Sunday, July 22, 2007

Outta Town Droppings

After 10 days' rehearsal, I felt the need to try to halt the Conrad Birdie Pledge from ringing in my ears ("We Love You Conrad, Oh Yes We Do..."), so I decided to check out the local theatrical offerings in Winchester and its environs.

I popped down to Front Royal, VA, to catch Wayside Theatre's current production of "Forever Plaid." Wayside's home in Middletown is being remodeled, and the tech folks at the theatre have really pulled off an amazing feat. They turned a couple of empty, industrial buildings into a lively theatre complex complete with proscenium theatre, bar, and plenty of room inside and out. They are just far enough away from the center of town to allow abundant stargazing, and as the twilight descends, the surrounding mountains are gorgeous.

The new Front Royal space is really a gem, and "Forever Plaid" should be selling out every night. The four guys playing a vocal group from the early 60s are all accomplished actors as well as terrific harmonizers, and this slight show is a real hoot. Naturally, I was particularly impressed with my former co-stars Larry Dalke and Vaughn Irving (I appeared in "Black Coffee" with them last season), but the whole ensemble is top-notch. Vaughn's choreography reflects the period while slyly poking fun.

On Saturday, after our quickie 2 hour rehearsal of Birdie, I shlepped out to Totem Pole Playhouse in Pennsylvania to see their production of Neil Simon's "Proposals." It is a charming little play, and this particular production boasted some really fine actors, including my buddy Ray Ficca in a scene stealing role (every role Ray portrays pretty much steals the scene). To Ray's credit, he was also involved in the training of several of the actors in the show, by way of the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Georgetown, of which he is the current president.

The rustic Totem Pole Playhouse has been operating for a phenomenal 57 years.

I am so glad I took the time and effort to attend these two performances. It reminded me that regional theatre can happen even out in the boondocks of rural Virginia and Pennsylvania.

People, it seems, still want entertainment that is ALIVE.