Monday, December 7, 2015

'Lilian's Last Dance' author traces novel's development, "at sea" connection

Above, Christene Meyers reads to fellow travelers on aboard Celebrity's Millennium, one of a half-dozen readings delivered on ships.  The following story first appeared in a respected Rocky Mountain newspaper, The Billings Outpost. It was picked up by the Last Best News, a nationally known on-line publication edited by award-winning writer Ed Kemmick featuring Montana news and personalities. 







Bay Area writer and editor Kathleen Mohn introduces
Christene Meyers at a reading in Oakland.  Meyers is
on an international tour for the novel. She read in Europe
this fall and will travel to the Far East for readings in March.   
AFTER 40 years in journalism, Christene Meyers decided to start making things up.
The result is her first novel, “Lilian’s Last Dance,” which she introduced to readers here as part of Big Read events in Billings. Writing the book was, she said in an interview, the hardest thing she has ever done.
More of Meyers' writings at

Meyers’ fluid writing style is well known to longtime Billings residents. A native of Columbus, she got her first byline in a children’s magazine when she was 14 years old. In high school, she contributed to a Billings (Montana) Gazette column that featured voices of area teenagers.
chirssybookThat eventually led to a full-time job at the Gazette, where she started as a night police reporter, while going to college -- both Rocky Mountain College and the now Montana State University Billings.
“I did all the major beats the paper had at the time,” she said.
She gradually worked her way up to movie reviews, then she was for many years the arts and travel writer for the Gazette before retiring in 2004.
She interviewed hundreds of internationally known actors, musicians and writers, and was active in many ways in the Billings arts community.
For a fourth-generation Montanan from Columbus, the career choice was not as unusual as it might sound. Her parents gave their children music and dance lessons, plus boxing lessons for the boys so they could handle any kidding they got at school about it all.
Her mother was an opera fan and musician, and Meyers said she began singing at age 2 or 3, belting out songs like “The Good Ship Lollipop” and “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” At last week’s reading, she sat down at a piano to play a medley of original songs for a musical version of “Lilian’s Last Dance,” with Marian Booth Green providing the vocals.
In later years, that love of culture translated into an inextinguishable urge to travel, a habit that paid off when it came time to take up fiction. The novel covers settings ranging from France to New York to California, with stops at most points in between, including a reference to Corsicana, Texas, a few miles from where this reporter’s ancestors grew up, and, of course, her native Montana.
Meyers and William Jones spent
many years researching the novel.
“Our research was meticulous,” she said.
Meyers visited all those spots with her late husband, William Jones, who was a retired, well knkown film critic for the Arizona Republic before his death of cancer in 2005.
“He went to that great theater in the sky,” she said. But right up until days before he died, sitting with an IV at a computer, he urged Meyers to finish the novel. They had put in too much work to give it up, he told her.
He is listed as co-author of the novel, and Meyers said it was a true collaboration. They worked out the characters and plot together, she said, and there really is no way to tell now who gets credit for what parts.
Meyers' grandma,
Olive Nystul,
inspired the
character Lilian.
Actually, the book’s roots go back even further. Meyers drew inspiration in part from a great aunt and from her grandmother, who refused to marry her grandfather until he came up with $1,500—a huge sum in those days—and a grand piano.
Meyers said she and her first husband, Bruce Meyers, a poet and professor at Montana State University Billings until his death in 1992, began kicking around the idea of writing a musical about a Western woman sharpshooter, sort of “Annie Get Your Gun” but with a main character who was more worldly, more international and sexier than Annie Oakley.
She and Jones took extensive notes on the novel, but she abandoned it for a time after her husband’s death. She resumed the book after a box of notes and floppy discs literally fell off an attic shelf and hit her current partner, photographer Bruce William Keller, in the head.
 Christene Meyers and her partner Bruce Keller
in the Hollywood Hills during the final days
of research for the novel.
The finished novel is set around the turn of the last century, extending into World War I. It’s about an ambitious British-born film buff in the silent era, Walter Brown, who travels America showing short films and putting on vaudeville acts, trying to stay a step ahead of goons working for inventor Thomas Edison, who was attempting to squeeze out competitors in the motion picture business.
Walter meets the lovely title character, a French woman named Lilian Dumont, and recruits her from Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as an actress and sharpshooter. With the rest of Walter’s crew, they travel America and Europe, entertaining crowds with shooting and films, and gradually moving toward more ambitious work in early-day Hollywood.
Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein are
cameo characters in the novel, interacting
with the fictional characters.

