Pre-season at the Players has been filled with greeting familiar faces, welcoming new company members, celebratory cheers for a Tony-award performance and a sad, but loving goodbye.
The Players grounds sprang to life in mid-May when more than 50 volunteers, affectionately titled the Broom Squad, gave the Players their time the Saturday morning before Mother’s Day. They gathered in the morning to help clean dorm rooms and pick up fallen branches. They aided our gardener Eric Smith to place garden furniture around property and so much more. There was an enormous amount of work accomplished in those few hours – thank you!
Activity picked up just after that when a few senior staff members arrived for some pre-season work and to prep for the arrival of the rest of the company. Memorial Day brought the arrival of those participating in our internship program from as far away as New York, Tennessee and Ohio.
Weary from travel, they landed at their destination – the Grand Lady of summer theater, The Peninsula Players. Filled with excitement, and perhaps a bit of trepidation, they unpacked their bags. What will the staff be like? What will our first tasks be? What’s for dinner? What IS a cheese curd? Is the water always this blue?
After a week of getting to know each other, staff members and finding their way around campus many settled into a routine which was slightly adjusted by the entrance of the cast and design team of “A Real Lulu” for rehearsals.
The arrival of director Tom Mula and actors Greg Vinkler, Sean and Linda Fortunato, Erin Noel Grennan, Brad Armacost, Neil Freidman and Kristine Keberlein meant we were actually gearing up for a new season. Oh yeah, we open in two weeks?!?
While “A Real Lulu” began rehearsals playwright and actor Paul Slade Smith was also having an exciting time. He made his Broadway debut in Captain Hook’s costume and performed in group numbers during the Tony Award ceremony on CBS.
Paul is an ensemble cast member of Broadway’s “Finding Neverland” and Kelsey Grammer’s understudy. Earlier this month, Kelsey had a prior engagement and Paul got to pull on Hook’s boots and step into the role of Captain Hook/Charles Frohman.
Players’ company members gathered to watch the Tony broadcast and a huge cheer went up when a very tall pirate with a black-and-white headscarf was spotted singing and dancing in the live performance of “Stronger” from “Finding Neverland.”
Paul was also a member of Josh Grobran’s back up choir for the in memorial performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” I know my eyes welled during that performance, for it was the second day in a row I heard those words of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s from “Carousel:”
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never be alone
Those words were sung with great feeling from the Players stage by Andrew Olson and Gretel Goeettelman Saturday, June 5 to those gathered to celebrate the life of Cheri Harris, longtime Players Box Office Manager. Cheri, who was excited to return to the Players for her 16th season, passed away in late May and her sons Kevin and Keith Nordahl hosted a service at the Players.
Cheri loved her family, theater, arts in Door County, the Players, its patrons and company members. Cheri would go out of her way to help a patron if they needed a hotel, restaurant, mechanic and I know at least one time to find emergency veterinary services for a pet in need. She had the ability to make patrons feel that they were a part of our larger family.
Cheri was more than a mentor, she was also a dear and special friend. Former Assistant Box Office Manger Matthew Fayfer said it best in his Facebook tribute:
“Really, Cheri was the kind of person I want to grow up to be,” he wrote.
Cheri will be deeply missed by many, but we know she would want us to smile, hold our head high and walk on.
And we are. Players’ company members are preparing for the 2015 season and the world première of a hilarious comedy, “A Real Lulu” by Paul Slade Smith. Timid Ned Newley has just been appointed Governor of Vermont. Ned becomes nervous and tongue-tied when the national media turns their cameras on him. Can his aides get Ned ready for prime time? Can they change Ned? Or will Ned change them?
We hope to see you by the bay season for “A Real Lulu” or for one of the other shows. For more information or tickets to the Players season please visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone 920-868-3287.