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Bette Midler signs on as musical's producer

By Wayne Harada


Add "producer" to the many show biz hats worn by Hawaii's Bette Midler. The Divine Miss M gets top billing, as a producer/investor, when the Broadway-bound musical "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" arrives at Times Square's Palace Theatre on Feb. 28 for previews, leading up to its March 20 premiere.

This hit show with Sydney and London origins recently played in Toronto. It is based on the 1994 film about the misadventures of three Down Under drag queens who travel by bus across the Australian outback. Tony Sheldon will reprise the role of Bernadette, and expect Tony buzz. The musical score embraces disco and Top 40 faves of the era and would likely appeal to the "Mamma Mia" crowd.

Midler joins a celeb producer's club that already includes Oprah Winfrey ("The Color Purple"), Elton John ("Next Fall") and Jay-Z, Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith ("Fela!"). ...

HERE 'N' THERE: That was Steven Tyler, the Aerosmith rocker and "American Idol" judge, at the Honolulu Coffee Co.'s coffee bar at the Shops at Wailea several days in a row last week on Maui, which must make Ed Schultz, company president, mighty happy. He's still glowing about pouring his best cuppa joe at last month's Golden Globes "gift event," meeting a number of nominees and actors, including Dennis Quaid, Adrien Brody, Morgan Fairchild, Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Seidler (Oscar nominee who scripted "The King's Speech") and several "Lost" actors like Terry O'Quinn, Naveen Andrews, Daniel Dae Kim and Carrie Preston (wife of Michael Emerson). Brody, the 2003 Oscar winner ("The Pianist") who sampled Schultz's "Lava Rocks" chocolate, dubbed it "too cool" and wound up winning a trip to Hawaii that will include a private tour of a Kona coffee farm. ...

Vanita Rae Smith, retired Army Community Theatre honcho, is the Hawaii rep for the American World War II Orphans Network, which focuses on the annual Spirit of '45 Day. The observance pays homage to the 183,000 American children left fatherless by the war and honors the sacrifices that defined a generation. Smith hopes to stage a salute specifically to recognize Hawaii's own 442nd Regimental Combat "Go for Broke" Team. To kokua, e-mail vanitaraesmith@hawaii.rr.com. ...

Conrad Pratt, one-time member of Marcelo Pacleb's 24/7 DanceForce ohana, will be part of Ricky Martin's new tour, "Musica + Alma + Sexo," launching March 25 in Puerto Rico. His family still resides in Kaneohe. He joins a short but growing list of local Pacleb students who've danced with giants of music like Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga. ...

YESTERDAY ONCE MORE: Remember Fred Piluso, one-time islander who operated Scruples for nearly three decades on Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki? He called from Ohio the other day, saying he's returning to Hawaii soon to resume some kind of nightclub operation, when the time is right, in the spirit of his Scruples, "but smaller." ...

Eddie Sherman filled the chapel at the Arcadia retirement residence when he shared yarns of folks like Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in the islands from his "Frank, Marlon, Sammy & Me" book. Could be the start of a new "career"; the former three-dot columnist has been huddling with Princess cruise line folks about doing on-ship chats laced with his Hawaii memories in the South Pacific. ...

It's a reunion for several Murray Louis Dance Company members, in the University of Hawaii's "Dancing Greener: Recycle, Renew, Recreate" dance concert, playing for the last time today at Kennedy Theatre. UH professor Betsy Fisher, who staged the "Porcelain Dialogues" piece, was a Louis company member years ago and danced with Janis Brenner, who has been teaching the cast the piece. And Peter Koletzke, who was stage manager of a 1980 tour of "Porcelain" at Kennedy, is back to re-create the original Alwin Nikolais lighting. ...

And that's "Show Biz." ...

Wayne Harada is a veteran entertainment columnist; reach him at 266-0926 or wayneharada@gmail.com; read his Show and Tell Hawaii blog at www.staradvertiser.com.

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