Rex Smith – Confessions of a Teen Idol

Rex with Kevin Kline

Rex with Kevin Kline

 

 

By Joel Benjamin

 

 

Rex Smith’s Confessions of a Teen Idol, on August 26th, was a genial mess of a show, a well-meaning frolic through his life, combining film clips, slides, boisterous singing, some awkward hip swinging and an inflated ego that kept this mixed-media autobiography afloat. Although he stressed his professional triumphs, there were moments of domestic discord and—to his shock—new-found fatherhood that tethered the evening to some real emotion. Despite constantly making good-natured fun of himself, the general tenor of the evening was slick faux humility. Mr. Smith is, and was, a wonderful singer with a boyishly sexy personality and a rich voice. He entered singing “Love with a Perfect Stranger,” the first of his many rock hits (“I’m Back Where I’ve Always Been” is another) sung to a precisely engineered pre-recorded tracks.

Rex with Kevin Kline and son Brandon

Rex with Kevin Kline and son Brandon

Born in Atlanta, he formed a band called Tricks straight out of high school in 1973 winding up strong-armed by a Florida gangster. He got out of that scrape with charm and connections, both of which have served him well throughout his remarkable career. He bluffed his way into the New York office of a big manager with a demo tape of “Easy,” resulting in a record deal and tour under the aegis of Columbia Records, returning to Atlanta as a rock hero.

He wound up being cast in a revival of Grease on Broadway which led to appearances on “Love Boat” and a long run as the host of “Solid Gold” and, of course, the famous production of Pirates of Penzance, whose co-star, Kevin Kline, was in the audience (along with a number of other celebrities). In between, there was a disastrous marriage and divorce as well as some domestic bliss.

Rex with Sally Struthers

Rex with Sally Struthers

He starred in “Street Hawk,” an action show where George Clooney made his TV debut and did a stint on “As the World Turns,” returning to Broadway in The Scarlet Pimpernel from which he sang a song or two accompanied by films of his derring-do antics with Rachel York and Douglas Sills.

From a tour of Sunset Blvd. co-starring with Diahann Carroll, he sang the title song. Continuing in the musical theater mode, he belted out “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde and finished off the evening with a raucous “You’re Never Too Old to Rock & Roll,” which seemed to summarize the evening.

Some quiet moments of real candor, without all the folderol of videos and pre-recorded tracks, would have served to give Confessions a cozier, more intimate feel, but it’s clear that he still approaches show business—and his life—with an undimmed vigor and optimism.

 

54 Below

254 West 54th St. (between 8th Ave. & Broadway)

New York, NY

Information and Reservations: 646-476-3551 or www.54Below.com

About Rex Smith: www.rexsmith.com

 

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