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Art Beat: Jon Voight and cast of Alaskans featured in Anchorage-filmed flick

Mike Dunham
Cannonball Adderley performing on the Delaney Park Strip in June of 1975.
Alice Puster
Kevin T. Bennett on the set as General Haiger in "Baby Geniuses and the Mystery of the Crown Jewels" with camera assistant Kevin Kurka.

From Anchorage actor Kevin T. Bennett, now touring Southcentral Alaska with Dick Reichman in "Freud's Last Session," we learn of the recent release of a made in Alaska movie starring Oscar-winner Jon Voight.

"Baby Geniuses and the Mystery of the Crown Jewels" was shot in Anchorage over a 48-day period two years ago and seems to feature about half of our local talent pool in the credits. In addition to Bennett, we noted Erick Hayden, Mark Robokoff, Wayne Mitchell, Gloria King and others.

The film, part of a series, is about a team of babies who solve crimes around the world at the behest of a shadowy government agency, Bennett said.

"The babies, led by Bob and Betty Bobbins, baby communications scientist and homemaker respectively, speak baby babble -- however, the Bobbins family actually understands it and have recognized and work alongside the super genius of the babies," Bennett said.

"There's an evil genius involved, Big Baby, who possesses super hypnotic skills and he's running amok around the world committing crimes. There's also a bigger evil genius involved, Moriarty, played by Voight in a myriad of disguises who appears continuously throughout the films."

Bennett plays Gen. Haiger, the government official in charge of the Baby Genius Program. It will be a recurring role in two sequels due out later this year. Those sequels were shot at the same time as the "Crown Jewels" installment and that's why Bennett may look a little tired.

"The production was one of the most demanding schedules I've ever seen," he said. He worked three solid 48-hour shifts, four 36-hour shifts and nearly a dozen 24-hour shifts. "I was the lucky individual who worked more hours than any human being involved with the production," he said. "It was taxing, but it wasn't impossible."

Bennett was also the construction coordinator for all three films. "I designed and led the crews to construct all the sets and many of the practical special effects," as well as being responsible for construction budgeting, purchasing, scheduling and all foreman duties.

"The only real difficulty was memorizing lines five minutes before camera after being on my feet for 48 hours on the first day of shooting."

It's now available on DVD via Amazon and other sites and on-demand cable.

Bennett, Fearon coming

The Anchorage Concert Association announced on Friday that Tony Bennett will perform in Atwood Concert Hall on June 4 and 5. Tickets, $55-$125, are available at centertix.net. ACA folks told me they thought this might be the first Anchorage appearance for the multiple Grammy-winner, but he may have snneaked in before; he's been singing since the '40s. If anyone has knowledge of such a show, let me know.

Reggae star Clinton Fearon, who has definitely been to Alaska before -- including at Salmonstock in 2011 -- will return with the Boogie Brown Band as the "First Tap" guest artists at the Bear Tooth Theatre on March 7. Tickets, $25, are on sale now. This is an age 21-and-over event. Get more information on Fearon at clintonfearon.com.

Saluting the Adderleys

Rick Zelinsky and team have been running through the giants of American jazz with their ongoing series of "Tributes to Jazz Masters" concerts.

Among the best, in my humble opinion, was one of the earliest, dedicated to the music of Julian "Cannonball" and Nat Adderley. That program will be reprised twice in the next week: today at 4 p.m. in the UAA Arts Building recital hall and at 8 p.m. Thursday at Tap Root in Spenard.

The Adderleys had a remarkable knack for creating music that was both fabulously, kaleidoscopically complex and fun at the same time. If it has been a while since you heard jazz that you cared about, give either of these shows a shot.

Get ready to write

The Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage has announced that registration is open for the 2013 Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference to be held June 14-18 at Land's End Resort in Homer.

This year's keynote presenter will be poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

The conference will feature authors, editors and agents who will conduct creative writing workshops, readings, craft talks and panel presentations in creative fiction, nonfiction, poetry and the business of writing.

Others among the 2013 presenting writers include Alaska State Writer Laureate Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Rich Chiappone, John Daniel, Joy Harris, Sean Hill, Ann Hood, Nancy Lord, Karen McElmurray, Nicole Stellon O'Donnel, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Alexis Rizzuto, Eva Saulitis, Sherry Simpson and Deb Vanasse.

In-the-news writers in the package include Peggy Shumaker, whose collection "Toucon Nest" was just released by Red Hen Press (the poems are about Costa Rica, though the poet is from Fairbanks), Sara Loewen of Kodiak whose eloquent essays have just been published by the University of Alaska Press, and our favorite expatriate Alaska author, Melinda Moustakis.

Optional activities include manuscript reviews, editor-agent consultations, receptions and a boat cruise. Evening readings on June 15-17 by visiting writers will be open to the general public at no charge. A special post-conference writing workshop, Nature Across the Genres, will be held at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge for conference registrants with John Daniel.

The early registration fee is $375, space available, and must be made by May 4. After that, if slots remain, the price will be $395. There is a special UA admitted student rate. Advanced registration is required. For program and registration information see: writersconference.homer. alaska.edu.

Organizers say it is also important to arrange accommodations for the event early, as Homer tends to have a great number of tourists during June.

On the blog

Reviews of the premieres of Alaska Dance Theatre's "Cline & Cash" and Avner Dorman's Cello Concerto with soloist Inbal Segev at last night's Anchorage Symphony Orchestra concert are now posted at adn.com/artsnob.

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.


By MIKE DUNHAM
mdunham@adn.com