Ever wonder what life was like for famous L.A. actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper?
Well, you can find out in the one-woman show from Jill Gabrielle, “Hedda! A Musical Conversation,” a free show performed at 6 p.m. Friday at the Bradley Public Library.
“Hedda!” took Gabrielle, 64, of Crystal Lake, and formerly of Kankakee, about four years to complete, and now she’s working on her third show — a one-woman show based on the feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.
Her current show is based on the life of Hopper, a gossip columnist who rose to fame with her column for the Los Angeles Times, “Hopper’s Hollywood.” At her height, she had a readership of 35 million people.
Hopper also was known for her political conservatism. During the McCarthy Era, she named suspected communists in her column.
“This show will focus on Hedda having these musical conversations on the phone with her celebrity and political friends,” Gabrielle said.
“The audience will get to see her in these extravagant hats she was known for, having these conversations in Grand Central Station — what she called her living room,” Gabrielle said. “I make her even more entertaining, and the audience will have a lot of fun listening to her.”
Gabrielle’s original show of 90 minutes will be cut down for Friday’s show. She’ll be performing a 45-minute version of the show that’ll be more focused on Hedda’s relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, from whom she got the confirmation that she was carrying on an affair with the married Eddie Fisher.
“She stood up for what she believed was right, and she was one of the few voices in Hollywood that did that in those days,” said Gabrielle. “She was at the beginning of calling a spade a spade.”
This show will be entertaining for everyone, not just people with a conservative state of mind “ Gabrielle said. “I make shows for everyone. With Hedda, liberals loved to hate her, and conservatives loved to love her.”
Gabrielle transferred to Kankakee Westview High School for her sophomore year of high school and was heavily involved in theater and chorus.
“During my senior year, I was Anna in our production of ‘The King and I,’” she said.
After graduating from Westview in 1971, she went to Dominican University in River Forest and received a Bachelor of Arts in music and voice.
After attending Indiana University for three years, Gabrielle started performing, teaching and producing. She only started writing 10 years ago.
“I hope to get ‘Hedda’ on Off Broadway,” she said. “I know that myself and my work is worthy enough.”
Her goal is to get her shows to Broadway, have someone such as Glenn Close play her characters and even understudy her.
Gabrielle has gotten her shows into the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago and even has received rave reviews from people who are usually tough critics. She usually markets her shows to the Kankakee area, but this is the first time she’s been invited to perform.
“I hope that a lot of my classmates from high school will come out! I think they’d have a lot of fun,” Gabrielle said. “And it’s free! They have nothing to lose.”