Rupert Holmes makes ‘Escape’ to Broadway 

n Credited with writing one of the silliest songs of the ’70s, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," Rupert Holmes found far more admirers with his recent work in theater. His "Say Goodnight, Gracie," which opens with Jamie Farr for a three-night run at Robinson Center Music Hall on Monday, Oct. 11, was the 2004 Tony Award winner for Best Play. With "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," Holmes was the first in theatrical history to win Tony Awards for Best Book, Best Music and Best Lyrics for the same work, while the play won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Holmes also picked up New York Drama Desk honors for "Edwin Drood." His Broadway comedy-mystery "Accomplice" also took several awards. His "Solitary Confinement," starring Stacy Keach, set Kennedy Center box-office records and reached Broadway. Still, when people visit with Holmes, the first line to come up is usually, "Do you like pina colladas?" (Oh how ’70s music, and Holmes’ career, might have been different had his original line, "Do you like Humphrey Bogart?" stayed in the story-song about personal ads.) "We’re going on 25 years with that song," he said by telephone from his Westchester County, N.Y., office. Coincidentally, an episode of NBC’s "Las Vegas" a week before this interview had used the song as part of a storyline about card-counters. "There’s an alert system out there that tells me every time it’s mentioned," he added, laughing. Holmes put the pina colada aside long ago — few probably know he wrote the Jets’ hit "You Got It All (Over Him)." And his novel-writing and play-writing success, too, might surprise some ’70s music fans. The Niack, N.J. native — "Its main attribute was it rhymed with kayak," he said — migrated from struggling singer-songwriter to playwright in the ’80s on the strength of his storytelling. Joe Papp, a producer of "A Chorus Line" and Shakespeare in the Park, pointed out to Holmes that when he was performing his songs, he really was performing a la theater. So, from that push, Holmes worked for three years on an idea about the extended life of Charles Dickens that became "Edwin Drood," which Papp produced in Central Park before it went to Broadway and London’s West End at the Savoy. "Suddenly, I was in theater," he said. Then, he said, "I decided I would write something that didn’t rhyme." "Say Goodnight, Gracie" is an offshoot of the Emmy-winning TV series Holmes created and wrote, "Remember WENN," about the golden age of radio. "I was born in 1947 when the golden age was going out," he said. "I collected old radio shows. Half of it was what you’d hear, but you were the cinematographer, the vision was yours. It was a wonderful world. It was quite a unique artform that lasted only a short while because TV made it obsolete." George Burns and Gracie Allen were a big part of that radio world, as well as vaudeville on its back end and TV in its early years. Approached about writing a show on the life of George Burns, Holmes jumped, and spent almost the next year and a half immersing himself in all things Burns. "When you write the story of George Burns, because he lived to 100, you are writing about American entertainment," Holmes said, adding that Burns "did some things that were theater of the absurd, that were way ahead of their time." Gracie Allen completed Burns, and "Say Goodnight, Gracie," he says, "is a love story. It’s as much about Gracie as it is George." Farr, best known for his role as Cpl. Max Klinger on "M.A.S.H.," has stepped in for impressionist Frank Gorshin, who originated the role on Broadway. Coincidentally, Holmes as a child took a liking to the actor and his style when he saw Farr bespectacled (as Holmes was at age 8) in "The Blackboard Jungle." Farr, a semi-regular on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in the 1960s, was taken under the wing of Red Skelton. "He has a real sense of show business history as well," Holmes said. "He’s very endearing in the role. Jamie’s found me some new laughs that I didn’t have before." Holmes’ first novel, "Where the Truth Lies," is being made into a movie starring Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Allison Loman and directed by Atom Agoyan ("The Sweet Hereafter"). He’s wrapping up the book to a musical written by John Kander and the late Fred Epp that will open in Los Angeles in 2005, and recently finished a musical based on the 1956 movie "Marty" and starring John C. Reilly. Then there’s a new novel in the works, set in the big-band era. "It’s all slightly mind-boggling right now," he said. It’s almost enough to drive one to drink — at least pina coladas. "I’ve never had one," Holmes said. Showtimes for "Say Goodnight, Gracie" are 7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and tickets range from $13 to $33. Call Celebrity Attractions at 244-8800 or order through Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com).

From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Jim Harris

  • Riverfest turns 40

    Party with Wiz Khalifa, Morris Day and The Time, Cold War Kids and more.
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • Review: Postmodern Jukebox at Clear Channel Metroplex

    The band’s shows cover most of the songs that have either been Youtube viewing sensations or are already album classics with that PMJ touch, such as Taylor Swift’s “Shake, Shake, Shake” and Radiohead’s “Creep.” Consider us blown away though by the show’s main set concluding number of The Postal Service/Ben Gibbard-penned “Such Great Heights” done as if by the Jackson 5 in an “I Want You Back” styling.
    • May 6, 2017
  • Review: Boston at Verizon Arena

    As it was, nobody left the arena and into a suddenly chilly April night saying, “I wished they’d played [song name].” Boston played it all, whether you wanted it or not.
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Industrial hemp pilot program coming soon to Arkansas

    One of the booths at this week's Ark-La-Tex Medical Cannabis Expo was hosted by the Arkansas Hemp Association, a trade group founded to promote and expand non-intoxicating industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in the state. AHA Vice President Jeremy Fisher said the first licenses to grow experimental plots of hemp in the state should be issued by the Arkansas State Plant Board next spring.

Latest in Jim Harris

  • What a great, fast eight years

    Eight years. I’ve really been “at the job” of newspapers for much longer, it just focused on entertainment during these past eight years. Starting next week, it will focus on sports. Again. Where I started eons ago.
    • May 4, 2007
  • Mickelson goes by the numbers

    It's all in the short game, Phil Mickelson says s at Alotian.
    • Apr 26, 2007
  • Back to what I really love

    Where was I, the sports lover, the guy who couldn’t wait for Dickey-Stephens to open, a few of you may ask? I was checking out one of my other loves: a local, original music show at Juanita’s that the University of Central Arkansas Honors College had pull
    • Apr 23, 2007
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation