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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS : At 81, a Legend's Still Crooning : Frankie Laine, a top recording artist in the '40s and '50s with at least 20 gold records, will sing in North Hollywood.


The baby boom generation remembers singer Frankie Laine mainly for his energetic vocal performance of the theme song to "Rawhide," television cowboy series from the 1960s.

Each week, millions tuned in for the oater, starring Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming, about the trials and tribulations of cattle drivers. The show would begin with Laine rhapsodically beseeching the cowboys: "Rollin', rollin', rollin', though those streams are swollen, keep those dogies rollin'. . . ."

But there is a lot more to Frankie Laine than just "Rawhide."

He was a top recording artist in the 1940s and '50s who had at least 20 gold records and sold more than 100 million records, including such hits as "Jezebel," "I Believe," "Mule Train," and "Moonlight Gambler." He was possibly even more popular in Great Britain, where in spite of Beatlemania, his 1953 recording of "I Believe" still holds the record for most consecutive weeks (18) at the top of the British charts.

Now 81, he is still singing. On July 30, he's giving a concert at the Academy Plaza Theatre in North Hollywood. Laine, who lives in San Diego, said he would definitely miss being involved with the music if he ever completely retired.

"The music drives me. It's what keeps me going," he said. "I lost my wife a year ago. A lot of people thought I would become a recluse."

Frankie Laine will perform at 5 and 8 p.m. July 30 at the Academy Plaza Theatre, corner of Lankershim and Magnolia boulevards in North Hollywood. Fiddler/violinist Bob Ryman will guest - star. Tickets are $15.50 and $21.50. Call (818) 785-8885.


NEW FASHION: The Alex Theatre in Glendale has replaced "Sophisticated Ladies" as its summer/fall season opener Saturday with the musical comedy "Fashion." "Sophisticated Ladies" may be produced in the future at the Alex, a spokesman said, but no firm plans have been made.

Alex Theatre spokesman Michael Sande said "Fashion," a less familiar musical, represents a change in direction for the Alex. After reviewing its first season of "Mame," "Fame" and "Sayonara," the Alex management decided to try something different. The focus now will be on new works and the "rediscovery of old classics that aren't produced very often," Sande said. New, but not too new.

"Fashion," with book by Anthony Stimac, music by Don Pippin and lyrics by Steve Brown, was an off-Broadway hit in 1974. Stimac, the new artistic director at the Alex, adapted the musical from the first successful play written by an American woman, Anna Cora Mowatt's "Fashion: or Life in New York," written in 1845.

The musical's sudden opening at the Alex came about because this was the only time all the cast members selected for "Fashion" were not busy with other projects, Sande said. The production will feature Elkin Antoniou, Mary Jo Catlett, Jenifer Chatfield, Diane Delano, Frank Ferrante, Marjory Graue, Dale Kristien, Lorna Patterson, Henrietta Valor and Marcia Wallace.

Valor and Catlett were in the original off-Broadway production in 1974, where they were singled out for praise in a review by Clive Barnes in the New York Times.

In the original production of Mowatt's play in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe, in his capacity as a theater critic, pronounced it "theatrical, but not dramatic." In the first adaptation of the musical in 1974, Stimac made the play into a musical within a musical, setting it in a society matron's home on Long Island. That home was also the headquarters of "The Long Island Masque and Wig Society," an organization devoted to the preservation of early American drama.

Stimac has updated the musical for its Alex production, setting the action in 1994, where a group of Beverly Hills women gather to stage the musical.

Sande emphasized the main reason for the switch was cast availability, and it had nothing to do with the financial problems of the Theatre Corp. of America. In June, Theatre Corp., which produces the seasons at the Pasadena Playhouse and the Alex, laid off 44 of its 130 employees and canceled tours of its shows to several of its satellite cities.

"Fashion" will open at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Performances will be 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays plus Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Ends Aug. 7. Tickets are $10 to $42. Call (800) 233-3123.

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