HELLO AMERICA!—During the ’60s I was asked to appear with Broadway-famed film and stage actor David Wayne, who was the original star in the musical “Finian’s Rainbow,” with Ella Logan. We were to open at the famed Coconut Grove nightclub, located in the Ambassador Hotel. Naturally, I was excited and anxious to join a group of well-known performers recognized in the business. During the first day of meeting, a young pretty girl showed up for an audition for the lead female role. Her name was Stefanie Powers.
When she got up to sing, I noticed she had the look of a person who was determined to show them that she could do anything required of her for the role. Even though her voice wasn’t quite there in a few ways, it didn’t matter, because she made you believe and feel every emotion she was experiencing. When she finished, I had to tell her how exciting she was as an actress and that no matter what happened, she had a future in the industry. She smiled broadly, took my hand warmly and said, “Thank you, so much.”
Stefanie didn’t get the role. It was given to a very accomplished singer-actress, Kip Hamilton (who, by the way, did an outstanding job in the show). However, it wasn’t long after that when I met Stefanie again. It was at the home of Bill Bash, an acting teacher who had been introduced to me by James Dean years before. Any time he had a group of show folks over for a special gathering or dinner, he made sure I was on the list. The last time we were together, Stefanie showed up looking positive and absolutely stunning. She announced to all of us that she had signed to star in an MGM series called “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E,” and all her success after that is history.
During the years she has tackled some of the toughest roles that any actor could possibly consider. She kept us on the edge of our seat when co-starring with Robert Wagner in “Hart to Hart.” She received raves for appearing in “Follies” at Royal Albert Hall in London, she had her audiences riveted when starring as Norma Desmond in the play “Sunset Boulevard” at the Boston Center for the Arts, and received standing ovations for her performance in the UK stage production of “On Golden Pond.”
Now, Ms. Powers has signed to star in “Gotta Dance,” a pre-Broadway musical currently on stage in Chicago. Her costars include Lillias White, Andre DeShields, Haven Burton and Georgia Engle. The show is about a senior citizen dance team. One can imagine the outrageous moves that will keep the audience glued to their seats watching these veterans do their thing.
The last time I saw Stefanie Powers on stage was in a performance of “The King And I;”she was absolutely brilliant. Her voice, the character, everything that made her the star she is was present, and the audience at the RKO Pantages Theater knew it. She has come a long way. Even though she has had her “bumps,” she has always managed to smile and keep on moving forward. Without a doubt, Stefanie Powers is an extraordinary lady!