Monday, February 28, 2005

Hart to Hart on DVD

H2H is coming to DVD. Season One (with extras) should be put together for release more than likely in October (perhaps sooner depending on the assembly) with the remaining seasons to follow in intervals of about four months apart, so the entire series should be completed and available by early 2007.

Stefanie Powers adds 'singer' to impressive resume

"The King and I," starring Stefanie Powers
DETAILS: (810) 237-7333, (888) 8-CENTER

Stefanie Powers - actress, activist, humanitarian ... singer?

Yes, not surprisingly. The star of TV's "Hart to Hart" and "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." cut an album of Great American Songbook selections, "Stefanie Powers - On the Same Page," last year under the supervision of legendary musician/arranger Page Cavanaugh.

And she's now touring the country as Anna in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical staple "The King and I," which comes to The Whiting on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Powers is accustomed to people telling her how surprised they are that she can sing, although her stage experience dates back to the start of her career in the late 1950s.

"I guess as an actor you're always proving yourself, no matter what it is, or no matter how many times you do it," Powers, 62, told The Journal in a recent interview.

Although TV and movies ("Experiment in Terror," "Stagecoach," "McLintock!") took up most of her time in the '60s and '70s, Powers used to tour in the old straw hat theater circuit. More recently, she showcased her singing and dancing abilities in tours of "Applause" and "Annie Get Your Gun," among others, and in an original English musical, "Matador."

She calls her jazz-pop CD "a labor of love between great friends," especially Cavanaugh, the California-based pianist who has fronted his acclaimed jazz trio since the 1940s.

"It was a wonderful experience to work with such a consummate musician," said Powers, who is heard singing such standards as "They All Laughed," "Last Night When We Were Young" and "Ten Cents a Dance."

The later-life adventures of stage and studio seem characteristric of Powers, who never has been one to sit back and relax. She maintains her longtime connection with the William Holden Wildlife Foundation (named for the late actor, a close friend), a public charity in Kenya that she founded on behalf of the preservation of wild animals. She is working with the Jaguar car people on what she calls "a precedent-setting effort" dedicated to the preservation of the animal that bears its name.

Powers also is touting a new book, "Powers Pilates: Stefanie Powers' Guide to Longevity and Well-Being Through Pilates" (Fireside, $16), co-authored with Kathy Corey. Her step-by-step fitness program, targeted to people 50 and older, incorporates the classic exercise system with gentler muscle-strengthening movements.

"The title of the book has to do with longevity and well-being," Powers said. "Pilates is very difficult to explain to those who have not worked with their bodies before, so the point of the book is to try to explain in very simple terms how to actually feel the benefits of Pilates work."

Despite her endeavors outside of performing, Powers is, of course, most recognized for her starring roles as superspy Angel Dancer in "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." (1966-67) and globetrotting detective Jennifer Hart in "Hart to Hart" (1979-84).

She and co-star Robert Wagner have appeared in a series of eight made-for-TV "Hart to Hart" reunion movies, the last ("Till Death Do Us Hart") in 1996.

Powers doubts that such an elegant series could start from scratch on the small screen these days.

"I don't think a show like 'Hart to Hart' could get on today because it would require a certain kind of leadership (within the TV business) that we don't have anymore. We don't have the kind of independent producers like ("Hart to Hart" executves Aaron) Spelling and (Leonard) Goldberg, now that we have corporate minds dealing only with things they feel safe doing.

"I'm afraid we've put a period at the end of the sentence for 'Hart to Hart,' but it was a nice, long sentence."

Stefanie Powers will sign copies of "Powers Pilates: Stefanie Powers' Guide to Longevity and Well-Being Through Pilates" at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Borders Books & Music, 4135 Miller Road, Flint Township. Details: (810) 230-8830.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Getting to know Stefanie, in a classic

Stefanie Powers is a figure out of old Hollywood. She's now starring in one of the best examples of old Broadway.

We mean both in a good way.

The Broadway show, for instance, is Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I," first staged in 1951. Powers will play Anna Leonowens, Victorian governess for the children of the King of Siam, in the national touring production that opens Friday at the DuPont Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. (Call 656-4401 or visit

The show contains some of the best show tunes ever, including "Getting to Know You," "Hello, Young Lovers" and "I Whistle a Happy Tune."

Powers has stage performances on her résumé, but she made her first splash in the movies and a little later starred on television in the breezy detective show "Hart to Hart."

