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Kjersti Long Legs For Vanessa Williams As Her Play Relative Space Pacts With Van Dean Productions and The 42nd Club

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Imagine you’re at home in Utah and you find out your song has been recorded by Vanessa Williams; and that it’s been chosen as ABC’s Pride-theme this June. That’s exactly what’s happened to 17-year-old wunderkind Kjersti Long, whose own song “Sad Song” is also out (Origin Entertainment/Mod Squad/ADA).

Kjersti Long

She’s also recording an EP, to be titled Emotions, for release later this year.

Long has also written a play called Relative Space which hosted a red carpet at its workshop premiere last summer in Salt Lake City and generated a host of terrific reviews.

Per KSL News: “The show, originally described as a rock concert mixed with theatrical drama, tackles mental health through a lens of generational trauma. The story follows a mother and daughter who are floating through life separately, not talking to each other about their struggles. Throughout the show, they deal with the wall that has been built between them, and learn how events in the past are affecting both of their futures.”

“I think what they’ve achieved is something very unique and very powerful. The way they’ve brought attention to this incredibly important issue of mental health, I think is going to touch a lot of people and hopefully help a lot of people,” Broadway Records President Van Dean said at the premiere.

Two Broadway production houses: Tony and Grammy award winning Van Dean Productions (Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple) and 6x Tony Award Winner The 42nd Club (Moulin Rouge, Hadestown, Parade, The Lehman Trilogy, & Juliet and Company) have signed on to shepherd the show along its journey to Broadway. It is currently targeting a London premiere in 2025.

Long’s forthcoming EP Emotions will be presented in a unique way as well. Details will be forthcoming.

Kjersti is determined to be a voice of women empowerment and hopes her music can be a pillar of hope to the downtrodden. She says “I just want my music to be a light to those that are in the dark. If my music can help just one person, then I’m happy.”

 

G. H. Harding is a four decades insider to the entertainment world. He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production companies and several cable outlets. His anonymity is essential in bringing an unbiased view to his writings on pop culture. He is based in NYC.

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Events

Billy Joel and Roger Sichel Quiet Brunch Turned Newsworthy Thanks to Justin Timberlake

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The night before Justin Timberlake was busy drinking and talking with his friends. Timberlake was stopped by police just after midnight on Tuesday. Billy Joel and artist Roger Sichel the next morning were having brunch at their usual hang out at the American Hotel, next to each other. Joel and Sichel were bombarded by photographs due to the late breaking news. What was scheduled to be a  quite afternoon turned out to be what has taken over the news.


Timberlake who is in the middle of a world tour that includes upcoming Madison Square Garden told the officers he had just “one martini.” According to sources he was inhibited on them and refused to take the sobriety test.

Billy Joel is busy working and lives within walking distance of the hotel.

Sichel just finished an art show in Beverly Hills and will be opening in Sag Harbor Kramois’s art gallery two doors down from the American Hotel next week.

Seems that the American Hotel is the place to hang this summer, well it always was.

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Broadway

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

GIAMATTI’S TREK — (via DEADLINE) Paul Giamatti has joined the cast of the upcoming Paramount+ original series Star Trek: Starfleet Academy in a recurring role. He will play the Season 1 villain, a man with an ominous past connected to one of our cadets.

“Sometimes you’re lucky enough to discover that one of the greatest actors alive is also a huge Star Trek fan, and meeting Paul was one of those miraculous moments for us. The sheer delight with which he dove in on Starfleet Academy is only surpassed by the gratitude we feel about him joining our incredible cast,” shared co-showrunners and executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Noga Landau in a joint statement.

He joins previously announced Holly Hunter, who will star in the series as the captain and chancellor of Starfleet Academy. The series will begin production later this summer.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy follows a young group of cadets who come together to pursue a common dream of hope and optimism. Under the watchful and demanding eyes of their instructors, they discover what it takes to become Starfleet officers as they navigate blossoming friendships, explosive rivalries, first loves and a new enemy that threatens both the Academy and the Federation itself.

