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Tommy Tune, Chita Rivera and Sophia Loren Headed to Galveston

The Grand 1894 Opera House hosts Chita & Tune – Two For The Road: Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune, September 23, in Galveston.
The Grand 1894 Opera House hosts Chita & Tune – Two For The Road: Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune, September 23, in Galveston.
Photos by Joseph Sinnott / THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Peter Glebo
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It looks like Galveston's historic opera house will be rolling out the red carpet on more than a few occasions this season, with big names from cinema and stage jetting in for iconic, one-night-only performances.

Hearts were broken all along the Texas coast when statuesque film star Sophia Loren cancelled her stop at The Grand 1894 Opera House earlier this year but, in the ultimate of do-overs, An Evening with Sophia Loren is back on the books for November 12.

Chita Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical (The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman) and received eight additional Tony nominations.
Chita Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical (The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman) and received eight additional Tony nominations.
Photo by Laura Marie Duncan

And gold stars to the genius who thought up the pairing of Tony Award®-winners Tommy Tune and Chita Rivera (West Side Story, Kiss of the Spider Woman) in September's Chita & Tune – Two For The Road. Here in the Lone Star State we've got a soft spot for Tune, the Wichita Falls boy who went to the big city — New York City — and did Texas proud. But not before logging some time right here in H-Town attending Lamar High School and studying dance under Patsy Swayze.

Every year we're jockeying to see the up-and-comers who make it to the Theatre Under The Stars stage for the annual Tommy Tune Awards. Established in 2002 by TUTS, the best of the best performers, directors, choreographers, orchestras and designers from high-school productions are recognized and rewarded for their excellence.

"In the first year we had 12 schools; last year we had 48. It just quadrupled itself; it's an amazing program," says Tune. "I'm so proud. I couldn’t make it last year, but I try to attend as often as I can."

Tune says that, when he went to Lamar, his was the only school in the city that did a spring musical. Now it seems that all of the schools are competing, pulling out all the stops with orchestras, costumes and choreography.

"They run it just like for the Tonys," says Tune of the Tony Awards-style ceremony that includes musical numbers from nominated shows. "They don’t get a Tony, they get a Tommy. The competition is tough."

As for what's trending now on high school stages in Houston, Tune says he sees both classics, often with large ensemble casts, as well as a few risks.

"I just love that they do go back to the old shows from the golden age. Some group had done Hello, Dolly! and it was just wonderful to see all these young people doing all this older material and loving it. The old shows are really good; the songs are great," says Tune. "One of them tackled [Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street]. They don’t shy away from the darker musicals."

Tune tells us this will be the first time he's performed on stage with Rivera. "This is a dream job and we started rehearsals yesterday. I was so excited. I could not go to sleep," says Tune. "I kept telling myself, 'It's OK. It’s OK, there’s going to be another rehearsal tomorrow.' She’s so wonderful to work with, we’re falling in with each other."

Chita & Tune – Two For The Road: Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune is scheduled for Saturday, September 23 at 8 p.m. at The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, Galveston, 800-821-1894, thegrand.com. $48 to $165.

The Grand 1894 Opera House hosts An Evening with Sophia Loren, November 12, in Galveston.
The Grand 1894 Opera House hosts An Evening with Sophia Loren, November 12, in Galveston.
Photo courtesy of Sophia Loren and The Grand 1894 Opera House

There's nothing negative to say about Sophia Loren. Ever.

Okay, maybe the film version of Verdi's Aida (1953) was the Italian movie clunker to end all movie clunkers, but young, earthy Sophia barged through that experience when everyone else would have sunk. Dubbed by opera's super diva Renata Tebaldi and swathed in non-P.C. nut-brown body makeup, she's an eyeful.

When the statuesque 19-year-old caught the eye of movie producer Carlo Ponti, she subsequently conquered Italian cinema, besieged Hollywood, soon had the world at her feet, Ponti as her husband and a Best Actress Academy Award for Vittorio de Sica's Two Women (1960), the first acting prize ever given to an actor in a foreign film.

During her abundant career she starred with A-listers Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Marcello Mastroianni (her most frequent co-star), Paul Newman, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Peter O'Toole and Daniel Day-Lewis.

She has stories to tell, both personal and professional, and she'll tell them with film clips and home movies during An Evening with Sophia Loren at The Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston. She will be in conversation with former Entertainment Tonight host Bill Harris, who will facilitate questions from audience members.

Loren has received a Grammy Award, five special Golden Globes, a BAFTA Award, a Laurel Award as Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and an Honorary Academy Award in 1991. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarded her the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1995. Her autobiography, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – My Life, was released in 2014, telling the story of an illegitimate girl from the south of Italy who became one of the most glamorous international film stars.

Who could pass up a one-nighter with this singular cinema icon?

An Evening with Sophia Loren is scheduled for Sunday, November 12 at 4 p.m. at The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, Galveston, 800-821-1894, thegrand.com. $55 to $275.

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