Along the way they encounter bank robbers, gunfighters, journalists, lawmen, a Peruvian artist and dozens of other characters, including 22 cameo appearances by famous personages of the time: Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Bat Masterson, Lillian Gish and Buffalo Bill himself, among others. They bump into a range of disasters, including time on the front lines in World War I.
It’s a picaresque tale for most of the way, and the detail may weary some readers, but eventually a love triangle develops—really more of a quadrangle. One of the characters is motivated more by revenge than by affection.
From there the story gradually builds toward a rollicking climax, which won’t be revealed here except to note that guns blaze.
Meyers' readings appear to delight listeners, and it may be that the book works better as a series of anecdotes than as a tightly plotted novel.  
Besides the book tour and classes, Meyers is taking courses at Sarah Lawrence in poetry and play writing. She writes a blog at She is working on the musical version of "Lilian's Last Dance," and splits her time between California and a Montana place she bought near Nye. She still travels the world and attends the theater regularly. And she gives Writer's Voice workshops, inviting students to bring photos of ancestors. Her classes include exercises to encourage participants to trust one another.
It’s just, she said, that she has a lot she wants to do "before I’m in my urn.”
She even still does a little freelancing, she said, but is finding that she has to cut back.
“I’m learning one small thing in my 60s,” she said, “that I can’t do everything.”
For information on purchasing “Lilian’s Last Dance,” go to
Writer and editor David Crisp has worked for newspapers since 1979. He has been editor and publisher of the Billings Outpost since 1997. The Outpost is published every Thursday and is available free all over Billings and in nearby communities.
The Last Best News is an independent online news site focusing on the culture, people and places of Billings and Eastern Montana. Its founder, Ed Kemmick began his newspaper career in 1980.  “The Big Sky, By and By,” is his collection of journalism, essays and a short story.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

'Lilian' and the Bill Cody connection inspire Buffalo Bill Center invitation

Buffalo Gals Luncheon Huge Success!

Wednesday, October 21st, at Buffalo Bill Center

Lilian's Last Dance presented by Montana writer, Christene Meyers
The book's cover incorporates artistic elements of Christene's life and the three men she has loved:
two late husbands Bruce Meyers and William Jones, and her partner of nine years, Bruce William Keller, called Keller by Christene.
Christene Meyers has a reputation for delivering
lively, wry talks in which she references her
personal life and losses.  What emerged in the Cody museum talk was her ability to persevere
and derive joy and humor from life as it unfolds.

Nearly 100 people enjoyed a tasty western lunch and lively talk by Montana writer, Christene Meyers. She was keynote speaker  for the annual fall Buffalo Gals luncheon, and was invited because her novel features Cody founder, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, as one of its cameos.  A book-signing followed the presentation, in the Buffalo Bill Center's museum lobby.
Longtime Montana journalist and travel/arts writer Meyers described the evolution of her first novel, Lilian’s Last Dance, called “vivid, stunning, and monumental,” by a San Francisco critic.  The novel is garnering praise for “prodigious research and ambitious interweaving of cameo figures” with fictional personalities in art, film, and the still-wild West. The book follows the adventures and mishaps of a troupe of entertainers and filmmakers --1907 to World War I. Silent movies are on the decline and Hollywood is in its infancy.
For the Buffalo Gals Luncheon, Meyers read a passage about William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody's meeting of the title character. Other "real life" cameos include Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, Ty Cobb, Bat Masterson, Mary Pickford, and Gertrude Stein. Meyers co-wrote the tale during winters in Arizona and summers on Montana's Stillwater River.  Her late husband, Bill Jones, collaborated.  He was a longtime Phoenix-based, nationally-known film critic.
Meyers will send an inscribed, first edition copy of the book for $22, which includes postage and a personal inscription.  E-mail her at:  Or send a check to Christene Meyers to: 8935 Via Andar, San Diego, Calif.  92122. Additional copies are $20.