After her 1960 debut in an obscure movie called "Among the Thorns," she was invited to study acting with contract players from Hollywood studios. Director Blake Edwards then cast her in "Experiment in Terror," which led to a contract with Columbia at age 16. She shared movie bills with John Wayne, Bing Crosby and other stars before taking the role of April Dancer in 1966 on television's "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E."

Powers played various TV roles after that and in 1979 landed the role in "Hart to Hart." She and Robert Wagner played a husband-and-wife detective team for five seasons.

Wagner himself is one of the last of the old-Hollywood types, but Powers' big romantic relationship was with an actor who went back to the Golden Age itself: the late William Holden. Through Holden she developed an interest in nature conservation, in which she is still active.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Stefanie Powers 'Takes Five'

Actress keeps career, activism going strong

Baby boomers have progressed through life with Stefanie Powers entertaining them. In the 1960s, she was April Dancer, "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." In the '70s, she made family movies, "The Boatniks" and "Herbie Rides Again," and lots of TV movies. Her biggest claim to fame, playing amateur detective Jennifer Hart on the popular TV series "Hart to Hart," began in 1979. The series was on the air to 1984, and the Harts reappeared in TV movie format for several encores in the '90s. Powers, 62, has also worked on the stage, and it is in that capacity that she will be coming to the Milwaukee Theatre on Tuesday to play Anna in a national touring company production of "The King and I." The show plays through Feb. 27. Tickets are on sale at the Milwaukee Theatre box office, 500 W. Kilbourn Ave., online at, and by phone at (414) 276-4545. Journal Sentinel theater critic Damien Jaques interviewed Powers by e-mail.

'Takes Five'

Q. You are spending several months on the road with this show. How do you survive all of the different hotel rooms, different stages and daily restaurant meals?
A. It's not easy, but since we are in most cities for at least a week, I do eventually fall into some sort of routine. I do the best I can with what is
available and try to be careful about what I eat and that I remember to eat at all. I also try to exercise regularly. I like to run, and I do Pilates. In fact, I have a book called "Powers Pilates" coming out on March 1 from Simon & Schuster that contains a lot of simple exercises that can be done without equipment.

Q."The King and I" is an old, albeit beloved, musical. How do you make it fresh and exciting for 21st-century audiences?
A. This is a classical piece of theater, much beloved all over the world. We are trying to replicate the original production with the help of our director, Baayork Lee, who played the original Princess Ying Yaowlak in the original Gertrude Lawrence-Yul Brynner production, and our choreographer, Susan Kikuchi, whose mother was the original lead dancer. We are using the original Jerome Robbins choreography and consider this to be a celebration of the great American art form, the musical comedy, as brilliantly created by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Q. This musical debuted on Broadway in 1951. Our perception of Asian people has substantially changed since then. Have any changes been made in the show to reflect that?
A. Once again, we are doing the original play, which has stood the test of time. I would have to think very hard to come up with anything that has been produced in even the last 10 years that would still feel relevant 50 years later.

Q.You play Anna Leonowens, an actual British teacher who accepted an invitation in the 1860s to move to Siam and tutor the king's many children. How did you prepare for the role?
A. I did the role two years ago in England, where the biggest challenge, as an American, was to be accepted in the role of a Victorian woman. Since it went down rather well there, I suppose my homework at the time, learning about the history of the woman I was playing, paid off. I also prepared by working with a vocal coach to build up my stamina and vocal range, and I sing whenever I can.

Q.As well as being a screen and stage actress, you are known as a conservation and wildlife activist. Are you still involved in that cause?
A. That is a life-long commitment for me and is becoming an increasingly greater dimension in my life. I am the president and co-founder of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, which has its own Web site (, where
people can keep up with our activities. They include an education center in Kenya that has hosted nearly 100,000 people since its programs began. I am also a principal in the Jaguar Conservation Trust, having authored the by-laws. I determine who receives grants for programs that are designed to preserve the endangered jaguar cat. . . . I am also extremely involved in current legislation pertaining to the future of the American wild horse, the mustang.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Reign may be over for 'King'

Adequate. That is the succinct description of the production of "The King and I" brought to the Milwaukee Theatre this week by a national touring company. The show opened Tuesday night.

Longtime television and film star Stefanie Powers holds her own as Anna, the British widow hired in the 1860s by the king of Siam to tutor his small army of children. Although her stage credits are not extensive, she sings well and assumes the bearing of a Victorian schoolmarm.