Alex Kurtzman and Noga Landau serve as co-showrunners and executive producers of the series alongside executive producers Gaia Violo, Aaron Baiers, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Jenny Lumet, Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Frank Siracusa and John Weber. The series premiere episode is written by Gaia Violo.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy is produced by CBS Studios in association with Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment and is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.

HEART STOPPED — (Via Deadline) The Heart of Rock and Roll, the struggling musical built around the hits of Huey Lewis, will play its final performance at a matinee on Sunday, June 23. The show will have played 24 previews and 72 performances.

In a statement, producer Hunter Arnold said, “It was pure joy working on the show with the team of creatives headed by writer Jonathan A. Abrams, director Gordon Greenberg, choreographer Lorin Latarro, music arranger and orchestrator Brian Usifer and special gratitude to the support and participation of the iconic music legend Huey Lewis.

The musical began previews on March 29 and opened on April 22.

“We were honored,” he continued, “to have an amazing cast and crew who brought their immense enthusiasm, commitment and talent to each and every performance. With our original cast album just released and talks underway for a national tour and international productions, the musical will continue to delight audiences for years to come.”

The musical, received by critics with lukewarm reviews, did not received any Tony Award nominations and has been struggling at the box office, sometimes with the James Earl Jones Theatre just more than half-full with audience members. For the week ending June 9, the show grossed a tiny $272,051.

SHORT TAKES — Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis will be released through Lionsgate. Tepid reviews? Not really. Face it, Coppola’s a genius. Check out Roger Friedman’s (SHOWBIZ 411) take: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/06/17/coppola-leases-megalopolis-to-lions-gate-for-september-release-in-distribution-only-deal

Darius Rucker said that the bandmates in Hootie and the Blowfish tried to outparty each other? Interesting. Check this out here: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/darius-rucker-says-hootie–the-blowfish-bandmates-tried-to-outparty-each-other-that-was-just-how-we-lived-214135068.html

Add one more Jon Bon Jovi-intervene to the list. NBC’s Sunday With Willie Geist. Was good, but nothing on Richie Sambora and nothing new. He’s not going to tour; he wants to tour; a surprise gig in Nashville ….

Micky Dolenz and Michael Stip (R.E.M.)

what’s going on? More kudos for his PR-man Brad Cafarelli … Congrats to R.E.M. on their Songwriters Hall of Fameinduction … HAPPY BDAY Michelle Toscas!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mark Adelman; Christine Nagy; Race Taylor; Anthony Noto; Robert Funaro; Al Roker; Tony LoBianco; Les Moonves; Les Schwartz; Marion Perkins; Mary Wilson; Tony Seidel; Bob Schartoff; Julie Laufer; Liza Lillien; Richie Ridge; William Schill; Dan Zelinski; Carol Ross; Gary Gershoff; David Adelson; Roy Trakin; Lee Jeske; Anthony Mason; and BELLA!

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Cabaret

Jumaane Smith Plays To Sold Out Crowd at Birdland

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This past week Jumaane Smith and his quartet performed for a full house at Birdland in New York City. Jumaane is one of the greatest trumpeter performing today. Like Louis Armstrong he is strong on both trumpet and vocals, playful on stage.

Jumaane has collaborated with Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, andperformed with Michael Buble for 17 years. and Harry Connick Jr. Smith is stepping onto center stage with the release of his new album “Come On Home” on August 16. This deeply emotional and predominantly original work traverses the rich landscapes of jazz, blues, and contemporary soul, echoing the timeless influence of classic albums from these genres. Known for his exceptional talent and versatility, the LP and his performance encapsulates themes of love, loss, overcoming challenges, redemption, and joy.
A highlight if the night was”I Know,” about finding your soulmate—the one person who stands by you against the world, the person you long to see at the end of the day.
Smith was backed by outstanding musicians Chris Lewis – Saxophone, Al Street – Guitar, Carmen Intorre Jr – drums, Will Gorman – organ.
It’s always a treat to be in the audience enjoying an evening with Jamaane Smith and his incredible music
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Entertainment

Summertime—don’t let the livin’ get too easy! Part I

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So tempting, isn’t it, to while away the summer in a cozy hammock or beach chair.  But then by Labor Day you have nothing to show for all that valuable time.  Here are a few suggestions that you might find enticing:

Be a Pioneer!

