Created by Dustin and Kiki Ebsen. Performed by Kiki Ebsen. Directed by S.E. Feinberg.
September 6 – 22, Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm.
I have a confession to make. I have seen this show before. Last year in fact, when Kiki Ebsen and her stellar team first put it up at Theatre West.
But like anything good, anything with depth and thoughtfulness and purpose, there are many layers. And the second time around the layers are merely deeper and more interesting.
Kiki Ebsen is the daughter of Buddy Ebsen – “Beverly Hillbillies,” “Davey Crocket,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Barnaby Jones” and decades of Broadway musicals. He’s a huge star of stage and screen and television. A gifted musician, songwriter, phenomenal dancer and a beloved and iconic American dad. Like most dads, he also had many hidden layers and this musical play is Kiki’s journey through those layers. Her way to uncover who her father was as a man. For fathers are still men and as a daughter of a complex man myself, I know all too well how far away one must sometimes be from them to see them clearly.
This production has been years in the making. Because I saw another connotation of it last year, I can tell that it has been honed and refined and also added to since I saw it last. It is in fact quite beautifully crafted, each moment and each song carefully chosen, photograph and film clip selected and displayed on the large screens either side of the stage is perfectly balanced and exquisitely formed.
This is a love letter from Kiki and her brother Dustin, who helped create it, to their father.
A man we all know of course, but the private man, husband, father, artist, we hardly knew at all and Kiki rediscovered him years after his death and after her mother passed away. While going through a long-forgotten trunk in her mother’s house she found a treasure trove of memorabilia. Moments from Buddy Ebsen’s life, records, costumes, screenplays, photographs, letters and precious and amazing bits and pieces of his life and career all tucked safely away like a time capsule.
My home is covered with my family memories. In the books and the paintings and the furniture. In the coats hanging in closets and the sweaters tucked away in drawers. We keep what we need to wrap around us when those we loved and lost no longer can. For Kiki and Dustin the treasures are more plentiful. As children they would search the television airwaves looking for dad, how wonderful that they can now still do the same.
“To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen” is a heartfelt and moving portrait of not just a man but a relationship.
With the help of an absolutely incredible jazz band and her outstanding vocals, Kiki tells us about her life with Buddy Ebsen in a very intimate, musical and human way. She looks past his flaws (we all have those after all) and shows us nothing but thankfulness and love. This is how I would want my children to remember me quite frankly, with honesty, with love, a few tears and a lot of laughter and pride. There’s a lovely moment toward the end of the show when Gregory Gast, as Buddy Ebsen, comes on stage and dances with Kiki. Such a touching and poignant way to complete the journey through their lives.
“To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen” is only playing from September 6 to 22. I guarantee you will love this show.
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, LA, CA 90068