Monday, July 20, 2015


At a recent reading, Cookie expounds. 
Home town reading in Columbus, Montana, entertains old and new friends; Buffalo Bill Center museum devotees turn out in numbers


WE'VE DONE 33 readings and signings since the paperback of "Lilian's Last Dance" came out in February.
We've read in barns and bars, bistros and back yards, museums, art galleries, libraries and living rooms.
At a Billings, Montana, reading in the city library downtown, we played a couple songs from the musical version we hope to get off the ground down the road.
We've read for several hundred people and we've read for less than a dozen folks.  Most of the readings have 25 to 40 people -- a good average number. Our recent reading at the world renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo., attracted nearly 100. 
"Barbecue and Books"? Why not, here Cookie and Keller toast on the streets
of Absarokee, Montana, during a recent all-day Cook-off.
We've never failed to have an interesting -- and interested -- group. We are happy to read for as many people as show up.  It's difficult to predict!
AT A RECENT reading in Powell, Wyoming, we had only a dozen people (we were competing against a football game.)  But we read for an enthusiastic group and answered questions while people munched shortbread cookies.  Another reading -- in my home town of Columbus, Montana -- featured popcorn in a friend's back yard. We made new friends and were happy to see a few people from earlier times.
The Cody museum reading was during a luncheon -- with nearly 100 old and new friends. We've read in barns in small, country venues, in restaurants and bars.
We go where interest is.  Once this summer, we read a few snippets at a table in a rural restaurant near us in Nye, Montana, when someone asked.  Such an impromptu request is not to be ignored! (The woman said she'd just finished reading "Lilian's Last Dance" and wanted to hear my voice read a passage about the Montana cowboy who sweeps the French title character off her feet.)
Red Lodge Books and Tea welcomed book lovers to a recent "Lilian...." reading.
WE READ at a fancy cocktail party in Oakland, with a view of the Bay Bridge.
We read at a country club in La Jolla, Calif., while well tanned and sleekly toned people munched canapes and planned plastic surgeries. We've read at several patio parties -- one in San Diego hosted by my Jazzercise teacher. We've read at libraries -- including Phoenix, Ariz., and Miles City, Montana -- and at several art galleries and
Nick, one of our two Yorkshire terriers, is at home
before a reading in Hardin, Montana.
museums, including the beautiful Big Horn County Historical Museum in Hardin.
In Red Lodge, we met at Red Lodge Books and Tea, to a small but enthusiastic group who sipped herbal tea and enjoyed homemade muffins.
AT THE recent Absarokee Cook-off, we were asked to set up a booth.  We did, and sold a couple dozen books, while people wandered about the food stalls set up on the street, sampling barbecue, sipping beer and  talking about haying and cattle.
Sometimes our Yorkies, Nick and Nora, are invited to the readings.  Other times, we find sitters to watch them -- museum ticket takers and librarians have been accommodating.
Let us know if we can read for your book club or civic group, by calling us at 406 661-2910, or writing:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book tour continues as"Lilian's Last Dance" is acquired for Montana Room in Miles City


Top, Miles City Public Library director Sonja Woods with Christene Meyers, adds her novel, 
"Lilian's Last Dance," to the Montana Room at the library. Below, Writer's Voice director Corby Skinner
introduces Christene Meyers to a lively audience at Parmly Billings Library.
Her reading from "Lilian's Last Dance" capped "The Big Read: Wednesdays with Willa (Cather)"
 at the library. Writer's Voice also booked Meyers to conduct a series of workshops on memoir. 
The West Coast tour launched in Oakland, Calif., with
Kathleen Mohn introducing Cookie at her home.
We've done 15 readings as of this June, here at the home of
 Elizabeth McNamer, Billings, who is seated next to Cookie.
 HERE ARE some photos of readings the past few months, and links from recent stories about me. Summer was full and frantic, and now we are escaping the first snows in the Northern Rockies to enjoy the green, green grass of our Southern California home -- and a chance to see old friends.