Or at least take a ride on one!  The 1885 Schooner Pioneer leaves from the South Street Seaport and a sunset ride around lower Manhattan is not to be missed.  https://southstreetseaportmuseum.org

Or Be a Reader!

There are many lists of what you should/could be reading, but I’d rather recommend authors you’ll be grateful to get to know.

NYC-based Amor Towles has a new book out Table for Two, a collection of short stories, the final of which is a prequel to his first novel.  Each of his four books is a complete joy, leaving one with a most satisfying experience.  If you plan to travel, his middle books are perfect companions.

A NYC transplant from Virginia, the brilliant Tom Wolfe wrote many long, and worthwhile, novels. But for a rather jaundiced peek inside the NYC art world, try his uncharacteristically short yet powerfully revealed The Painted Word. You’ll never see museums in the same light again.

Transsexuality is a topic that can be difficult to understand. Jan Morris, who wrote many books as James Morris, tells a tale of transition in Conundrum, a brief book detailing his motivation in a way that was intelligent and easy to understand.

If you’ve ever wondered about what it takes to produce a musical, composer Douglas J. Cohen reveals all the travails and joys of the experience in How To Survive a Killer Musical, about what it took to produce his musicalization of No Way to Treat a Lady.  It’s a must-read for anyone seriously interested in theatre.

Fill a Day with Fun and Games and Music

Many remember when it was known as “Needle Park”, but Bryant Park is now approaching amusement park status. A quick check of their website reveals a cornucopia of events to please every palate. Movie nights, concerts, theater and games galore are offered—all for free! A recent visit provided a relaxing respite of ragtime in the middle of an afternoon provided by Terry Waldo and his band.

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

CAMPBELL’S KITCHEN — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Mike Campbell  has been making records since the ’70s, most famously as a member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

“I’m grateful that I was part of that whole experience,” Campbell recently told UCR, speaking to his Heartbreaker days. It’s been a full decade since the band released their last album, 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, and six and a half years since Petty’s passing, which effectively ended the Heartbreakers.

Campbell describes himself as “still grieving,” but tries not to spend too much time dwelling. “If I think about it too hard, I’ll just get sad,” he says. In the past four years, he’s kept himself busy with new work, recording and performing with his band the Dirty Knobs. As Campbell sees it, their third album, Vagabound, Virgins & Misfits (out June 14 via BMG), marks “huge growth” for him both lyrically and vocally. After years of operating as Petty’s right-hand man and usually taking the backseat when it came to singing — Campbell sang lead on exactly one Heartbreakers song, “I Don’t Wanna Fight” from 1999’s Echo — it’s taken three albums worth of work to reach a place where he feels self-assured of his ability to front a band. “A lot of it is confidence,” he says.

UCR caught up with Campbell and talked about Vagabonds, Virgins & Misfits, including its various guest stars.

This is your third album with the Dirty Knobs, but obviously you’ve been in this business a long time. How would you say your approach to songwriting has changed from your early days to this new album?

Well, my approach to songwriting is the same as it’s ever been. Except when I was partnered with Tom, I mostly just did music. I would make music tracks and give them to him and if he liked it, he would write the words. Now that he’s gone, I have my own band, I’m exploring the lyrics and the characters, as well as the music. So that’s a new frontier, but I’m really taking to it and I’m just trying to get good at it, you know? I see a huge growth in three albums. This new album, I think, has some really good lyrics, and the band, as always. And just, you know, the music is just — it’s always there. I write all the time, you know, and that hasn’t waned at all.

I would like to mention though, just to carry on what you said before about the female’s perspective. (This writer spoke with Campbell previously about another upcoming album, Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty.) One thing on this album that I love, which was an afterthought, was Lucinda Williams’ addition of her words in the song “Hell or High Water.” [I] cut it as a Dirty Knobs song, and then listening back, it occurred to me and George Drakoulias, the producer: Wouldn’t it be great if this female character in the song actually came in and sang on the song? When I thought of Lucinda, I thought, God, if she would do it, that would be perfect. And she came through with flying colors, she put so much heart and soul into that verse. So, there’s an example [of a] song from a woman’s perspective adding much more depth to the song.

