Hershey Felder Presents The Award Winning TAYLOR HACKFORD production of LOUIS & KEELY ‘LIVE’ AT THE SAHARA

LK_400Continuing in a tradition of storytelling and music, Hershey Felder will present the Chicago stage premiere of Academy Award winning director Taylor Hackford’s LOUIS & KEELY ‘LIVE’ AT THE SAHARA.  Hackford, best known for his films An Officer and a Gentleman, Against All Odds, The Devil’s Advocate, and cinematic musical events such as La Bamba, Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail Rock n’Roll and his epic musical film RAY, has decided to bring his latest award winning musical stage production to Chicago, where Louis Prima and Keely Smith created sold-out musical magic in the ‘50s & ‘60s.  The production will begin previews on March 27th, 2015, and open Tuesday, April 7 at 7:30pm, at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre, 1641 North Halsted Street.  The play is co-written by Vanessa Claire Stewart (who originated the role of Keely Smith,) along with Hackford, (co-writer, director & Producer) and Jake Broder (who originated the role of Louis Prima), and will feature some of the duo’s greatest hits including “That Ol’ Black Magic,” “Hey Boy, Hey Girl,” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” “Night Train,” Ai, Ai, Ai,” “I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me,” and more.   Frank Sinatra also appears in a pivotal role in this musical love story.   LOUIS & KEELY, ‘LIVE’ AT THE SAHARA features a hot seven-piece live band that is guaranteed to bring down the house.

LOUIS PRIMA was one of the great musical innovator/entrepreneurs of the 20th century – from his beginnings in New Orleans Jazz, to becoming the toast of New York’s 52ndSt in the ‘30s, to appearances in Hollywood feature films in the late ‘30s & his scandalous love affair with Jean Harlow, to leading one of the most popular Big Bands of the ‘40s Swing Era, However, by the early ‘50s, his star seemed to be fading … until he discovered teenager, KEELY SMITH, in a tiny Virginia Beach dive.   In Pygmalion-like fashion Prima finessed Keely’s stage fright and then molded her natural singing talent into a totally unique stage presence.  Together they turned a two week gig on the floor of the Sahara Hotel’s Casino in Las Vegas, into one of the most influential music acts of the ‘50s & 60s – 10 years later, Sonny & Cher basically copied their act. Prima & Smith’s hot act on stage inevitably grew into a hot love story, and this musical play reveals their joy, thrills & chills, and ultimately their heartbreak.   LOUIS & KEELY ‘LIVE’ AT THE SAHARA is an American Love Story that not only packs an emotional wallop, but also features incredible music, staggeringly performed, that will have you dancing all the way home.

“My mother was a rabid Keely Smith fan, so I grew up listening to her records,” Hackford recalls.   “I first saw Louis & Keely on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late ‘50s, and I immediately became a Louis Prima devotee … imitating his  “That Old Black Magic” vocal style at my Junior High School talent show.   Forty years later when I staged LOUIS & KEELY ‘LIVE’ AT THE SAHARA, it was like everything had been pre-ordained.”

Having enjoyed a 7 month sold-out engagement at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, and multiple Ovation Award wins including BEST MUSICAL, LOUIS & KEELY LIVE AT THE SAHARA is pleased to launch it’s national debut in the great musical city of Chicago. The Chicago cast and live orchestra will be announced in January of 2015.

Taylor Hackford (Director; Co-Writer, Producer)

Taylor Hackford began his entertainment career at KCET, the Los Angeles public television affiliate, where he produced, wrote or directed documentaries, investigative reports and music performance programs.  In 1979, Taylor won an Academy Award in the category of Best Live-Action Short for his first dramatic  film, Teenage Father.   He then made his feature directorial debut in 1980 with The Idolmaker, starring Ray Sharkey and Peter Gallagher.  An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, was Taylor’s second film, which became a commercial and critical hit in 1982.  It received 5 Academy Award nominations and brought home Oscars for Louis Gossett, Jr. as Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Song (Up Where We Belong).  Taylor subsequently Produced and Directed Against All Odds, starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward & James Woods, White Nights, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov & Gregory Hines, Everybody’s All-American, starring Dennis Quaid & Jessica Lange, and the acclaimed documentary Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll, featuring Chuck Berry and Keith Richards.   Taylor, who has been fascinated by all things Latino since his stint as a Peace Corp volunteer in South America (1968-69), developed and produced La Bamba, the Richie Valens biography, which is still the most successful Latin themed feature film in history.  Taylor received the Best Director Award at the 1993 Tokyo Film Festival for his next film, Blood In, Blood Out (Bound by Honor.)   Dolores Claiborne, starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh was selected for screening at the 1995 Venice, Deauville and Tokyo Film Festivals.  In 1996 Taylor discovered thousands of feet of unreleased documentary footage of the legendary Muhammed Ali/George Foreman title fight in Zaire, Africa.  Shooting new interviews with Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and Spike Lee,  Hackford put together the documentary When We Were Kings, which won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.  In 1998 Hackford directed the critically acclaimed, world-wide hit The Devil’s Advocate (1999), starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves.  Then in 2001  he delivered the rivetingProof of Life, with Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe.  Hackford had struggled for nearly 15 years to make  RAY, a dramatic film portrait of American musical icon,  Ray Charles, and finally succeeded in 2005 when RAY starring Jamie Foxx received critical raves and was nominated for 6 Academy Awards in 2005, winning 2 Oscars, including  Best Actor for Jamie Foxx.  Hackford’s most recent films are:  LOVE RANCH, starring Academy Award Winners Joe Pesci & Helen Mirren (Mr. Hackford’s wife) and  PARKER starring Jason Stathem & Jennifer Lopez.

Hershey Felder (Producer)

Broadway, London’s West End: George Gershwin Alone (Helen Hayes Theatre, Duchess Theatre). Regional and international appearances of “Composers Sonata” (1999-2014) – George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven, As I Knew Him, and Maestro: Leonard Bernstein and Hershey Felder as IRVING BERLIN (Geffen Theatre LA World Premiere). Winner of 2007 Los Angeles Ovation Awards, Best Musical and Best Actor for George Gershwin Alone. Worldwide live broadcasts, George Gershwin Alone, 2005 and 2011 for the WFMT Network. Direction includes Mona Golabek in The Pianist of Willesden Lane (National Tour), Current projects include Abe Lincoln’s Piano, Hershey Felder as IRVING BERLIN and several other titles in development for various artists. Mr. Felder is a Steinway Concert Artist, and has been a Scholar in Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music. He is the President of Eighty-Eight Entertainment and is married to Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada.

The artistic team for LOUIS & KEELY LIVE AT THE SAHARA is led by Director Taylor Hackford. Scenic Design is by Hershey Felder and Trevor Hay, Sound Design is by Erik Carstensen, Lighting Design is by Chris Rynne, Projection Design is by Andrew Wilder, and Scenic Decoration is by Meghan Maiya. Matt Marsden serves as Production Manager and the Production Stage Manager is Rebecca Peters.

Performances of LOUIS & KEELY LIVE AT THE SAHARA begin Friday, March 27 at 8 p.m. and continue as follows: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. All tickets are $65; preview tickets $55; senior tickets $55. Group discounts available. Tickets are on sale at The Royal George Theatre and may be purchased by calling 312.988.9000. Box office hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday throughSaturday. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.comGroups of ten or more may receive discounts on tickets purchased by contacting Group Theater Tix at 312.423.6612 or grouptheatertix.com.