The Big Apple.
• • Loyally, The Las Vegas Sun (Steve's hometown paper) did a little puffing. Jerry Fink's article appears below.
• • Jerry Fink writes: After more than half a century of entertaining, Las Vegas singer, comedian, and actor Steve Rossi is set to make his debut in an off-Broadway production. “Don’t Leave It All to Your Children!” begins previews this week at the Actors Temple Theatre and is scheduled to run through June 28, 2009.
• • The 90-minute musical revue is an adaptation of “Senior Class,” both written and directed by Saul Ilson.
• • The 76-year-old Rossi is part of an ensemble cast of four that includes Barbara Minkus (“Picon Pie”), Marcia Rodd (“The Last of the Red Hot Lovers”), and Ronnie Schell (“Gomer Pyle”). Rossi and Schell have done “Senior Class” at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., for the past four years.
• • “The producers saw ‘Senior Class’ and liked it but they didn’t know if it was strong enough for Broadway,” Rossi says. “Now with the new theme and new material, it looks pretty strong.” The revue is about Baby Boomers becoming seniors. “There are a series of vignettes about getting older and about life,” Rossi explains.
• • Rossi, a native New Yorker who grew up in Southern California, has performed in every medium but a Broadway play. “Don’t Leave It All to Your Children!” gets him close. At 339 West 47th St., the Actors Temple is about a block off the Great White Way.
• • Best known as the straight man of a comedy team with Marty Allen, Rossi says he has always been too busy to pursue the New York stage.
• • “When Marty and I were hot we could have been on Broadway any time we wanted, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” he says. “For some reason our management never thought it was a good career move.”
• • Allen & Rossi, who were brought together by Nat King Cole in 1957, made more than 700 appearances on television (44 on “The Ed Sullivan Show”), made 16 comedy albums and appeared in the spy spoof film “The Last of the Secret Agents” before they split in 1969. They reunited briefly twice. ...
• • Rossi was discovered by Mae West in 1953.
• • He was a 20-year-old student playing the lead in “The Student Prince” at the Civic Light Opera Company in Los Angeles. Mae West caught the performance and hired him for her show, which ended up at the Sahara in Las Vegas.
• • After graduating from Loyola University, he entered the Air Force. While stationed near San Francisco, he became friends with legendary radio announcer Don Sherwood and frequently appeared on his radio and television shows. Rossi, who never seems to slow down, says if the show catches on and he’s in New York for a while, he will produce a burlesque show and probably perform some stand-up comedy.
• • “I don’t feel any older than I did 20 years ago,” he says. “A lot of women take me for like 50 and 55 — — although last night a girl took me for a hundred.”
— — Excerpt: — —
• • THEATER — — Straight man of Allen & Rossi cracks wise just off Broadway
• • Byline: Jerry Fink
• • Published in: The Las Vegas Sun — — www.lasvegassun.com
• • Published on: 6 May 2009
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• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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