WE'VE DONE 33 readings since we kicked off  the book tour just a few frantic months ago in Oakland, with a view of the spectacular Bay Bridge from the reading venue at the home of Karl and Kathleen Mohn.

Reading at the home of Kent and Linda Harris, Absarokee, Montana.
READINGS chart their own course.  Some readers want to know the history, the research, the moment the idea began to take shape.
Others want to know how the characters were created and researched.
I'VE TRIED to answer many of the questions here in this blog....the cameos (Buffalo Bill Cody, Gertrude Stein, Charlie Chaplin fascinate people.)  The Big Read crowd in Billings heard that I had plans for "Lilian's Last Dance" to become a musical.  We played three of the songs -- with Marian Booth Green singing. So have a look at the other pages by returning to the blog and clicking on the labels at the top of the page: (CLICK RIGHT HERE:)
And here are links to two recent interviews and stories about me and "Lilian...." Fun to be on the other side of the footlights after reviewing hundreds of books and interviewing their authors!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

'Lilian' readings, workshops continue in Montana venues


Christene Meyers takes questions from the floor at a weekend reading from "Lilian's Last Dance." She is touring Montana
and Wyoming with readings from the book, which is set in part in the American West.

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam......
a recent reading in the artful Harris home.


The Harris home in Absarokee hosted a recent "Lilian's Last Dance" reading.
WE'RE BACK in the Big Sky and happy to be reading for "home town" people from our paperback,
A weekend reading party at the Kent and Linda Harris home in Absarokee was standing room only.
Montana re-entry features books and birds

Old friend and arts supporter, Linda spearheaded the popular Absarokee Art and Wine Festival for 20 years, and she and Kent have long been arts boosters and participants.

At the Absaroka Fine Arts-sponsored reading, Linda talked of her long friendship with Christene Meyers in introducing "Cookie" to the group, all supporters of AFA's fundraising endeavors. It's annual production of "Shakespeare in the Parks" by the Montana Repertory Theater takes place this summer.
THE READINGS each have a different flavor and the discussions depend upon questions.  The lively group at the Harris home wanted to know how each character was developed, and how long research took.  The book was begun in 1997! Each setting -- from Paris to Chicago and the Gallatin Valley -- was carefully visited during the research.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Touched by greatness: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga deliver wondrous performance

Legendary singer Tony Bennett and the gifted Lady Gaga collaborate to the delight of a full house recently in Las Vegas. Our artful team saw the show, following the "modern vintage" collaboration.  

"I call her "firefly" 'cause oh, my. She radiates moon glow. Wants none of that noon glow. She starts to glitter when the sun goes down 'Bout 8 p.m., it's mayhem........."
--from "Firefly," sung recently by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga to a standing ovation Las Vegas audience

If Cookie cries for joy, the concert
or play makes her "tops" list.


