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Published: Thursday, 10/28/2010

A lasting impression: Rich Little brings his ‘friends' to Toledo

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Rich Little always will be best known as someone other than himself.

A master mimic, Little, who turns 72 next month, has a repertoire of more than 200 impressions, from celebrities such as Charlton Heston, Johnny Carson, and Orson Welles to the past 10 U.S. presidents up through and including Barack Obama.

A longtime Las Vegas resident, Little is coming through northwest Ohio with a new one-man show, Jimmy Stewart & Friends, he'll perform at 2 p.m. Friday at the Peristyle Theater at Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe St. Tickets are priced from $29 to $45. For more information, call the box office at 419-535-9100. Little will also performat 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio, 10700 State Rt. 118 South, Van Wert. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 1-419-

238-6722.

The Blade recently spoke with Little from his home in Las Vegas about the show.

Q: With all the celebrity impressions you have, what made you choose Jimmy Stewart as the subject for a one-man show?

A: He was such a good friend of mine. I knew him better than any other actor in my life and worked with him several times. Even at one point we had discussed doing a one-man show on his life. It was a funny answer. I said, ‘Jim, I was thinking that maybe someday I would do a oneman show based on your life.' He said to me [impersonates Stewart]: ‘R-R-R-ich I-I-I don't think that'd be a good idea.' I said ‘Why?” He said [Stewart's voice again] ‘Well, g-ggee, the way I talk, y-y-your s-s-show is going to run four hours.' I said, ‘Well, I'll speed you up.' ”

I always wanted to do a oneman show and the two people I considered were definitely Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan. They're both very beloved personalities and have interesting lives, even though there's no scandal really with Jimmy Stewart or with Ronald Reagan, for that matter. Jimmy Stewart and Friends, as the official name of the show,is really a comic look at Jimmy Stewart's life. What makes it different, I think, from any other one-man show is the fact that I'm doing 24 other impressions in the show. So it's not just Jimmy talking for an hour and a half, it's all these different people coming into his life. Some of these people he's worked with, like John Wayne and Walter Brennan and Lionel Barrymore, but I also put into the show a lot of other voices and tied it in somehow to Jimmy's life. I'm doing Andy Rooney, and Dr. Phil and Jack Nicholson and a lot of different celebrities.

Q: Did you write the show

yourself?

A: Yeah. It took a couple of years, actually, because there's just so much material to go through and I read everything there was about Jimmy. I spent a lot of time talking to him, and even made some notes a couple times I was with him about stories he told. So I had to go through all of this material and get the most interesting parts of his life. And because they're going to tie in with an impression of somebody else, I had to gear it towards the people that I imitate.

I'm the type of person that's never completely 100 percent satisfied. I always think it can be better: that joke isn't very good or that character is kind of weak, I've got to improve that. I think now it's probably 80 percent of what I want it to be, if I ever take it to Broadway.

Q: Is that your ultimate plan for Jimmy Stewart & Friends, to take the show to Broadway?

A: Well, that's always been my goal. I never even considered going to Broadway — well, no, actually I have. I could have with the George Burns show. It is a goal of mine to play Broadway. Even if I open and close I can say, ‘Well, I've played Broadway.'”

I think any entertainer, that's one of their goals. You talk to other comedians and there are two things they've always wanted to do: play Vegas and play Broadway. Well, I've certainly played Vegas, been doing that for 30 years. Broadway, I've never been close, except for George Burns and that's it.

Contact Kirk Baird at

kbaird@theblade.com

or 419-724-6734.



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