It's too bad Powers lacks a strong partner to play off of. The king of Siam doesn't have to be physically large, but he must project a commanding presence. We should feel his power when we don't like him and his charm when we do.

Ronobir Lahiri works hard at trying to scale that mountain. He sputters and flails and ultimately does a lot of posing. His determined profile might look good on a Siamese coin, but it is not enough to convince us that his king is an absolute ruler with the personality to match.

The power shortage removes the context that makes the monarch's vulnerability poignant, and it changes the chemistry of the relationship between Anna and the king. Unfortunately, Powers and Lahiri don't share any chemistry.

A mechanical quality runs through the entire show, but there are some vivid exceptions that snap the piece back into sharp focus. Catherine MiEun Choi possesses a compelling and dignified presence in her portrayal of the king's head wife, Lady Thiang.

When Choi opens her mouth to sing, fasten your seat belts. Her voice training at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory is instantly evident.

The extended "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet, re-created by Susan Kikuchi from Jerome Robbins' original choreography, is positively enchanting. It is danced extremely well in gorgeous costumes.

A basic level of competency is met by the large cast, and some easily exceed that mark. Production values are good. An argument can be made that, at 54, "The King and I" is not aging as well as most other Rodgers and Hammerstein classics. Even after taking into account the show's 19th-century period and its 1951 sensibilities, the mostly fictional story and cartoonish portrayal of Asians has become unsettling if not embarrassing.

The globe has shrunk, the U.S. has become much more ethnically diverse, and we see the world very differently in 2005. Perhaps "The King and I's" familiar hummable score should live on while the dated and problematic book goes the way of minstrel shows. Not every hit from the golden age of American musical theater is timeless.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

WHWF Benefit

The date is Tuesday, April 5, 2005 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood: Hollywood Blvd. near Vine. ??? 8 PM start.

Excellent orchestra seats are $125 which includes the party afterwards (location nearby to be determined).

Very good mezzanine seats are selling for $75 without the party.

There are packages to make extra money:
1. "The King and I-Mac" - Includes an I-Mac computer, four primo orchestra seats and party.
2. "Lord of the Rings" - Return of the King limited edition DVD set for $2000.
3. "Getting to Know You" - Package with four primo seats, party and a backstage visit immediately after the performance for $1000.

Checks are to be made out to WHWF.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Pooch and I

It seems Stefanie Powers doesn't like to go far without her pooch. In Baltimore last week performing in The King and I at the Hippodrome, Powers took family and friends out to dinner Saturday night at Little Italy's Da Mimmo. Also in tow, reports owner Mary Ann Cricchio, was Powers' miniature pinscher/Shih Tzu mix, Bounce. Mary Ann says she and restaurant manager Masood Masoodi quickly set up a play date outside with their "best friends," Masood's white Maltese, Malta, and Mary Ann's Yorkie, Rover.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Romantic TV couples

Kevin Thompson's Valentine's Day picks for the TV couples that snagged our hearts.
Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day is a time for chocolate covered cherries, mushy cards, candlelight dinners and some really good lovin'.

For a TV critic, it's also a time to ponder which memorable TV couples have made our hearts skip a beat over the years.

No. 1: Mulder and Scully (The X-Files)

The truth is these two alien-chasing FBI agents exuded more sexual heat than most TV couples who fall into bed each week. Mulder and Scully did it with a knowing look. A quick embrace. A soft brush of the other's hair. A frantic cellphone call. The truth was out there: You knew their love was real. And you knew Mulder was the father of Scully's baby.

And the other 49 lovebirds . . .

2. Cliff and Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

They slow danced with each other. They listened to John Coltrane together. They lovingly showed affection in front of their kids. Simply put, they had the kind of rock solid marriage everyone wants.

3. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy)

If they weren't on this list, I'd have some 'splainin' to do.

4. Rick and Lily (Once and Again)

They showed that divorced parents over 40 could actually act like lustful teens.

5. Bobby and Pam Ewing (Dallas)

For being a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet. Aw, forget that. Remember, Bobby's six-pack abs? Pam's smokin' bod? That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

6. David and Maddie (Moonlighting)

They fought. They solved crimes. They flirted. They fought. They flirted some more.

7. Ralph and Alice Kramden (The Honeymooners)

For all his "bang, zoom, to the moon" theatrics, deep down blustery Ralph knew his stand-by-your-man Alice was "the greatest." So did we.

