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'Alive From Broadway'

North High grad's show gets a Tony nomination

North High grad's show gets a Tony nomination

June 16, 2007|by JULIA COPLEY

HAGERSTOWN - Justin Bond - more widely known on Broadway as Kiki DuRane, his "boozy chanteusie" alter ego - had his show nominated for the highest honor in theater.

But Bond hasn't always been in the Big Apple. He got his start in Hagerstown.

The Tony-nominated show "Kiki & Herb: Alive From Broadway" stars Bond, a graduate of North Hagerstown High School, and his longtime performance partner, Kenny Mellman, as Herb, his accompanist, in the latest of a long line of Kiki cabaret shows.

In the show, Bond plays an aging female lounge singer who intersperses cabaret songs with extended rants on her life, politics, sex, Manhattan clam chowder and virtually any topic.

Their shows are a combination of music, political commentary, comedy and gritty reality. In addition to their Broadway engagement, they have played at Carnegie Hall, but their show appeals mostly to the more intimate lounge and club audiences.

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The script of the latest Kiki and Herb installment, as with those that preceded it, was written by Mellman and Bond. Once on stage, the two use the prepared script as a guideline and just let it flow.

Bond, 44, who holds a master of arts degree in scenography (the study of the composition of scenes) from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London, masterminded the set, lighting and costume. He called himself "a bit of a control freak," and said that cutting out a director prevented him from having to split the "singular vision" he had for the production.

Since he's concerned about the environment, Bond said, he set "Alive From Broadway" in "a national park at the end of the world." The floor is a black oil slick, with a dead tree rising starkly. A large Fiberglas leaf provides a place for Mellman's piano.

Bond's set is designed with a nod to his hometown. The band shell in Hagerstown City Park was inspiring in the way it "just rises out of the woods," Bond said. He said he designed his set with that stark contrast in mind.

As for Kiki, he said, "She's this drunk, older woman, so she can say those (outrageous) things. And I love women who are like that, and everybody knows some woman like that ... Everyone has an aunt or a neighbor like Kiki. They might be chaotic, but they definitely keep things interesting."

Bond said he had dreamed of being a performer from an early age.

"I wasn't born in a rich family," Bond said, and when he saw the glamorous people on television, he was hooked.

His mother, Lois Bond, said she has seen him perform at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway, as well as in other venues. She's proud of him, but has a hard time thinking of him as a celebrity.

"He's pretty famous, I guess, but I can't think of him like that," she said.

His first performance was at 18 months, at the Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, where he had a small speaking role in a children's Christmas performance. "Even though I'm very small," he announced to the congregation, "I can wish you Merry Christmas, one and all."

His first major performance was at Pangborn Elementary School, he said, when he sang "Superstar" by The Carpenters. He was shy, so he stood behind the television.

His star character, Kiki, wasn't conceived until decades later, in the early 1990s in San Francisco.

Amidst the AIDS crisis, seeing his young friends die, the shy Bond found an avenue of expression in the female persona of Kiki.

"I wanted to say something, but as a young man, I created a cool way to give voice to all these things I wanted to say," he said.

His advice to a young Hagerstonian who wants to reach for the stars?

"Live your dreams, and you will be loved," he said. "That's my motto."

"Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway" was nominated for the Best Special Theatrical Event at Sunday's Tony Awards. He was pitted against a ventriloquist and puppet show called "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only."

He didn't win the award, but before the show, Bond said winning or losing both would have their good points.

"Either I win the Tony, or I get to spend the rest of my life talking about how I lost to the puppet. It's a win-win situation."

ยท Video clips of performances by Kiki & Herb can be found at www.youtube.com. The show's Web site is www.kikiandherb.com.

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