Monday, February 28, 2005

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.

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