McLean Community Players (MCP) just concluded their 2011-2012 season with a highly successful production of Legally Blonde. To find out what they have in store for next season, I interviewed Chris Hardy, their Artistic Vice President.
Joel: Your current season certainly ended with a bang. Legally Blonde was well-liked and very well attended. What are you doing for an encore to open the new season?
Chris: Our first production for the 2012-2013 season will be What I Did Last Summer by A. R. Gurney.
The same A. R. Gurney who wrote Love Letters?
Isn’t that a stark contrast to a high-energy, up-beat musical like Legally Blonde?
Yes, and a deliberate one. We at MCP strive for variety, inviting those who like flashy musicals to try something like this, and those who like serious drama to try zany comedy or up-beat musicals. So, this kind of back-to-back contrast is an appropriate demonstration of the range of our offerings. The choice of a Gurney was dictated by practical considerations. There were improvements of the Alden Theater scheduled to be completed close to the time we would be opening. Although the Alden is the cleanest, best equipped and best managed facility that a community theater could hope for, we felt that there was a possibility that unforeseen delays would leave us with less than pristine conditions for load in. Accordingly, we decided to pick something for this slot for which the dialog carries the interest, with minimal requirements for sets and props.
And Gurney filled the bill?
Yes. Gurney is a master of dialog. His words alone are good enough keep our rapt attention for a couple of hours while two persons sit side-by-side at a desk reading Lover Letters to each other. What could be better?
But why this particular Gurney?
What I Did Last Summer is a story about a young teenager’s coming of age while his father was away during World War II, which reviewers have hailed as being quintessentially American, providing us with an intimate “…sojourn into the discreet heart of America’s leisure class…” that is “…warm, touching and humorous.” In addition, the show offers a plus for us by including a number of good roles for young people. It is not always appropriate or possible, but when the choice comes down to equally appealing contenders, we give the nod to the vehicle that provides more opportunities for talented young actors to take on a challenge.
Then what comes next?
It’s one of my favorite musicals and it seems that everyone is producing it in the ares. Will this be a regional premier for Community Theaters?
You are right. Because of its notoriety, Next to Normal has already been produced by other Community Theatres in the area, and will surely be mounted by others in the near future.
Tell me about Next To Normal.
Next to Normal is a musical drama. The storyline concerns a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family. It touches on such issues as grief, suicide, and drug abuse. The show was the winner of three Tony Awards in 2009 and the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2010. The score is terrific and won the Tony Award over that year’s 10-time winner Billy Elliott.
So, I guess that means that you’ve lined up some lighter-hearted fare for the rest of the season?
So which of the many Neil Simon plays have you selected?
One that was a Neil Simon experiment. He decided that he wanted to try his hand at mimicking the traditional British farces, with improbable situations, misunder-standings galore, rampant confusion, and a fast-paced plot sprinkled with sight gags. And so, he produced Rumors.
Was it well received when it opened on Broadway?
Let’s just say that most of the critics didn’t rave about it. I think that was because this comedy is broader than the usual Simon, which derives the humor from realistic situations that are spiced up with sophisticated one-liners. However, British farces are well-attended by appreciative audiences nowadays, so we’re out to prove that those critics just had no appreciation of a good, rollicking comedy of errors that can be enjoyed just for the fun of it.
You end the season with a damn good classic musical.
To maintain the kinds of contrasts I have been describing, it had to be an up-beat, high-energy, traditional favorite. Something that everyone can recognize with a smile, and maybe even hum a few bars of some of the songs. The one we picked was selected in recognition of two facts.The production slot was in July, in the heat of the baseball pennant races, and the Washington Nationals have grown to be a team to be reckoned with, rekindling the team fondness that we used to feel for their hapless predecessor – The Washington Senators…
And I am assuming that this musical is Damn Yankees?
You hit a home run with that guess! We’ll close the season with this popular musical baseball fantasy in which the Senators beat the Yankees for the pennant with some devilishly clever help from an unlikely source.Damn Yankees should be familiar to everyone, evoking such memorable musical phrases as “You gotta have heart,” “We’re two lost souls on the highway of life…” and “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets…”
Well, it looks like you have certainly managed to cover the spectrum with this season’s selections. It will be interesting to see how your audiences take to this schedule. I’ll be watching to see how it all works out, and my reviewers will give us their opinions.
Wishing everyone at McLean Community Players a successful and enjoyable 2012-2013 season! And thanks for schmoozing with me.
Thank you. It’s been my pleasure.
McLean Community Players’ website.