Totally. It would have been an entirely different track without that. It’s great that you have these contacts at your disposal that you can call up.

The guests on the record were not me going out and cherry-picking people. They’re just people who seemed to show up. Like Graham Nash, who did an incredible job. He was doing an interview with me and I got up the courage to ask him if he would maybe sing on one song (“Dare to Dream”), which he did. Chris Stapleton, I think was in town that weekend getting a Grammy or something and he came by the house. Here, would you sing on this song? And [Benmont Tench came over] and put piano on it, you know. So, the guests were kind of afterthoughts, but in each case, they made the song way better.

Did Graham record his parts remotely or did he also come by your studio? I know he lives in New York and you’re in L.A.

No, I had already cut the song. It was finished. And I did the interview with him, and you know, I’m a huge Hollies fan, the ’60s, all those bands. So just being able to have a conversation with him was wonderful. And I was really kind of sheepish like, I didn’t think he would say yes. … I said “Would you be interested maybe in trying to sing on something?” And he goes, “Sure, I’ll make your song better.” [Laughs] So I had the track. He went back to New York. I sent him the track, as a lot of people do now, he did his vocals and mailed it back to me and I lost my mind. It was so good.

There were several tracks on this album that when I heard them, I thought “Wow, Mike’s voice sounds great.” You’ve really grown into your role as lead singer, from the first Dirty Knobs album (2020’s Wreckless Abandon) to this one. How do you feel about your singing now?

Wow, can I send you some flowers? [Laughs] I thank you for saying that. I’m getting used to it, you know? And I have a little Florida slang that comes through now and then. But I don’t sound like Tom. When I first started singing…I actually did sound a lot like him because we talk a lot the same and stuff. But I think I’ve worked hard to kind of filter that out through the three albums, and there will always be little bit of that Southern thing in there. I think I found a voice that I’m comfortable with. I’m not a Roy Orbison, [but] I have the personality of certain characters that I put across. And a lot of it is confidence, Allison. If you get confident and work on the voice a little bit and believe that you pulled it off, you know, that’s a lot of the game right there. So, my confidence has grown as I keep working on it. But thank you for that compliment, that was wonderful.

And that goes for live shows, too. I would imagine that you also feel some confidence when you’re up in front of a crowd that’s encouraging you.

Oh, yeah. You know, it’s interesting, because I play with the Dirty Knobs, it’s our songs, it’s our trip, but I’m still a member of this legacy. And I sometimes will do a few Heartbreakers songs just out of respect for Tom because the crowd likes them and I like singing some of them. But the crowd, yeah. When they’re there for you and supporting you…I get the sense that a lot of the people in the audience that know me and my years are pulling for me. … I’m trying to find my own way and they’re supporting me and they’re helping me get there

Speaking of singing, your wife, Marcie, sings some backing vocals on the song “Hands Are Tied.” Is that the first time she’s done that on one of your albums?

That’s a funny story. Because, you know, she usually sings around the house. She’s not a singer per se, but all through my life — you know, I’ll be doing a demo and I’ll say “Why don’t you come in and put a little part on this?” “No, no, no, I don’t sing.” On this album…she goes, “You know what? I think I’d like to sing on this one.” And I said “Really?” I was in shock. I said “Okay, well, we got this song. All you got to do is go ahhhhh.” [Laughs] And her sound and her feel on it really helped the song a lot.

You have a note in your credits thanking Stevie Nicks for the “cool dulcimer.” And you’re actually holding the instrument on the cover of the album. Can you tell me about that?

