The opening curtain of the 80th season has risen and the Players are off and running! After weeks of planning, preparation, planting, painting and perseverance, patrons began streaming down Peninsula Players Road to our little theatrical hamlet along the shoreline.
For five years, playwright and actor Paul Slade Smith has been crafting, writing, re-writing, work-shopping and re-writing some more of his well-paced comedy “A Real Lulu.”
Since the close of last season, Artistic Director Greg Vinkler had been planning the 2015 season and was hoping to include Paul’s work. Once the decision was made, Greg then held auditions, cast the roles and enlisted a design team. The creative process continued as actors learned their lines, worked with director Tom Mula and developed the characters Paul envisioned.
For many weeks, Tom collaborated with scenic designer Sarah E. Ross, costume designer Pamela J. Rehberg, lighting designer Stephen Roy White, sound designer Megan B. Henninger, and properties designer Jim Lichon.
Sarah, Tom, Stephen and Pamela also collaborated on last years’ world première of Sean Grennen’s “The Tin Woman” and this production is just as impressive. Megan made her Players debut and her credits include assistant designs on Broadway. Jim returned to the Players as an Emmy award winning set decorator for the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” after a 15 year hiatus. Together the team created the office of Vermont’s governor.
An imposing portrait of the ousted Governor takes center stage and is accented by an office carpet adorned with the state seal. Austere marble pillars gives stately weight to the office walls and the mountain-view outside the balcony’s windows reinforce this is where important and crucial matters of state occur.
The world they crafted sets the tone, while the characters and their words create the comedy.
Many years of writing, months of collaborating and weeks of rehearsal came to fruition Tuesday, June 16 when the lights went up and actors Sean Fortunato and Katherine Keberlein stepped onto the stage for the first scene. Within moments the sound of laughter rippled through the audience.
And the laughter grew when Greg Vinkler, Erin Noel Grennan, Brad Armacost, Neil Friedman and Linda Fortunato joined them in the misadventures of a very timid Ned Newley, played by Greg, trying to maintain his new job of Governor.
Company members were very excited be the first to work on and develop the world and characters of this amazing play of Americana, but we were all “over the moon” when we learned Paul would be able to join us opening night.
Patrons may recall Paul’s performances at the Players as Amos (Mr. Cellophane) in “Chicago” or as William Gillette/Sherlock Holmes in “The Game’s Afoot.” Paul is currently performing on Broadway in the hit musical “Finding Neverland” and we weren’t sure he could get time away from his performance schedule. The producers of “Finding Neverland” were gracious enough to give Paul a few days off so he could fly in to join us for opening night.
Paul joined the opening audience as they laughed, applauded and celebrated “A Real Lulu” with a standing ovation. After the show, Paul had the surprise pleasure of meeting an individual who has worked for two governors of Vermont. She loved everything about the show. She was convinced Paul knew the cameraman of Vermont’s channel 3 because Paul’s character closely resembled a cameraman she knew at the station.
Accolades for “A Real Lulu” are streaming in from the patrons as well as critics.
Warren Gerds of WFRV-TV said in his online post: “Seven minutes. The audience of ‘A Real Lulu’ hears that a live TV interview will happen in seven minutes in a governor’s office. What takes place in that slice of time is the crux of the story. From there comes a launch toward destiny for the remarkable comedy by Paul Slade Smith. Mr. Smith deserves to go to Washington – and all around our nation – with this inspirational satire.
I hope you take time to join us by the bay for one of the shows this season. We have a variety of offerings from the world première of “A Real Lulu” to the chills of Frederick Knott’s “Dial M for Murder;” Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor” will have audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter while John Patrick Shanley’s prickly love story “Outside Mullingar” will touch their hearts. Then this fall, Dan Goggin’s “Nunsense” will get toes tapping when the zany Little Sisters of Hoboken take the stage.
We hope our patrons are just as excited to return to the Players this season as we are to present it! Join us by the bay for one of the shows, a pre-show seminar, a back stage tour or a post-show discussion. For more information or tickets to the Players season please visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone 920-868-3287.
Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager, celebrating her 20th season by the bay.