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One-man Show To Serve A Triple Dip Of Talent

September 29, 1987|EILEEN SONDAK

SAN DIEGO — Who says you can't have it all?

It doesn't happen often in the world of show business. But Michael Byers, a San Diego native and a "triple threat," has found that perfect package right in his own backyard.

After several stints on Broadway and a list of television, film and concert credits, Byers, a singer, dancer and actor, is coming home to debut in a one-man show that shows off all three of his theatrical talents.

"This is the ultimate experience. It's getting to do it all . It's a fantasy piece for me," Byers said in an interview.

"Insight Out," slated for a four-night run at the Old Globe Theatre, beginning Thursday, will showcase Byers in an original musical theater piece. He sums up his role as "an Everyman."

"It's a play--but not really a play," he said, groping for the right words to describe his project. "It's mostly music. The music was written by friends of mine. Then we discovered, 'Hey, this sounds like a show.' "

The credits list five artists for music and lyrics, including David Pomeranz, whose hit songs have been recorded by the likes of Barry Manilow, John Denver, Bette Midler and Grammy nominee Dale Gonyea.

Kristi Kane wrote the script after seeing a videotape of Byers in action.

When Byers realized that he had the makings of a musical show, he came back to the Old Globe, where he started out as an actor at age 17, for guidance.

"I called Tom Hall (managing director), and they like to encourage new young things to grow--especially since I'm an alumnus," he said.

Hall echoed those sentiments.

"We have a very strong thrust to help artists develop their work--as long as it fits into our artistic vision," Hall said. "And we always want to help a home-grown favorite. In that sense, we're helping our own."

He said Byers' performance is in the same vein as the Lily Tomlin show, which premiered at the Globe in the off-season, and the Ian McKellen project that follows Byers into the Globe next Tuesday.

With Hall's blessing, Byers called Executive Producer Craig Noel and asked him to direct it.

"He said, 'I'd love to do it,' " Byers said. "Craig really believes in it. He's been so supportive."

The next step was finding a choreographer to set it all in motion, and Patti Columbo was Byers' choice.

"Patti did 'Kiss Me Kate' at the Old Globe back in 1983 (which featured Byers), and she agreed to work with me on this," he said.

San Diego dance buffs may remember Byers as the tap-dancing dynamo in "No, No Nanette" at the Starlight. He also taps in "Insight Out," in a number called "Me and My Ego."

"And then the show just goes through this guy's life," Byers said. "It's not really autobiographical, but it's about things everyone can relate to.

"It's about relationships and getting married, and I'm getting married. But I think anyone can walk away feeling good--and remembering things that happened in their own lives. There's one bit about the character's grandfather, and everyone has a character like this in their life to encourage them."

Byers is aware of the pressure a one-man show puts on a performer, but he finds such shows exhilarating.

"From the time it starts until it ends--about an hour and 20 minutes, without intermission, you're naked out there," he said. "It's only you on stage, and there's no place to hide. But once I get going, it starts to sail along. It's a wonderful experience."

Byers is already making plans for a new home for "Insight Out" after its four-night stay in San Diego.

"We're taking it to L.A. Equity-waiver theaters now. We're planning to take it up to Los Angeles on Nov. 5," he said. "I want to be free in December, since I'm getting married (to his partner and booking agent).

"When we open in Los Angeles, we'll probably be calling it 'Some Stuff That Happened' because that's what it's really about. It has a message, but it's not heavy. It's that the only way to live is to commit."

"Insight Out" will be performed with a five-piece orchestra, against a backdrop of black draperies and plexiglass cubes, designed and lit by George Gizienski. Byers will change costumes several times during the show--but always in view of the audience.

What's on the horizon for Byers after his West Coast dates?

"We'd like to take (the show) to Broadway, London . . . " he said. "I haven't done movies and television lately, and I'd like to do more of that.

"I want to continue expanding, and I want to produce other people. I'd also like to direct--maybe a full-scale Broadway musical. But I want it to be an upbeat project.

"Yes, we have problems (in the world), but I want to entertain and also make people think about their own lives."

Byers is pushing 40 now, but his outlook is fresh and optimistic.

"I'm very happy with the way my life is going now," he said. "I feel I'm just beginning."

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