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CBS News’ "The Early Show" Gives Drama Students a Chance at Their Big Break on Broadway

(May 18, 2006) CBS News’ THE EARLY SHOW is giving ten drama students a chance to make their Broadway dream come true in a six-day series, “My Broadway Debut.” THE EARLY SHOW is teaming up with The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc. for a theatrical competition, which will be broadcast on THE EARLY SHOW, Monday, May 29 – Monday, June 5 (7:00-9:00 AM/ET).

CBS News producers and Broadway casting agent, Bernie Telsey (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Rent”,” “Hairspray,” “The Wedding Singer,”), have selected ten finalists from auditions held at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), Wagner College (Staten Island, NY), University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), University of Arizona (Tucson) and Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida).

The ten finalists, five male/female pairs and one each day for five days, will perform a number from one of the shows featured during the week -- “The Wedding Singer,” “Hairspray,” “Rent,” “Avenue Q,” “Chicago” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” A performer from each of the Broadway shows will be on hand each day to introduce the finalists.

Following is a list of the ten finalists:

Justin Bowen - Florida State University – Hometown: Lynchburg, Va.
Cortney Wolfson – University of Michigan – Hometown: Monticello, Ind.
Kate FitzGibbons – University of Arizona - Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Sean Carroll – Northwestern University – Hometown: Sugar Land, Tex.
Kyle Harris – University of Arizona – Hometown: Irvine, Calif.
Katherine Palardy – Northwestern University – Hometown: Beverly, Mass.
Amanda Snarski – Wagner College – Hometown: Upper Darby, Penn.
Andrew Arrington – University of Michigan- Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Junior Mendez – Florida State University- Hometown: Weston, Fla.
Brianna Horne – Wagner College – Hometown: Magnolia, N.J.

Beginning Friday, June 2, viewers can log on to CBSNews.com to vote for their favorite male and female finalist. The winning pair will return to THE EARLY SHOW on Monday, June 5 for a final performance and to be awarded a walk-on role in one of the featured musicals.

“We are thrilled to be helping students from across the country live out their dream of being on Broadway," said Michael Bass, senior executive producer of THE EARLY SHOW. "It's an honor to have some of the most talented Broadway performers be a part of this series and we are so thankful to have the support of the entire theatre community."

“The excitement of Broadway and live theatre lends itself perfectly to the reality show format,” commented Jed Bernstein, President, The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc. “We applaud CBS’ News THE EARLY SHOW for providing this great showcase for aspiring Broadway talent, and for featuring some of the best of Broadway.”

The series will also feature an eBay auction of memorabilia from participating musicals to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the American theatre community’s not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant making organization.

THE EARLY SHOW is broadcast weekdays (7:00-9:00 AM/ET) on the CBS Television Network. Michael Bass is the senior executive producer. Nanci Ross is the director of special projects and Joe Long is the producer of the series.

The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc.
The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc., created in 1930 is the official trade association for the commercial theatre industry. The League’s 500-plus members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in 140 + North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the theatre industry. Each year, League members bring Broadway to almost 30 million people in New York and across the US and Canada. Visit our website at www.livebroadway.com

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
BC/EFA is the American theatre community's not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant making organization. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, BC/EFA raises funds for AIDS-related causes across the United States. Since its founding in 1988, BC/EFA has raised over $100 million dollars for critically needed services for people with AIDS and other serious illnesses www.broadwaycares.org

Avenue Q
Winner of three 2004 Tony Awards, including Best Musical – Avenue Q is a musical about trying to make it in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Written by a host of talented young theatre artists -- music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (Tony Award), book by Jeff Whitty (Tony Award) and directed by Jason Moore – Avenue Q is performed by a cast of human actors and puppets. Set to begin its fourth year on Broadway in July, Avenue Q has also played an engagement in Las Vegas and will open in London's West End in June 2006. www.avenueq.com

Chicago: The Musical
The hit show, Chicago, has the distinction of being the longest running musical revival in Broadway's history and will be celebrating its 10th smash year at the Ambassador Theatre in November. A razzle dazzle tale of murder, justice and all that jazz, Chicago received 6 1997 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival. In addition to Broadway, a national tour of the show is currently playing as well as a London production, which is in its 9th year.
Starting June 12th, Rita Wilson will join the cast as Roxie Hart. www.chicagothemusical.com

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Based on the popular 1988 MGM film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels centers on two con men living on the French Riviera – the suave and sophisticated Lawrence Jameson (Jonathan Pryce) who makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money; and a small-time crook named Freddy Benson (Norbert Leo Butz), who, more humbly, swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmother’s failing health. After meeting on a train, they unsuccessfully attempt to work together only to find that this small French town isn’t big enough for the two of them. So they make a bet: the first one to extract $50,000 from a young female target, heiress Christine Colgate (Rachel York), triumphs and the other must leave town. What follows are a series of schemes, masquerades and double-crosses in which nothing may ever be exactly what it seems. The production also stars Lucie Arnaz. www.dirtyrottenscoundrelsthemusical.com

The Wedding Singer
With a brand new score that pays loving homage to the pop songs of the 1980’s and a design that captures the styles and spirit that marked the decade, The Wedding Singer, nominated for a 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, is based on the popular New Line Cinema film, takes us back to 1985, a time when hair was big, greed was good, collars were up, and a wedding singer just might be the coolest guy in the room. In this original musical, rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart (Stephen Lynch) is New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer. He’s the life of the party, the ultimate master of ceremonies, the leader of the line dance, the unlikely hero of every party, and a true believer in the power of love—until his own fiancée leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie becomes a newlywed’s worst nightmare—a wedding singer bent on destroying other people’s weddings. Enter Julia (Laura Benanti), a winsome waitress who wins his affection and helps Robbie pick up the pieces of his own heart. Only trouble is Julia is about to be married to a Wall Street shark, and unless Robbie can pull off the performance of the decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever. www.theweddingsingerthemusical.com.

In Hairspray it's 1962—the '50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore's Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion—to dance. She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, "The Corny Collins Show" and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can a plus-size trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program's reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her 'do? Only in Hairspray! Welcome to the '60s!

Hairspray, which is based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, celebrates its fourth anniversary on Broadway in August 2006. It is the winner of eight 2003 Tony Awards, including best musical, and also swept every one of the year’s best musical awards, winning, in addition to the Tony, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Drama League Award. For more information about Hairspray, please consult the Hairspray website at www.hairsprayonbroadway.com.

Inspired by Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent is a joyous and turbulent musical that celebrates a community of young East Villagers as they struggle with the soaring hopes and tough realities of living in New York. Rent, which currently features “American Idol’s” Frenchie Davis in the cast, recently celebrated its tenth anniversary on Broadway and became the seventh longest running show in Broadway history. Rent, written by Jonathan Larson and directed by Michael Greif, opened at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996 following a history making, sold out, extended limited engagement at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop. The musical went on to win every major best musical award, including the Tony Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It also launched the careers of an incredible group of young performers, including Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, and Daphne Rubin-Vega. For more information on Rent, visit www.siteforrent.com

Press contacts:

Alan Cohen (League of American Theatres & Producers)
212-703-0225 acohen@broadway.org

Leigh Farris (CBS News)
212-975-2856 farrisl@cbsnews.com

Janell George (CBS News)
212-975-5959 georgej@cbsnews.com