IT WAS MOON GLOW, not mayhem when Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett charmed us last weekend. Everything was in order.
SO MANY fantastic plays and concerts I've seen in my lucky life.
I started a "Top Ten" list about 30 years ago.  It changes as I see and evaluate several hundred shows each year.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's fabulous, flawless performance made the list.  When a show makes me cry for joy, it's in.
Tony Bennett, a frisky 88, still has the pipes, folks, and a sense of fun.
Here he twirls Lady Gaga around in a packed house at Axis Theater, Vegas.
Lady Gaga goes solo for several songs
with the best band a singer could have.
EACH SHOW on my list reminds me of how precious it is to be in the company of greatness. True genius touches one's life only on rare occasions. The greats remain in my heart and mind --so Tony and Gaga join stellar memories of:
* FRANK SINATRA crooning at the old Sands Hotel, with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., accompanied by Count Basie in the Copa Room.
* Mary Martin washing that man right out of her hair in "South Pacific" on Broadway. The audience wouldn't stop cheering.
* Patti Lupone as Mama Rose in Gypsy.  She stopped the show with a standing ovation for "Everything's Coming Up Roses."
*Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou taking their fifth curtain call in "Sweeney Todd," to cheers and thunderous applause.
NOW, ADD to my "tops" list the incomparable Tony Bennett and the sublime Lady Gaga.
Did I weep?  You bet.  Through nearly the entire concert.
Saying good-bye:  Bennett and Gaga leave the floor
at the Axis in Planet Hollywood, to raves and cheers.
Don't be wary at the 60-year age gap.  (Bennett is a spry and handsome 88 and Gaga is a sophisticated, flirty 28.)  The two are fast friends and exciting collaborators.
We've seen them twice since we reveled in their sold-out New Year's Eve show at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.  We bought tickets in March for their recent two-day gig at Planet Hollywood's Axis Theater, also in Las Vegas.
The show was stunning, an immediate "tops" on a list formed from more than 5,000 plays and concerts enjoyed in my lifetime.
full of life and love. It's obvious the two love and respect one another's great gifts as they honor Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and Gershwin. Soulful phrasing, fabulous arrangements and the world's finest musicians make an irresistible combination.
Fabulous Indian fare in Bay Area bistro, click here
I FIRST heard of the unique collaboration in a New Yorker story. I'd seen Bennett and Gaga in separate concerts -- loved both for their style, flair and precision.  He asked her to record a duet on a favorite album, "Duets II," and in 2011, they recorded “Lady Is a Tramp” then a full album, "Cheek to Cheek," also the name of their ambitious tour.
 I love the collaboration. She keeps him youthful.  He adds to her elegance. Their arrangements are
Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Sinatra
in the Copa Room of the old Sands Hotel,
imploded to make room for the Venetian.
timeless.  If a CD can wear out, mine will soon.  "Cheek to Cheek" goes with us -- it's been to Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the Middle East since its top debut on Billboard's Hot 100.  I cried (of course) when it won a Grammy for best traditional pop vocals. I was thrilled to hear “But Beautiful,” "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and “I Won’t Dance” on this tour.
EACH ARTIST takes turns performing solo, so Lady Gaga can change into a half-dozen costumes.
While she's becoming a sultry blonde or sexy redhead, Bennett croons classics like “The Good Life,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Sing You Sinners” and his signature "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."  Gaga sings jazz standards including “Bang Bang,” Billy Strayhorn's beautiful “Lush Life” and a bouncy “Firefly,” which Bennett joins. (BTW: Tony is happily married for years.) A crystal-studded curtain and fabulous orchestra set the show's glittery tone.
HERE ARE others on my "Top Ten" list of concerts and performances (okay, I know it's more than 10; I can't cross anyone else off.) 
*Bette Middler at Caesar's in a torchy show of non-stop fun and emotion.
* Ian McKellan and Tim Curry, brilliant in "Amadeus" in New York. 
Dustin Hoffman as Shylock in "The Merchant
of Venice" (Geraldine Page was Portia.) 
*Dustin Hoffman in "The Merchant of Venice" in London, delivering a deeply moving performance.
*"Death of a Salesman" -- of 15 performances, most memorable were the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Beijing, China, with the playwright directing. No dry eyes at Linda's graveside eulogy on either continent.
*The original Broadway version of "Les Miserables."
*"Agnes of God" with Amanda Plummer.
*Elton John, who tore up Caesar's with his lavish "Million Dollar Piano" production.
 *Childhood productions of "The King and I" and "South Pacific" and "My Fair Lady."
 (If only I'd seen Judy Garland at the Palladium in London in 1963. I cherish the double album.)
Cookie Meyers and Bruce Keller (Cookie and Keller)
on the town and about to dance cheek to cheek.
WHO KNOWS how many shows Tony Bennett has in him.  Years more, if the music gods deem.
Meanwhile, he's dipping from the fountain of youth, touring the world with his "Lady." We'll catch them often as we can -- in London at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Hollywood Bowl. Who knows, maybe we'll be invited to her wedding. She's asked Tony to sing! Psst: Have I mentioned I play a mean piano?

