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For the Mature Listener : A four-concert series geared to the over-50 group will bring familiar performers to Cal State Northridge.

September 10, 1993|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The college campus, usually reserved for the generation in flux, reveling in rebellion, will be adopted this fall as a musical home for an age group that definitely doesn't want its MTV.

"This is for the audience that has been completely ignored by the media," said Keith Evans, who is producing "Show of the Month," a new series of four concerts starting Sunday at Cal State Northridge. "If you look at all the acts that perform at the Greek Theater or the Universal Amphitheatre, you don't see shows like this that cater to the over-50 group."

Leading off the fall lineup will be Eddie Fisher, the singer who introduced such hits in the 1950s as "Anytime" and "Oh, My Papa."

In October, Florence Henderson, Mom on "The Brady Bunch," will sing Broadway tunes; in November, Stan Freeman will present "At Wit's End," his one-man show in which he portrays pianist and actor Oscar Levant. In December, former MGM musical star Ann Blyth and soap opera star Bill Hayes will offer their repertoire of show tunes and well-known pop songs.

"These are all people with strong track records with the over-50 audience," said Evans, who has produced similar shows in Laguna Hills and Sun City, Ariz. "Their music lasts forever. These aren't the kind of songs that are at the top of the charts for 24 hours and are then gone."

For the stars, these gigs keep them busy and in touch with the people who helped make them famous.

"Fortunately, people still want to hear these songs, and still want to hear me," said Blyth, 63, an Academy Award nominee for her portrayal of Veda, Joan Crawford's ungrateful daughter in "Mildred Pierce." "I, too, am older."

For Henderson, who said she spent about 200 dates on the road last year, the concert offers a rare opportunity.

"There are so few places around Los Angeles where performers like myself can work anymore," said Henderson, 59, "unless you do a musical at the Dorothy Chandler. The business has changed, and the small venues are gone."

She said she would tailor her act to the older set.

"I'll add more jokes dealing with age," said Henderson, who recently performed with George Burns in Las Vegas. "And I'll add songs that are optimistic. I think a lot of people, after a certain age, are told they shouldn't do certain things, and I think that's wrong."

Yet Henderson, because of the sustained popularity of "The Brady Bunch," is well-known among younger generations as well. In fact, she will even sing a Michael Jackson tune, "Heal the World," at CSUN.

"It's a great song which works extremely well," she said.

Henderson will also perform "Wind Beneath My Wings," "Forever Young" and songs from either "Phantom of the Opera" or "Les Miserables."

Hayes, 68, also appeals to both the young and old. For 17 years, Hayes was a regular on "Days of Our Lives." But, consistent with the evening's theme, he and Blyth will focus on the oldies, such as hits from Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter.

"Ann and I have done musical theater for a long time," said Hayes, who starred on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Me and Juliet." "We know what their favorites are."

Blyth said she will also talk during the performance about her movie career, which includes roles in "The Helen Morgan Story" and "Another Part of the Forest."

Freeman said audiences still want to hear about Levant's career, as well. Levant became a friend of George Gershwin and a leading interpreter of his music. Freeman, who has been doing his one-man show since 1989, said Levant was a unique entertainer.

"He had a great wit and character," said Freeman, who met Levant several times. "I can't think of anyone who is analogous to him. The only person who might be comparable to that is David Letterman."

Freeman, who wrote songs for Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and Sammy Davis, said the older targeted audience is perfect for his show.

"These are the people who remember Levant," Freeman said.

Nostalgia will especially be the focus of the Fisher show. The theme will be the vacation resorts of the Catskills in upstate New York, where Fisher, 65, first became well-known. Complete with comedian Jackie Kahane, who worked with Elvis Presley and Wayne Newton, and violinist Bob Ryman, the concert will try to re-create the kind of summer entertainment that took place at venues such as Grossingers and the Concord.

"This is perfect for all the displaced New Yorkers," Evans said.

Evans said that the series was set up at CSUN because the campus is situated in a safe area of the San Fernando Valley and away from downtown Los Angeles.

"Many of these people are afraid to go out at night," Evans said. "They are afraid of the traffic. This way, they can drive over safely, and be closer to home."

WHERE AND WHEN

* What: Eddie Fisher concert, with comedian Jackie Kahane and violinist Bob Ryman.

* Location: San Fernando Valley Hall in the student union, Cal State Northridge. The student union is off the Plummer Street entrance, at Zelzah Avenue.

* Hours: 6 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

* Price: $10 to $16.50; group discounts available.

* Other dates: Florence Henderson, Oct. 17; Stan Freeman, Nov. 7; Ann Blyth and Bill Hayes, Dec. 11.

* Call: (818) 785-8885.

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