The last leading man

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • September 15, 2005

by Karen Feld

Don’t miss sexy baritone and Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, who’s performing with the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, with Marvin Hamlisch conducting, at the Kennedy Center tonight through Saturday. Stokes Mitchell calls the Kennedy Center “my second home” – you probably saw him there performing in “King Hedley II” or “Sweeney Todd.” “The vibe here is great,” he told me.Stokes Mitchell has been doing more concerts since his son, Ellington, was born 21 months ago. “It’s an easier schedule [than Broadway],” he said. “When I’m doing eight shows a week, that means vocal rest or silence. It’s a monk-like existence. I want to be able to yell and scream and play with Ellington.”

Dad says son is already “quite the performer,” but he doesn’t think he’ll steer him into that as a career. “It’s really difficult to make a living solely performing.” Stokes Mitchell is one of the lucky and talented ones who has been able to do that.

Nod to Chita and Broadway

The New York Times called Stokes Mitchell “the last leading man.” When I asked him why he thinks he earned that praise, he told me he learned from Chita Rivera, whom he worked with in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” “Everybody loves and respects Chita. She knows the name of every member of the cast and crew and each musician. She shows that she appreciates each one. She does it in a magnanimous, kind-hearted way. And what’s more, she has a great sense of humor,” said Stokes Mitchell. “If I’m a lead in a Broadway show, that’s the way I want to be. Some of that ‘Chita-ness’ has rubbed off.”

And now his wife, dancer Allyson Tucker, is rehearsing with Chita in San Diego – where Stokes Mitchell began his acting career – for Chita’s new musical, “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life,” which heads to Broadway Dec. 11. Chita grew up right here in D.C., so Washington has a part in the autobiographical show as well.

When he’s in concert, Stokes Mitchell approaches each song as an actor does: “I act the beats in a song,” he told me. This guy juggles many hats. He’s just finishing his first album, which he’s been working on for the past eight years and will likely be released in the spring. He’s produced, engineered, orchestrated and arranged the bulk of it.

It will likely be called “Brian Stokes Mitchell” since “it’s a portrait musically of who I am and captures my spirit,” he said, and combines musical theater with jazz and orchestral influences.

Buy a piece of Terra’s world

Arts advocate Judith Terra has put her house in Vernon, France, on the market. She and her late husband, Ambassador Dan Terra, purchased it about 11 years ago. If you happen to have $1.8 million to spare for a getaway abroad, it’s fabulous with its six 18th-century buildings within a huge walled-in space. Judith’s favorite is an old Victorian greenhouse. The property sits adjacent to Chateau de Bizy and is near Giverny, where Dan Terra founded an art museum.

Your neighbor exposed

Ever wonder who your neighbor really is or what he really does for a living? That’s the premise for a new drama in development at CBS and Paramount Network Television. Elwood Reid and Larry Sanitsky created the project about the private lives of those in our city who work in covert operations. The two, who previously teamed on a miniseries based on Robert Ludlum’s novel “The Hades Factor,” as well as an ABC telefilm, “The Pennsylvania Miners Story,” will exec produce. Reid, who has been called “a hip Jack London,” will write the script as well.

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