‘Hedda! A Musical Conversation’ is a very entertaining one-woman show at the Athenaeum Theatre starring Jillann Gabrielle as legendary Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
Written by Gabrielle with book and lyrics by Michael Termine and music by with Howard Pfeifer, ‘Hedda’ is a one-act play that takes place from the mid 1940s through the late 1950s in Hedda Hopper’s living room.
Tasteful furniture, a rolling cart of favorite drinks , clothing racks with dozens of the hats she was famous for wearing and that prime necessity for a gossip columnist, a phone, set the scene for a fun 90 minute peek into the life Hedda Hopper.
Gabrielle’s performance as Hedda is superb as she walks and sings the audience through a life that went from Quaker upbringing to bit MGM player and then famed columnist.
Lively phone conversations and clever songs such as as “Hedda! Queen of Hollywood,” “Off the Record” (there’s audience participation), “Elizabeth, “Hats!” and ‘Don’t Drink the Punch” reveal much of her story.
Among the many things that makes this play interesting there is her interaction with the audience. When the phone or doorbell rings, she looks out at the crowd and says, “I’ll be right back.”
And when the audience hears her say, “Hello, Elizabeth” or “Joan,” or “Marlene” and others, everyone knows who’s there.
Hedda had an amazing effect on not only the motion picture industry, but on politics, as well. Her song “I’m Political” describes her conservative values and moral views as her columns go after Charlie Chaplin and other Communist sympathizers.
She also had famous heated discussions with many of Hollywood’s elite including the Elizabeth Taylor/Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds trio.
Her column had a readership of over 30 million, and it set the stage for many types of columns today.
DETAILS: ‘Hedda! A Musical Conversation’ is at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, through March 17, 2018. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information, call 773-935-6835 or visit AthenaeumTheatre.
Francine Pappadis Friedman
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