CATCH US where at lilianslast dance each weekend for updates on the best in concerts, plays, art and books -- with our unique twist -- at  And follow the novel by the same name here, too.
"Lilian's Last Dance" is out in paperback, available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. We're on a national tour of readings and signings.  We're booking into the fall now and would be delighted to read for your book club or civic group. Contact us at: 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Million Dollar Quartet delivers magnificent talent, delights

"Million Dollar Quartet" at Harrah's in Las Vegas is top entertainment.


Martin Kaye is fabulous as Jerry Lee Lewis.


IMAGINE if four brilliant performers from the 1950s got together for an impromptu jam session.
A Broadway musical, "Million Dollar Quartet,"
is splendidly performed in Las Vegas. 
Imagine those four were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
Imagine that they were all little known then, just making their names and emerging on the international music scene.
This really happened -- in Sun Records studio. 
Elvis and girlfriend sing a sexy duet in "Million Dollar Quartet."
"Million Dollar Quartet" is a lively musical based on this 1956 meeting, little known until the writers came up with the idea -- a brilliant one -- to share the thrill of this unique moment of rock 'n' roll history. The show was a Broadway smash, closing four years ago.
The joint is jumpin' as fantastic actors portray the day in 1956 when
legendary singers and performers jammed into history in Memphis.
THE MEMPHIS jam session happened by chance.  Perkins, the first of the four to meet success, was coasting on his "Blue Suede Shoes," when he dropped into the studios with his brothers Clayton and Jay. Drummer W.S. Holland was there, too.  The plan was to cut some new songs, including a revamping of an old blues song, "Matchbox."
The real guys, with Elvis Presley's
girlfriend, in Memphis in 1956.

Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, invited his latest acquisition, then unknown piano genius Jerry Lee TAKE A HIGH ROLLER RIDE, click here
Lewis. Cash and Presley were both in town, and the four started jamming, along with the brothers and Holland. Cash said in his autobiography that he actually arrived first, and that Elvis slipped away first -- but only after the four were recorded together. 
Head out of the Flamingo and past Wynn
into Harrah's, for "Million Dollar Quartet."
WOW! An amazing chemistry happened with the talent gathered that day. "Million Dollar Quartet" boasts fantastic actors as the four soon-to-be stars, and another terrific actor as Phillips, who tells the story.
The back-up musicians are fabulous, too.  
The splendid company includes Martin Kaye as the rambunctious Jerry Lee Lewis, Benjamin D.Hale as Cash, Tyler Hunter as Elvis and Robbert Britton Lyons as Perkins.
Marc Donovan is Phillips, terrific as the narrator-producer, with Felice Garcia as Presley's girlfriend Dyanne and Jim Belk and Mikey Hachey as the brothers.
  DON'T OVERLOOK this fabulous tribute show when you're shopping for Las Vegas entertainment. The energy is electric.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga at Planet Hollywood.
We were at the SRO concert -- front and center.
"Million Dollar Quartet" is the name given the recordings made that historic, lucky day. Don't miss the show, up the escalator to Harrah's Main Showroom.
UP NEXT WEEKEND: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga thrill a packed house at Planet Hollywood.  We're in the front row for the standing ovation! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Saturdays at

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Theater Down Under: Wonderful Wharf Theatre transformed derelict space

 The Wharf Theatre in Sydney is home to Sydney Theatre Company.  Located in The Rocks on the water, it is a splendidly converted warehouse space, where patrons  mingle for top theater, cocktails, conversation and fine dining.


'My soul is heavy today with the burden of unexpressed love.' -- from "Cyrano de Bergerac" at  Sydney Theatre Company at The Wharf


THINK AUSTRALIA and you probably don't think fabulous theater.
Kangaroos, convicts, shrimp on the barbee, large vast space, shark attacks. Not too many people -- all cliches. And yet, all true.
But Sydney's Wharf Theatre is no cliche. It's fresh, inventive, beautifully wrought drama in a stunning space.
The Princes Theatre in Melbourne,
established 1892 on the Yarra River,

 is one of the country's first and oldest.
Richard Roxburgh dons the nose of "Cyrano" at the Wharf.
His moving interpretation of the character wowed our reporters.



