Published On: Thu, Apr 15th, 2010

Mitzi Gaynor to ‘razzle dazzle’ audience at Wold Performing Arts kickoff

By Skip Sheffield

BOCA RATON — Ground was broken in November 2008, a dedication was held March 26 of this year, and now the $15 million Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center of Lynn University opens to the public for its first show, “Razzle Dazzle: My Life behind the Sequins,” starring Mitzi Gaynor.

“I’m so honored to be asked to open a new theater,” remarked Gaynor by telephone from California. ‘I love Florida so much. I always love returning. This time it will be extra special.”

Shows will be held April 17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 18 at 4 p.m. at the theater on the Lynn campus on Military Trail in Boca Raton.

Technically Gaynor is the second theater, concert and movie star to perform at the Wold Center. Bernadette Peters entertained March 26 at a private party hosted by philanthropist Elaine Wold.

“Performing arts can change young people’s lives for the better,” said Peters from New York. “Performing arts enrich the mind and train the body. To be part of the dedication of a new theater, especially in these challenging economic times, is a privilege.”

Both Bernadette Peters and Mitzi Gaynor have been performing since childhood, and so both know how theater and music can enrich lives, and if one is lucky, become a career.

Mitzi began as a child ballerina and then chorus dancer. She broke into films at age 19. Notable roles include “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954), “Les Girls,” and her biggest film role of all: Nellie Forbush in the film version of “South Pacific” (1958), directed by Broadway and Hollywood legend Josh Logan.

Mitzi achieved notoriety with a new generation on the second of two Ed Sullivan appearances with a new British group called The Beatles.

“When Ed asked me to be on the show he mentioned some rock and roll group from Liverpool, England was on the program.” she recalls. “But on Feb. 16, 1964 they were The Beatles. They were dear and sweet to me.”

Sullivan had given Mitzi top billing over the Beatles.

She scandalized some in the television audience of 70 million by performing “Too Darn Hot” dripping with sweat as she sang and danced.

“They had turned off the air conditioning in the Deauville Hotel Theater because of the broadcast,” she explains. “The Beatles were sweating too, but you couldn’t tell because of their suits.”

You will hear tidbits like this and much more in “Razzle Dazzle,” which stems from a retrospective created for the Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles when Mitzi was given a lifetime achievement award it 2007. It marked her return to show business after the Dec. 4, 2006 death of her manager and husband of 52 years, Jack Bean.

“Jack’s death really laid me low. I was not going to work again,” she reveals. “But Bob Mackie and Tony Charmoli talked me into doing a retrospective, and it grew from there.”

Theater Arts director Jan McArt has seen Mitzi’s show and raves about it.

“She’s adorable and so lovable, declares McArt.” “She’s also very, very funny. Her flash clips are devastatingly good.”

This good show is for a good cause: the beginning of a new era in performing arts at Lynn University.

“These young people are given a gift of their talents,” said Dr. Jon Robertson, director of Lynn Conservatory of music. “Now they have a state-of-the art facility to share these talents. This theater is not just the best that is available; its design is a work of art. The acoustic shell is being made now. When it is finished this will be the most beautiful, acoustically perfect theater in South Florida.”

Tickets for Mitzi Gaynor’s “Razzle Dazzle” are $45, $65 and $70. Call 561-237-9000 or visit tickets@lynn.edu.

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