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I Left My Heart

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After testing their initial formula with no less a figure than Frank Sinatra—in the musical tribute titled My Way—David Grapes and Todd Olson are at it again. This time, however, their subject is the man who Sinatra declared to be “the best singer in the business:" Tony Bennett.

Under Grapes’ crooner cool direction, I Left My Heart (at the Laguna Playhouse, through August 21) is a low-key, but melodically intense showcase for that sizeable songbook stamped by the vibrant tenor voice of Tony Bennett.  With such classics as Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” and—of course—Douglass Cross and George Cory’s, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” it’s clear that Bennett adhered to the unsolicited advice once given to him by Sinatra, “Sing only the best songs.”

As with My Way, I Left My Heart offers no characterization of the show’s central subject. Rather, three fabulous singers—Dan Callaway, Rob Sutton, and Danny Gurwin, tenors all—pay homage to Bennett by vocalizing his big-hits—“I Wanna Be Around”—by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt (there’s a story there…)—as well as his little lost treasures, such as “Stranger in Paradise,” by Robert Craig Wright and George Forrest.

Further, the trio of performers delivers the narrative of Bennett’s ascent to fame and fortune in the tough and tumble music biz with flair and good humor. Bennett quotes, like “My gimmick is that I have no gimmick,” lend insight into the sturdy artistry that defines Bennett, the entertainer: He is sincerity put to song.  Anecdotes such as the one about the time Bennett appeared on Bob Hope’s weekly television program suggest how Bennett may have shifted the recording industry. Hope stared into the camera and wisecracked, “I was getting tired of Bing Crosby, anyway.”

Offering over three-dozen interpretations of some of Bennett’s most popular and often most challenging recordings,  supported by a live four-piece band (led by Vince Di Mura), and made elegant by Bruce Goodrich’s sophisticated  scenic and costume designs and D. Martyn Bookwalter’s urbane lighting motif, I Left My Heart is a thoroughly satisfying show. Those who know the songs will likely bask in the glow of reminiscence. For the uninitiated, you won’t be the first newcomers to be carried away by the aural delights of Tony Bennett. Since hitting the scene over fifty-years ago, Bennett has never been without a loyal fan-base. And, at age 83, Bennett’s legion of devotees continues to expand in numbers.

I Left My Heart continues at the Laguna Playhouse—606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach—through August 21. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. For reservations, dial (949) 497 – 2787. For online ticketing and further information, visit ""



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.