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Salem Gets 'StarCrossed' on Theater Stage
By Doug Gruse
Features Editor, The Post-Star
Published: Friday, August 13, 2010
 
Salem isn’t a place where Hollywood scandals take center stage, but that will change this weekend.

“StarCrossed, A Musical Tale of Triumph and Tragedy in Old Hollywood,” which opens Friday and runs through Aug. 22 at the Fort Salem Theater, tells the story of one woman’s search to learn the identity of her biological mother, who may have been a screen icon.

The unusual premise is based on the life of Kate Brex, according to the theater’s artistic director, Jay Kerr. Kerr and Brex were married in the 1970s.

“Our quest was neither amusing nor heart-warming,” said Kerr.

Decades later, Kerr is bringing the true story to the stage, along with the help of playwright Al Budde.
Brex was found on the side of an Illinois road in 1948. Years later, when she was looking to start a career in Hollywood, an agent asked her if her mother had been one of Hollywood’s leading ladies. The resemblance was undeniably striking, Kerr said.

Local performer Laura Roth takes on the role of Brex’s possible mother in a series of flashback sequences.
“I play Judy Martin, which is kind of like a Judy Garland character,” Roth said.

The casting required Roth, who is known for her cabaret performances, to stretch her chops as both an actress and dancer. “I haven’t done theater in a long, long time. This is pretty exciting. I didn’t know I was going to be dancing this much,” Roth said of her segments, which mimic classic MGM musicals.

The cast also features Andrea Green, Benita Zahn, Robert Silver, Jim Raposa and Peter Kidd. Zahn, a WNYT-TV NewsChannel13 news anchor, is becoming a regular performer at the Salem theater. “This is my fourth summer up there. The whole environment, once you make that turn into Greenwich, you feel like you are in a whole other world,” said Zahn.

Although Zahn had planned to take this summer off, she said she was drawn to the production. “The story is powerful, and Jay (Kerr) has amassed great talent for it,” she said.

Roth, who usually performs alone, is enjoying the camaraderie of the cast and crew. “I really miss working with other people. It’s a support group,” she said. “I love doing my solo work, but I miss that family aspect. It’s a great group of people. No divas. No egos. No drama.”
     
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