You remember Buddy Ebsen, he was Jed Clampett on the smash hit TV series The Beverly Hillbillies. Then there were also appearances on The Red Skelton Hour, Rawhide, The Dean Martin Show, Hawaii Five-O, Gun Smoke, Bonanza and Barnaby Jones to name but a few of Buddy’s many TV appearances. But long before that as a very young man Buddy went to New York City in search of a career in the performing arts. He was a dancer and worked in vaudeville and eventually on Broadway before moving west to build his immense television career. At the 50-year point in Buddy Ebsen’s life, his wife gave birth to Kiki Ebsen. Kiki came into a world very few will ever experience. Buddy passed away on July 6th 2003 at the age of 95. But for 45 years Kiki Ebsen got a rare look at the complex and talented man she called “Dad.” From that experience she has produced and stars in one of the most compelling stage performances I have ever had the privilege of seeing and thoroughly enjoying. It is called “To Dad With Love. A Tribute to Buddy Epsen” And unfortunately the run ends this week so allow me to suggest that you do not miss this show. It is at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, California with performances Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Make your reservations now by calling 323-851-7977. But please allow me to explain a bit more.
Kiki Ebsen walks you through the experiences of living with a major TV star. That may seem like a very good situation and in many ways it was. But in one example at an early age she could not figure out how her dad managed to get into that big box with a screen displaying a black and white image. Okay so that is kind of funny. Later on she recalls when Ronald Reagan invited Buddy and the family to the nearby Reagan ranch for a party. Buddy being Buddy decided that the best way for he and his family to make an entrance was to ride in on horse-back. Mom was not thrilled but they did it.
There is an abundance videos of Buddy Ebsen in action including one hilarious experience with Buddy and a young girl, only 6 years old at the time, by the name of Shirley Temple. Together they delivered a very impressive dance routine.
This show belongs to Kiki Ebsen who delivers magnificently, but she couldn’t do it alone so helping her make it happen and happen very well are:
Steve Wallace, Writer and Producer
Dustin Ebsen, Sound and Production Designer
S. E. Feinberg, Director
Gregory Gast, Choreographer and Dancer
Jeff Colella, Musical Director and Pianist
Kim Richmond, Band Member – woodwinds
Kendall Kay, Band Member – drums
Granville “Danny” Young, Band Member – bass
Ernest McDaniel, Stage Manager and Lighting Designer
Working together this amazing team of abundantly talented people deliver a spell binding performance on the life of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, Buddy Ebsen, as experienced through the eyes of his youngest daughter Kiki Ebsen. True it does not have all the production values of let’s say “The Lion King” on Broadway but what it offers in abundance is a rich deep sense of familial love told with true passion by Kiki Ebsen who clearly has inherited a significant amount of dad’s immense talent.
Truly I have been privileged to have viewed literally thousands of stage performances in London’s West End, on Broadway and in Los Angeles and absolutely “To Dad With Love a Tribute to Buddy Ebsen” is among the best of the best. But again there are only three performances left so do book it now and you will be very happy that you did.
Photos: Courtesy of “To Dad With Love”