An Evening with Kiki Ebsen at Theatre West
I’ve been a lifelong fan of classic film and the Wizard of Oz was my gateway. I watched it when I was four, became obsessed and it remains one of my favorite films to this day. Naturally, I know a lot of the anecdotes that surround it including the fact that Buddy Ebsen was the first Tin Man. Did you know that? Well, the aluminum powder almost killed him so he was replaced with Jack Haley. It must have been a blow but he did alright with major roles in Davy Crockett, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and, of course, The Beverly Hillbillies. Currently, his daughter, Kiki Ebsen, is performing her one woman show To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen and I was lucky enough to be invited to attend.
Kiki, one of Ebsen’s seven children, has had a successful career of her own as a singer. For over 20 years she supported the likes of Tracey Chapman, Boz Scaggs and Al Jarreau as a backup vocalist and keyboardist. Today, she works as a solo artist touring and releasing several albums including Scarecrow Sessions – a tribute the music of her father’s films.
In addition to her singing career Kiki has also written and produced the show To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen currently playing at Theatre West. In the production she pays tribute to her famous dad through personal stories and song and dance.
As a fan of classic Hollywood I’ve heard several stories of strained relations between the famous and their offspring. I’m happy to say this is not a part of Kiki’s show. While she does acknowledge her parents’ divorce and the pain it put her through the production remains a loving tribute to her father.
Kiki’s personal stories are insightful and amusing. I must admit I didn’t know much about Buddy Ebsen prior to attending and I came away with a greater knowledge of this fascinating man. Did you know he was the model for Abraham Lincoln at Disneyland? Or that he was an avid sailor that designed his own boats? Or that he took up painting when he was in his 80’s? He was a true Renaissance man.
In addition to the storytelling the show also features Kiki, supported by a jazz quartet, singing the songs of her dad’s era including several from his films. I must say I was blown away by Kiki’s vocals – the gal can sing! Her beautiful interpretations of Moon River, Comes Love and At the Codfish Ball garnered enthusiastic applause and I found myself filled with joy.
To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen is beautiful tribute to one of Hollywood’s most fascinating stars and a showcase for Kiki Ebsen’s vocal talents. If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood it’s not to be missed and I’m so glad I had a chance to see it. It’s run continues through September 22, 2019 and you can find tickets here.