Yeah, I hope she sees the cover, ’cause I think she will appreciate it. There’s a story with that. When I was doing the Mac project, we were at rehearsal one day, and Mick Fleetwood came in with one of those customized dulcimers, just beautiful. And I was talking to him about it and saying “Oh, this is really a nice instrument.” I guess she overheard the conversation and a week later, I walk in and she says “Here, this is for you.” She went and bought one just like it for me. I was blown away. In fact, I even wrote the song — “Innocent Man” was written on that dulcimer, on the album. But the funny thing is, I took it home and played it — it’s in my studio — and then a couple of weeks later, she came up, she said, “You probably never even play it, do you?” [Laughs] I said “I play it all the time!” You know, that’s so Stevie. So, I hope that she sees the cover and knows that I covered it and used it.

You’ve had a number of full circle moments, so to speak, in the last few years. I’m thinking of your time touring with Fleetwood Mac and reconnecting with Stevie Nicks, or playing with Bob Dylane at Farm Aid last year. You also shot the “Dare to Dream” music video with the Dirty Knobs at the Church Studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was where the Heartbreakers signed their very first record deal. Is there anything else along those lines you’d like to do? Anything you want to revisit?

Well, I enjoyed the Tulsa thing quite a bit. That was not my idea, but the idea came up [from] management. And I thought it was very touching to go back where Tom and I had passed through on the way to get a record deal and to revisit that energy and those ghosts in the studio there. I enjoyed that a lot. But to be honest with you, I’d rather like, think forward and not think backward because sometimes nostalgia can be sad, you know? I’m real proud of that video, though. But I think I want to move forward and think forward.

Speaking of blasts from the past: The Wallflowers are going to be playing a show in L.A. later this year and the plan is for them to perform the entirety of their album Bringing Down the Horse, which you played on, and also the entirety of the Heartbreakers’ Long After Dark. What do you think about that?

You know, it’s wonderful that people are pulling out this music and revisiting it, you know, and I love Dylan — Jakob Dylan. I played on their first single, “Sixth Avenue [Heartache],” which was really fun and I’ve always been proud of his career. And I think he’s taken on a lot to do all those songs in one set, but more power to him. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.

What are you most looking forward to about touring with this new Knobs music?

I’m thrilled beyond to go out on the road with my band and play the new album. I’m real proud of it and the songs sound great in rehearsal. And the show will be a lot of the new album, and I’ll be throwing in a couple of surprise Heartbreaker songs that I think people will like here and there.

Howie Mandel

SHORT TAKES — Why does Howie Mandel seem to be channeling Boy George’s fashion-look on the new America’s Got Talent season. A cry for help for sure …

I got a memo about a co-op for sale located at 12 West 21st Street in NYC. It took me a minute to recall that that was the address for the long gone and much missed Private Eyes club; where Scott Blackwell was DJ. Great memories for sure: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_Eyes_(nightclub)

The Eagles will do a residency at the Sphere in Las Vegas: https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2024/06/13/the-eagles-announce-new-residency-at-las-vegas-sphere/

Seth Meyers

Is NBC really cutting the 8G band (led by Fred Armisen) for the Late Night with Seth Meyers? Read Roger Friedman’s exclusive take on this development: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/06/12/nbc-cheaps-out-cuts-seth-meyers-live-band-from-show-beginning-in-september ..

PR-pasha David Salidor called to tell  us about a new book project. Steven J. Immerman’s In Search of Pleasure Island.  Here’s the logline: “In Search of Pleasure Island” delves into the bowels of ‘international sex trafficking’ as Dr. MATHEW NOBLE (a professor of criminology and retired special warfare operator) journeys across the globe in the search for his daughter and the men responsible for her abduction and his wife’s murder – stay tuned for more on this … Happy Bday Roger Friedman …

Mark James

RIP Tony LoBianco and Mark James, who wrote “Suspicious Minds” and “Hooked On A Feeling.”

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Tony Seidel; Mark Bego; Robert Shalom; Anni Bella; Terry Guerin; Terry Jastrow; Deb Caponetta; Melissa Davis; Dan Zelinski; Adam White; Glenn Friscia; Glenn Friscia; Vito Bruno; Lush Ice; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mitch Dolan; Race Taylor; Kent & Laura Denmark; Kevin Costner; Tony King; Elton John; Freddie Mercury; Donald Fagen; Warner LeRoy; and CHIP!

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