The epic, old-Hollywood rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis will come together in an original, one-woman musical, “Joan & Bette Bette & Joan.”
Written and performed by former Kankakee resident Jillann Gabrielle, of Paradise Playhouse, the 90-minute free show will be performed at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Kankakee Public Library, 201 E. Merchant St., Kankakee.
Gabrielle — a cabaret and musical theater singer, actress, comedienne, host, creator, writer and producer — wrote the book, music and lyrics.
Gabrielle will star as both Crawford and Davis. In “Joan & Bette Bette & Joan,” the audience will find both iconic superstars of the silver screen in purgatory and in the same body.
“So, I have to be schizophrenic, literally,” Gabrielle said. “It’s a fun musical but challenging. I write things to challenge myself.”
The individual stories of Crawford and Davis are told as well as in the context of their feud. During the show, comedic rapid fire exchanges and attacks drag out all the skeletons from each other’s closets including their disdain for each other, their professional jealousy, their failed marriages, their sexual peccadilloes, their competition for the same men, their troubled childhoods and their eldest daughters, who both wrote scathing books attempting to destroy them.
“As all my original one-woman shows, it was very well researched. But this innovative show is very entertaining,” Gabrielle said.
Gabrielle came up with the idea for the show several years ago. But she put the idea on the front burner when the FX cable production of “Feud” first aired in 2017. The television series told the story of the feud between Crawford and Davis while filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.”
“The audience will know a lot more about both superstars, laugh and enjoy themselves in the process,” Gabrielle said. “It’s a history lesson but a fun history.
“As an actor and writer, it’s challenging to get all the feelings of these actresses out to the audience. But when I’m in front of an audience, I feel comfortable and that I have found my place in society. I enjoy being an artist. It’s all about self-expression.”
As a Kankakee Westview High School 1971 graduate, her love for musical theater began as a senior in high school when she was played the lead role of Anna in “The King and I.”
“I knew than that’s what I wanted to do,” said Gabrielle, who extended an invitation to anyone who remembers her from high school to come and see the show. “I just kept working, working, working to reach my goals.”
And she already is preparing for her next show, a one-woman musical on the iconic Princess Diana Spencer, “Princess Di Gone But Still Kicking!” which Gabrielle will bring to the stage in April 2020.
Previously, Gabrielle wrote and starred in “Hedda!” a musical conversation on Hedda Hopper and “Garbo the Musical” on Greta Garbo. She also has written two screenplays on Frederick the Great and the three Bachs and “Michi: Hedda Hopper’s Houseboy.”
She lives in Crystal Lake with her husband, Phil Barrile, a longtime band leader and guitarist.
For more information, go to paradiseplayhouse.net.