8. Diane and Bobby (NYPD Blue)

Ever see them getting it on in a steamy shower? If so, you'd understand.

9. Buffy and Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

He was a brooding vampire. She was a sassy vampire killer. Which meant Buffy and Angel didn't go on many dreamy-eyed dates. But when they were together, their undying passion could raise the dead.

10. Barney and Betty Rubble (The Flintstones)

Because Barney can still make Betty giggle after all these years.

11. Sam and Diane (Cheers)

Their delightful verbal fencing, not all those barflies, made Cheers an instant TV classic.

12. Luke and Laura (General Hospital)

A couple who can survive sexual assaults, kidnappings and living life on the lam before getting hitched. That's love!

13. Doug and Carol (ER)

George Clooney. Juliana Marguilies. What else is there to say?

14. Ross and Rachel (Friends)

Because they were destined to be together. It just took forever.

15. Kevin and Winnie (The Wonder Years)

Ah, young love. So sweet. So innocent. Remember that first kiss in the very first show? 16. Blake and Krystle Carrington (Dynasty)

Sure, bling-blinging Blake sometimes treated his trophy wife like another pricey possession. But he loved Krystle and she loved him right back. Alexis who?

17. Rob and Laura Petrie (The Dick Van Dyke Show)

The way Laura fondly cried, "Ohhh, Robbbbb" oozed a deep-rooted passion that a '60s sitcom couldn't really explore. Rob and Laura slept in separate beds, for crying out loud!

18. Ward and June Cleaver (Leave It To Beaver)

There's something hopelessly romantic about two parents united in their parental duties. Who said every TV couple had to be all sexy?

19. Mike and Gloria Stivic (All in the Family)

They made out an awful lot, didn't they?

20. George and Gracie (The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show)

One of the all-time great show business couples. Say goodnight, Gracie.

21. Sydney and Vaughn (Alias)

Make love in the morning. Thwart a terrorist plot in the afternoon. Make love again at night.

22. Batman and Robin (Batman)

Holy close quarters! Let's face it: The Dynamic Duo spent way too much time alone in the Batcave. You do the math.

23. Martin and Gina (Martin)

Despite their off-screen problems, Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell boasted a sizzling on-screen comedic chemistry.

24. Herman and Lily Munster (The Munsters)

How often do you see Frankenstein whispering sweet nothings to his vampire squeeze? Never.

25. Mr. and Mrs. C (Happy Days)

They would excitedly rush upstairs for some afternoon delight whenever the kids weren't home. As a thumbs-up Fonz would say, "Aaayyh!"

26. Isabel and Leo (Relativity)

Kimberly Williams and David Conrad kissed like they meant it in this little-watched series that skillfully dealt with the complexities of twentysomething romance and relationships.

27. Joyce and Frank (Hill Street Blues)

No couple looked sexier in bed than those secret lovers played by the ruggedly handsome Daniel J. Travanti (Pizza Man!) and the fetching Veronica Hamel.

28. Niles and Daphne (Frasier)

Because sometimes nice, nerdy, opera-loving guys do get the girl of their dreams.

29. Jonathan and Jennifer Hart (Hart to Hart)

It's Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, people! Hellooooooo!

30. Gomez and Morticia Addams (The Addams Family)

They did a mean tango. Only really passionate people can do a mean tango.

31. Latka and Simka (Taxi)

The funny accents made 'em so darn cute! Tank you berry much!

32. Kermit and Miss Piggy (The Muppet Show)

We needed a carefree frog and a showboating pig on the list. Seriously.

33. Paul and Jamie Buchman (Mad About You)

For showing that marriage can be hard work — and worth the effort.

34. Ozzie and Harriet (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet)

See Ward and June Cleaver.

35. Lois and Clark (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman)

Lois Lane and Clark Kent never looked that pretty in the D.C. Comics version. You can thank Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain for that.

36. Carrie and Big (Sex and the City)

OK, so Big was a first-class cad who often treated Carrie like crud on the bottom of his shoe. But they had chemistry. And all was forgotten when the big lug finally told Carrie, "You're the one."

37. Dharma and Greg (Dharma & Greg)

Dharma was a free-spirited yoga trainer. Greg was an uptight attorney. Yes, sometimes opposites do attract — and make you laugh.

38. Mike and Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch)

It's not easy looking chirpy and romantic when six kids are running your house. Go ahead, you try it!

