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Civic Players’ ‘Blithe Spirit’ among theater openings

Thursday, October 11, 2012
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Jean T. Carney, Robert L. Hegeman and Cristine Loffredo, from left, rehearse a scene from Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” opening Friday at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. (photo: TOM KILLIPS)
Jean T. Carney, Robert L. Hegeman and Cristine Loffredo, from left, rehearse a scene from Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” opening Friday at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. (photo: TOM KILLIPS)

Sally Farrell is bringing Noël Coward back to the Schenectady Civic Playhouse, and as far as she’s concerned he’s coming with his best stuff.

“Blithe Spirit,” first performed in London’s West End in 1941, is Coward’s comedy about a seance in which a man’s wife returns from the dead and accidentally kills his present wife. It first appeared on Broadway in 1943 and has enjoyed three revivals, the most recent in 2009.

“We’ve done all of Coward’s plays, they’re all good and different, but I chose this one because I feel like it’s the best one,” said Farrell, who is directing the production, which opens Friday and runs for two weekends. “I just love this play, and since we’re dealing with ghosts and it’s October, very ‘Halloweeny,’ I thought it would work very well.”

“Blithe Spirit” is one of three plays opening this weekend. “Next to Normal,” the 2010 musical that was also winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, opens at the Schenectady Light Opera Company just a few blocks east of the Civic Playhouse, while in Saratoga Springs, the Home Made Theater Company will present Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5: The Musical.”

‘Blithe Spirit’

WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, runs through Oct. 21

HOW MUCH: $15

MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.civicplayers.org

Coward, an English playwright who lived from 1899 to 1973, was awarded a special Tony in 1970 for “multiple and immortal contributions to the theater.” Along with the revival of “Blithe Spirit” in 2009, his play “Privates Lives” was revived in 2011 after its opening on Broadway 80 years earlier in 1931.

“I love Noël Coward and the English comedies he writes,” said Farrell. “This play takes place in the suburbs of London in 1939, and we’re pretty tied to the script. There are some special effects we’re doing differently, maybe, that other groups wouldn’t have done, but it really is the story that’s so intriguing.”

Charles Condomine, played by Robert L. Hegeman, is an author experiencing trouble coming up with new ideas to write about. A cantankerous novelist who is haunted by the ghost of his first wife, Condomine decides to have a seance to help him with his writer’s block. When the medium, Madame Arccati, played by Melissa Putterman Hoffmann, conjures up the dead wife’s spirit, mayhem ensues.

Jean T. Carney plays Ruth, Condomine’s current wife, and Cristine M. Loffredo is Elvira, the wife who is raised from the dead. Also in the cast are Ken Goldfarb as Dr. Bradman, Susan Katz as Mrs. Bradman and Rita Machin as Edith.

“It’s very funny, and people looking for some lighthearted entertainment at a very reasonable price will love this play,” said Farrell. “When the dead wife reappears after being dead for seven years, it gets quite hilarious.”

The Schenectady Civic Players originally produced “Blithe Spirit” in 1946 and did it again in 1971. The second time was Farrell’s introduction to the theater group.

“I was brand new at the playhouse and I auditioned for one of the two leads and I didn’t get the part,” she said. “I also couldn’t do a cockney accent, so I didn’t do the maid, either. But the play got me interested in Noël Coward, and it really sparked my interest in working at the playhouse. I’ve been a part of it for 40 years now.”

More serious fare

At the Schenectady Light Opera House, a much more serious theatrical presentation will be offered in “Next to Normal,” the first musical to win a Pulitzer for Drama since “Rent” in 1996.

‘Next to Normal’

WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St. Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. Thursday, through Oct. 21

HOW MUCH: $28-$18

MORE INFO: (877) 350-7378

The story centers on a wife and mother, played by Lindsay Dashew, who is suffering from bipolar disorder. Nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2009 and the winner of three (Best Score, Best Orchestration and Best Actress for Alice Ripley), “Next to Normal” was written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.

Directing the SLOC production is Michael Mensching. Dashew, who has spent much of the last decade working as an actress in New York City, will be joined on stage by Mike Bellotti, Eliza Figueroa, Michael Lotano, Nick Cotrupi and Jacob Shipley.

The musical director overseeing the pop-rock score of more than 30 songs is Jason Dashew.

Musical ‘9 to Five’

‘9 To 5: The Musical

WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater in Saratoga State Park

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through Oct. 28, 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on Oct. 21 and 28

HOW MUCH: $29-$26

MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org

At the Spa Little Theater, Home Made Theater will be opening its season with the musical remake of the 1980 movie hit “Nine to Five,” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Parton earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (“Nine to Five”), also garnered three Golden Globe nominations, and then nearly three decades later turned it into a staged musical. While she supplied all the music to “9 To 5: The Musical,” the book was written by Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the screenplay back in 1980.

The play was nominated for four Tonys, including Best Actress for Allison Janney, who played Violet Newstead, the character played by Tomlin in the movie. In the Home Made Theater production, directed and choreographed by Laurie Larson, Amy-Lin Slezak-Nelson plays Violet, Karen Kolterman is Judy Bernly (Fonda’s role) and Molly McGrath is Doralee Rhodes (Parton’s role). Also in the cast are John Sutliff as Franklin J. Hart, Jr., and Marc Andrzejewski as Joe.

 
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