Nicole Kidman, above with Hugh Jackman, fell in love in the movies, then married. 
They are ardent supporters of theater in the beautifully "redone" Pier 4 and 5 Wharf.
WE RECENTLY saw a production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" that will live in our memories forever. Acclaimed actor Richard Roxburgh brought the character to life -- as the poetic soul willing to sacrifice everything for the ideal of pure love. (And so in love with language, that he lets a handsome but doltish friend take the credit.)
When the first European settlers brought Western traditions of
theater to Australia in the 1780s, the great tradition of  "Theater Down Under" began.
Like theater worldwide,  Aussie theater was built on known, accepted traditions and developed over time, shaped by local and international artistic movements, events and trends.
TODAY, THINK NICOLE Kidman and her husband, Hugh Jackman. They've put their money and their mouths into promoting Australia's dramatic art -- luring movie studios to Australia and financing live stage productions. With a nod to the proud history of
forebears. Kidman and Jackman carry on the "deep pockets" tradition.
Their goal is that Aussies and tourists be entertained, enchanted, captivated and challenged.  And so we were at "Cyrano," played to a packed house by a magnificent cast in a once derelict space.

THE WHARF Theatre contains two theatres; Wharf 1 has 339 seats and Wharf 2 has 205 seats. From the street a 200 metre wooden walkway lined with framed posters of STC productions takes patrons through the history of the theater. Large windows frame Sydney Harbour Bridge and the aptly named Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf offers east and west facing balconies as one sips a glass of wine with gorgeous views of Luna Park and the North Shore skyline.
The space is larger than a rugby field and cost $3.7 million to restore.  Builders worked 56 weeks to refurbish it and water themes are incorporated into the company’s blue logo.
The Wharf's popular Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf lures playgoers
for a cocktail with a splendid view before or after the performance.
EARLY SYDNEY playbills date back to 1788.  Colonial drama consisted mostly of English-style musical theater, comedies and pantomimes with local themes. Australia's early theater was, as the penal colony, a place of punishment for convicts.
INTERNATIONAL star Sarah Bernhardt toured Australia in 1891. American touring ensembles brought vaudeville-style theatre to Australia. In 1893 Harry Rickards founded Sydney's Tivoli Theatre and the Tivoli vaudeville circuit. Authorities struggled with badly-behaved audiences, pickpockets and other crimes.
But theater is alive and well in Australia. "Cyrano" made us think, laugh and even cry.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Saluting Sir Elton: Veteran performer Elton John delivers the goods in Vegas


The "Million Dollar Piano" is part piano, part video screen, with a hypnotic, engaging effect on the audience at Caesar's.

Cookie in red scarf, with Keller, right, and friends Bob & Sue.

SIR ELTON JOHN is legendary in the world of popular music.
He has an astonishing 47 albums to his credit, the biggest selling single of all time -- "Candle in the Wind" -- collaborated on a Broadway hit -- "The Lion King," -- and keeps a touring schedule that would leave people half his age breathless.
Elton John's back-up singers includes four well known singers.
Rose Stone, third from left,  gained fame with "Sly and the Family Stone."
All that talent, plus a dazzling wardrobe.
WE SAW SIR Elton a few days ago in a festive mood at his sold-out concert. It was birthday week for the dapper singer, who turned 68 Wednesday.