39. Trista and Ryan (The Bachelorette)

Before America got sick of the attention-happy Trista, it actually loved this sweet, made-for-reality-TV couple. Well, they mostly loved the painfully shy, poetry-spouting Ryan.

40. James and Florida Evans (Good Times)

They lived with the buffoonish J.J. and still managed to keep their marriage strong. Big ups to James and Florida for that.

41. Turk and Carla (Scrubs)

They still have that newlywed glow.

42. Boston Rob and Amber (Survivor: All-Stars)

Any couple that can make living in the jungle with 16 smelly castaways look like a tropical vacation deserves a mention, don't ya think?

43. Ren and Stimpy (Ren & Stimpy)

If a scrawny, hot-headed Chihuahua (that's Ren) is gonna spend that much time with his kitty kat roomie (that's Stimpy), it must be love.

44. Remington and Laura (Remington Steele)

It's hard not to look all weak in the knees when you're standing next to the future 007.

45. Marge and Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)

Why not? At 16 years, The Simpsons is the longest-running sitcom on TV. You know Homer and Marge have had some serious lovin' in at least half of those years. D'oh!

46. Pebbles and Bamm Bamm (The Flintstones)

OK, they're babies, but they played so well together. Besides, when they grew up and got their own show, we kinda figured that Pebbles and Bamm Bamm were doing more than goo-goo and gaa-gaa-ing together.

47. The Donald and . . . The Donald (The Apprentice)

No one loves himself — or his companies, hotels, casinos and TV shows — more than The Trumpster.

48. Sandy and Kirsten Cohen (The O.C.)

Sandy singing to his wife on their 20th wedding anniversary probably melted every woman's heart in America.

49. Stewart and Sally McMillan (McMillan and Wife)

Rock Hudson was a grizzled police commissioner. Susan St. James was the wife who just wanted to help. Isn't support in a marriage a beautiful thing?

50. Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen (Strange Love)

The cartoonish black rapper and the statuesque Danish actress are TV's oddest freak show couple since, well . . . give me a minute, I'll think of another one. Well, probably not.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Long live 'The King'

As the king himself might put it, there's a lot of "etc., etc., etc." in The King and I.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical works best when it's showcased with all the trimmings. It demands opulence and splendor. And Kenneth Foy's red, gold and black set and Roger Kirk's glittery, silk, Tony Award-winning costumes meet those demands.

But at its core, as the title indicates, The King and I is the story of two people - the headstrong king of 1860s Siam (now Thailand) and the equally headstrong British teacher he hires to instruct his children.

The King and I was originally created as a star vehicle - not for Yul Brynner, though he became inextricably associated with the role of the king. No, Rodgers and Hammerstein were writing for Gertrude Lawrence, the actress who created the role of the teacher, Anna Leonowens.

Under the direction of Baayork Lee, the touring version at the Hippodrome Theatre once again assigns star billing to the actress playing Anna. This time, that actress is Stefanie Powers, and though she looks elegant and displays plenty of Anna's innate gumption, her casting is - as the king again might put it - something of a "puzzlement."

The problem isn't entirely that Powers is a bit old for Anna (the last time she starred in Baltimore, in 1996, she played long-in-the-tooth Margo Channing in Applause). Powers' acting has enough gusto to allow a gracious audience to overlook age.

A bigger problem is that a voice that sounded nasal in Applause now sounds brash, even strained. While Powers can get away with a character actress' delivery of "I Whistle a Happy Tune," she's simply not up to the lush strains of a romantic ballad like "Hello, Young Lovers."

As the king, Ronobir Lahiri is vocally adept, and he also finds the wit and intelligence hidden beneath the king's arrogance. His king is a complex man - tied to tradition, but modern-thinking; smart enough to know what he doesn't know; proud enough of his heritage not to let it be overrun by Western ways.

Along with all the opulence, The King and I also requires a bevy of adorable children, and the current youngsters easily pass that test. In addition, Catherine MiEun Choi as the king's No. 1 wife and Luz Lor as unlucky-in-love Tuptim make such chestnuts as "Something Wonderful" and "I Have Dreamed," respectively, the musical high points. And, as re-created by Susan Kikuchi, Jerome Robbins' choreography continues to enchant.

In the end, despite Powers' vocal limitations, when she and Lahiri's king break into a rousing polka in "Shall We Dance?" two stubborn individuals and two disparate cultures come together in a whirl of music and dance. A lesson in cultural understanding, for better or worse, it remains as poignant and pertinent as it did when the show debuted a half-century ago.