Universal Press Department
January 5, 1983
Another of the tremendously successful Broadway cast to cross the Atlantic for the big screen version, Rex Smith has a huge following in the United States as a recording star.
His five hit albums (one of which is platinum) and his three Rock In' Roll tours around the world have established him as one of America's leading pop superstars as well as an actor of considerable talent.
He was featured in the TV movie "Sooner Or Later" from which his hit single "You Take My Breath Away" originated, and he has just completed his second movie "Headin' For Broadway."
His last New York appearance before the role of Frederic in The Pirates Of Penzance was as Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of Grease. His latest single, "Everlasting Love," reached the top of the American charts earlier this year.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Smith moved to Chicago, to Birmingham, Alabama, then to Greenville, South Carolina, and then to Atlanta, Georgia.
He was named after the next door neighbor's German shepherd. "It was either that or Cadillac Smith," he claims. "I had a crazy aunt and uncle who were trying to get my parents to name me Cadillac."
His father was in advertising: "That's why I got into this business, I think, because we're really boxes of soap -- actors and singers. You're artistes, but in the public eye it's a matter of advertising."
At 14, Smith got into his first group and did that all through high school. "Then when I got out of high school I hit the road. I lived like a gypsy. Those were the best times of my life. I was living from club to club not knowing where my next meal was coming from. No credit cards, no apartment, no bills, no managers, just on the road with a truck and five guys."
The band was named 'Tricks' and, as Smith said in an early interview, "We were really a crazy band. This was in '73. We were playing Statesborough, Georgia, for cowboys on penny beer night. We used to keep crowbars onstage when fights would break out. Those were really wild times. I learned a lot doing that. It was a quick education in life."
After 'Tricks' went broke, Smith joined another band and arrived in New York when he was 20, with a suitcase and a ceramic tiger. "That was my one piece of furniture and I wanted to save it. Unfortunately, I broke it a couple of years ago. I was living on a piece of Sicilian pizza and a cream soda a day, dollar a day budget, when it broke."
Once again, though, he was out of money, so he traveled down to Florida and started another band. Here, he started to become a big draw, and not long after leaving, he got a deal with Columbia, made two hard rock albums and did two six-month tours with gonzo guitarist Ted Nugent. By then he had a new band called 'Rex'.
Returning to New York, he played at the Garden and was seen by the people behind the TV movie "Sooner Or Later," which was his stepping-stone to the big time. While waiting for the movie to be aired, Smith played Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of Grease. He subsequently starred in "Headin' For Broadway" and was then signed by producer Joseph Papp to play the role of Frederic in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Pirates Of Penzance. Smith was the original Frederic in Central Park and won great critical acclaim when he repeated the role on Broadway. He is now reprising his role in the movie.
Edward R. Pressman presents A Joseph Papp Production, "The Pirates Of Penzance," starring Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt, George Rose and Rex Smith. It is directed and has a screenplay by Wilford Leach, and Joseph Papp is the producer. A Universal Release, the executive producer is Edward R. Pressman, and the co-producer is Timothy Burrill.