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She's having a ball playing the "fool'

(ran TP edition)

Ann Morrison and company take to the stage tonight in Twelfth Night Fever.

The Shakespearean "fool" knows a thing or two about disco. She has been to Studio 54. She used to club hop.

When Ann Morrison takes the stage tonight as Feste, the wise fool in the disco version of Twelfth Night (renamed Twelfth Night Fever), you can be assured, she has done her research.

"Wild, very wild," says Morrison about her stop at Studio 54 in the early '80s _ not as a dancer, but as a singer. She was invited to perform there, doing an imitation of Broadway actor Patti LuPone.

To audition for the part of Feste, the star singing role in Twelfth Night Fever, Morrison knew what to wear. She did it in drag. Black moustache. Long black wig. Anything shimmering.

And then, the clincher, she sang I Will Survive.

The disco adaptation of Twelfth Night was the brainchild of American Stage's artistic director, Kenneth Noel Mitchell. The show ran last month in St. Petersburg and comes to Tampa for a week, transforming Curtis Hixon Park on the Hillsborough River into Club Illyria, with a multilevel stage, mirrored surfaces, beaded doorways and dancers in gold shorts.

The androgynous Feste boogies in and out, giving wisdom to lovestruck Orsino and Viola.

"We are having a ball," said Morrison, who will drive from her Sarasota home for the show.

Morrison worked with American Stage last year in On the Verge. In 1994, she debuted on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, playing Mary Flynn and working directly with Sondheim, an experience, Morrison said, "I will never, ever forget."

Morrison is the kind of accomplished actor and singer who can throw you a curve. She plays trombone, which she learned in Chicago's clubs. She also tours nationally in a one-woman cabaret show, which changes in theme. Currently it's I'm Not Television, where she teaches an audience numbed by TV to be one who reacts again.

Reactions are interesting to Morrison, especially when there are a lot of costume changes, as in Twelfth Night Fever. "Each night, I can't wait to see how the audience is going to react," she said.

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