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Desert Beat Theatre

08/01/2012 09:04PM ● Published by Denise Brown

By Jack Lyons, Sun Runner Theater Editor 

If this column looks “different” this time it’s because we’ve switched the column format a bit. Instead of listing theatres and production titles and play dates, as in past issues of the last eight years, future issues will now focus on, and feature more, preview and inter- view columns with those talented people responsible for presenting the many out- standing productions available to readers of this column and the magazine.

With our new website and desert wide online calendar, you can check all the upcoming productions online, while delving deeper into desert theatre in the pages of this magazine.

The Palm Canyon Theatre of Palm Springs gets the nod as the first live theatre venue in the valley to be featured. With that settled, my next order of business was to seek out play director Scott Smith and get his thoughts about his upcoming September 7-9 production of the classic comedy “Harvey,” by Mary Chase. I caught up with Scott while he was driving his car and we agreed to a call back once he was off the road.

JL: Scott, as the director of “Harvey,” a classic American comedy (1,775 performances on Broadway) written by Mary Chase during World War II, do you feel the play will resonate with today’s Palm Canyon Theatre audiences?

SS: I thought about that a lot. The play was written in 1944, during WW II, as a result of a conversation playwright Mary Chase had with a “Gold Star” mother who just learned of the death of her soldier son. Chase said at the time, ‘I just wanted to write something that would make her smile as a way to help heal her grief.’ Our country is once again involved in war, and our society is in turmoil with our young people and the recent shootings... Yes, I feel our show will help in easing our collective pain. It’s a gentle, warm, funny and entertaining piece of theatre. JL: Are you planning to update any of the story elements?

SS: No, we’ll perform it as written. It’s 32 The Sun Runner – August/September 2012 a case of who are the crazies here? Is Elwood P. Dowd (the lead character) crazy because he has a 6-foot 4-inch rabbit he pals around with that no one can see but him? Or is the rest of society a little off-kilter because they don’t see and don’t want to believe? The play’s gentle message is a subtle, sly look at ourselves.

JL: Who are playing the principal roles ?

SS: LukeRaineyisplaying the affable Elwood, with Suzie Thomas Wourms as his sister, Veta Simmons. It’s a fun cast. I wish we could have more performances, but everyone who attends will certainly enjoy themselves.

“Harvey,” directed by Scott Smith, opens at the Palm Canyon Theatre Fri- day, September 7 at 8 p.m. and performs Saturday, September 8 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, September 9 at 2 p.m. Following “Harvey”,PCT brings the wonderfully wacky musical “Spamalot” to the theatre. The musical, written by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, is being directed by Dane Whitlock. Whitlock, last seen as an actor in “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” was also the director of the highly successful PCT musical “Hairspray,” this year. I tracked him down in Ashville, North Carolina, as he was cooling off in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains.

JL: What draws you to broad, over-the- top material and shows like “Hairspray” and your upcoming production of “Spamalot?”

DW: Comedy has always come easy to me. In college and in summer stock, I found that I was a pretty good mimic. In comedy, if you don’t have good timing, you better not quit your day job. With a show like “Spamalot” it’s all about comedy timing and having a good time. I love the zaniness of this show, which I hope will transfer from the cast to the audience.

JL: Where does the musical’s title come from?

DW: It’s from the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Naturally, it’s a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend and boasts a line from the movie, which goes: “We eat ham, and jam, and spam a lot.” Well... who could resist? JL: Ouch. I’m sorry I asked (just kid-

ding).DW: The show will be ‘Monty Python heavy’ with their brand of goofy humor and I’m sure the audience will jump right on board once the curtain goes up.

JL: Who are the actors in this musical spoof ?

DW: The wonderful Mark Almy portrays the blissfully unaware King Arthur, and Bobbie Eakes is his “Lady of the Lake.” Erik Bradley perfectly portrays, “Patsy, the Squire.” Kelly Peak is the square- jawed Sir Galahad, Rod Thethal plays Lancelot, Anthony Nanini plays the Minstrel and Prince Herbert, and manages in between, to choreograph the show, and Anthony Meyers plays Sir Robin. The set is being designed by resident scenic design wizard J.W. Layne, with musical direction by David McLaughlin.

JL: Sounds like it’s going to be “E- Ticket Ride” when those people get going. Thanks for letting me interrupt your reverie and the Thomas Wolfe book you’re obviously reading at the moment in Ashville. “Spamalot,” the musical, opens at the Palm Canyon Theatre on October 12 and performs Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 21. For reservations and ticket information for both “Harvey” and “Spamalot,” call the Box Office at (760)323-5123.

Culture, In Print jack lyons palm canyon theatre writers edition desert beat theatre palm spring
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