Cookie and Keller, left, with
friends Bob and Sue at Caesar's.
I'VE FOLLOWED his career since I was young -- and have seen him in concert three times.  I was with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga on New Year's Eve, but if I'd been on the east coast, I'd have seen Elton's first New Year’s Eve show in New York. His rousing rendition of "I’m Still Standing" brought down the house there -- and at our Vegas show Saturday.)
Sir Elton John's performance
at Caesar's Colosseum
is not to be missed.
OTHER HITS Sir Elton sang at our recent "Million Dollar Piano" concert were "Empty Garden" (Hey Hey Johnny), written as a tribute to his friend John Lennon,  "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "Philadelphia Freedom," "Crocodile Rock," "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," which brought the screaming audience to its feet. 
SIR ELTON'S Vegas magic goes back to 2003 at Caesar's, when he dazzled with his lauded "The Red Piano" show in the Colosseum. That played through 2009, then in 2011, Sir Elton returned to Las Vegas with a new gig in the same hallowed theater where we saw Bette Midler and Cher.  The Colosseum remains our favorite Vegas venue and the new show -- "The Million Dollar Piano" -- continues its tradition of excellence.  Named after hybrid half-piano, half-video-screen instrument, the creation took Yamaha four years to develop.
GORGEOUS, ever changing visual imagery on the piano creates a spectacular evening, unlike anything we've seen worldwide.
Sir Elton John in earlier days.  He still creates a dazzling presence on stage.
Below right, he smiles with his husband David Furnish.
The piano's built-in video screen complements the music for a mesmerizing concert experience.
Both new and older pieces are there -- with Bernie Taupin's presence felt in his brilliant lyrics. Their long collaboration is one of the most successful in show biz history.
The Colosseum -- at Caesar's --
is the venue for Elton John's new showw.

Performing with Sir Elton is his astonishing band: Davey Johnstone on guitar; Guy Babylon on keyboards; Bob Birch on bass guitar; Ray Cooper on percussion; and Nigel Olsson on drums, plus two fine new Eastern European cellists and four female backup singers including Rose Stone from the original Sly and The Family Stone.
Birds in paradise on the Las Vegas strip, click here
JUST BEFORE Christmas, Sir Elton married his partner of 21 years, David Furnish. They received the Human Rights Campaign's National Equality Award in Washington D.C., between 105 public, charity and private performances on a dizzying 17-country tour.
Our Saturday show was long sold out, but tickets remain for the rest of the Vegas run.  If you are anywhere near Caesar's Colosseum through April 14, be there!  Then Sir Elton takes a couple weeks off before launching a three-month tour. After Texas and Louisiana, he and his orchestra cross the pond to Sir Elton's native United Kingdom, then Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany, Holland and Italy. That tour ends in July, then after a break, the amazingly energetic Sir Elton heads to Australia and New Zealand.
HAPPY BELATED birthday, Sir Elton John. Thank you for years of fantastic entertainment, and for sharing your enormous talent and generous heart.
San Diego Repertory Theatre's artistic
director Sam Woodhouse directs an
electrifying performance of a spin on
the Greek tragedy, "Oedipus Rex."
Lakin Valdez and Monica
Sanchez are electrifying
in "Oedipus El Ray."
DON'T MISS "Oedipus El Ray" at the Lyceum Theater, Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego.  The latest inventive production from San Diego Repertory Theatre  will knock your theatrical socks off.  It's a Latino spin on the classic play, "Oedipus Rex," by Sophocles.  Taking a page from the centuries older Greek playwright, Luis Alfaro creates a moving chorus of three inmates, who move the action forward and explain the tragedy's plot points. Actors Lakin Valdez and Monica Sanchez are electrifying, backed by terrific support on a sparse, effective Lyceum stage.  Rep founder and artistic director Sam Woodhouse displays his usual sense of daring, pushing the envelope with an extensive nude sex scene between Oedipus and his mother. The work is bold, gutsy and memorable -- not for the faint of heart; rather it is for lovers of fine theater. Get your tickets now for the run ends this weekend:
What is it about Australia
that breeds fine actors?
Here's Nicole Kidman.
Up next at lilianslastdance!

NEXT UP AT LILIAN'S LAST DANCE: An artful side of Australian life is its active theatrical and film life. Nicole Kidman returns often to her native land and keeps several homes there. But Australia's love of acting goes back to its early days. Remember to explore, live and learn, and check us out for features on the arts -- movies, TV, museums and books. Visit us weekends at