Josie O'Donnell


Josie O'Donnell, the effervescent redhead who adds zing to "Pizzazz" at the Boardwalk Regency, enjoys relaxing in her Englewood home but is in no hurry to retire to it. "I'm in my 25th year in show business and I'm looking forward to 25 more," she said the other night in her dressing room in the Cabaret Theater where "Pizzazz" - known off-Broadway last year as "Lullabye of Broadway" - is scheduled for four more weeks.

Judging from the applause she and the five youthful singers-dancers in her cast received, Josie might well be around that long. She can not only belt out pop tunes with the best of them, but that night had brought down the house with the ballad, "Cryin' For the Carolines," and a hilarious takeoff of Carmen Miranda.

Still as Irish as a Trallee rose, although she emigrated to the United States in 1959, Josie is as warm and exuberant off-stage as on.

"It's such a pleasure to sing the songs of Harry Warren," she said. "They never fail to bring back fond memories. We've been friends for a long time, ever since I recorded some of his hits 25 years ago."

Born in Donegal, Ireland, she made her stage debut in London after studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She switched early in her career from drama to musicals and had lead roles in London in "My Fair Lady," "Finian's Rainbow" and "Brigadoon" before crossing the Atlantic.

She toured with Ted Lewis for five years, mean- while making appearances with Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Myron Cohen, Rodney Dangerfield and Pat O'Brien - "all such wonderful personalities, so much fun to work with."

In "Pizzazz," she's supported by a talented cast including Valerie Lee, who seems slated for star billing on Broadway and in Hollywood. The show, produced by Josie's husband, Leonard Landau, consists of more than an hour of Warren's songs, all of them "Hit Parade" leaders.

Even without a story line, the show is a delight and shouldn't be missed. There are matinees daily except Friday and evening performances during the weeks that star entertainers are featured only on weekends.

This is not such a week. Comedian Bill Cosby, who opened Thursday with singer Janet Powell, continues nightly at 8 and 11:30 through Wednesday. Then Billy Eckstine, the veteran singer-actor, takes over Friday and Saturday, with Dick Capri opening his show.

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