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Hackford coaches Louis and Keely

February 12, 2009|Mike Boehm

It isn't often that a Hollywood eminence sets out to make a film but winds up doing it as a stage musical instead. But that's what's happened for Taylor Hackford.

The director, known for his biographical features about Chuck Berry ("Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll"), Ritchie Valens ("La Bamba") and Ray Charles ("Ray"), had a vision for another '50s-rooted showbiz saga, about the Las Vegas lounge duo Louis Prima and Keely Smith.

It will take shape in the first professional public stage-directing gig of his career: a retooled version of "Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara," which was a critical and box office hit last year in two local 99-seat houses: Sacred Fools Theater and the Matrix Theatre.

Hackford has rewritten the book with the show's costars and co-creators, Vanessa Claire Smith and Jake Broder, and rented out the Geffen Playhouse's Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater for a March 18-April 26 run. Recession-driven budget woes had left the Geffen's 132-seat second stage dark and available for what Hackford sees as a chance to spend at least six weeks developing and debugging the show in hopes of taking it to further glory.

The film is still a long-range objective, he says, but for now the play's the thing.

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-- Mike Boehm

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