June 16, 2014
A funny, charming, heart-warming comedy based on the stories of P.G. Wodehouse will be the next presentation of Saint Vincent Summer Theatre’s 46th season opening on July 10, directed by veteran director Colleen Reilly Rossmiller.
The preview performance of Jeeves in Bloom is scheduled at 8:10 p.m. Thursday, July 10. Regular performances are set for 8:10 p.m. July 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. Matinees are scheduled at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, July 16 and Sunday, July 20.
“I am really looking forward to this show for many reasons,” Rossmiller commented. “First of all, I love the work of P.G. Wodehouse on which this show is based. I’m sure many of our audience members will be familiar with Wodehouse. He was arguably the greatest comic writer in the English language of the 20th century. He created such memorable characters as Mr. Mulliner and his family, the Drones Club gentlemen and, most famously, the duo of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.”
“This play is based on several of his stories about Jeeves and Wooster, who are one of the great comic duos of all time,” she explained. “Bertie Wooster is a young, wealthy man about town in 1920s-30s London. He is very kindhearted, very charming, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Jeeves is his valet, his gentleman’s gentleman, his personal servant. And Jeeves, unlike Bertie, is brilliant. Jeeves is a master thinker, master planner, and most of the stories consist of Bertie getting into some kind of insoluble problem and Jeeves getting him out.”
“P.G. Wodehouse wrote a number of novels and short stories with these characters. This play is not a series of vignettes, it’s a complete story,” she continued. “Its primary plot is taken from one particular story but the adaptor drew in elements of several other short stories as well. The premise is that Bertie Wooster’s help is requested by one of his best friends, Gussie Fink-Nottle. Gussie is a very shy, socially awkward young man. His hobby is newt breeding but, unbelievably, this young man has actually fallen hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman named Madeline Basset. And Gussie begs Bertie to help him woo Madeline because he is hopelessly shy. Whether Bertie was the best choice for this is debatable but, nevertheless, Bertie, who as I said is very, very kindhearted and always willing to help a pal out, agrees to come to Gussie’s aid. And so Bertie and Jeeves join a country house party at the home of Bertie’s aunt and uncle, where they know Madeline will be staying in order to attempt to woo Madeline for Gussie. Now, of course, this being a comedy everything has to go wrong before there’s a happy ending. Due to a series of misunderstandings, Madeline becomes convinced that Bertie is actually in love with her and she winds up engaged to Bertie, briefly. This, of course, raises Gussie’s ire. Meanwhile, his aunt and uncle’s French chef is convinced that somebody is attempting to steal his recipes and the complications go on from there. Of course, Jeeves saves the day in the end, Jeeves always does. He manages to untie the most tangled of knots, but in the process, a lot of comic, tomfoolery happens.”
“When I’ve been asked to describe this play, I’ve said for those people who are fans of Downton Abbey, it’s very much like Downton Abbey with laughs,” Rossmiller observed. “There’s no music in this play but Wodehouse stories have often been described as musical comedies without the music. They’re very much in that light, innocent, pure fun, pure laughs vein. One of the most wonderful things about Wodehouse really is his language. It’s the way his characters express themselves. It’s the way things are described and that’s one of the things that is actually what I think made it difficult to adapt Wodehouse for stage or screen. It’s been tried many times, not always successfully, in my opinion. I was thrilled when I read this new adaptation because I really think that Margaret Raether, the adaptor, does a wonderful job of capturing Wodehouse’s spirit and his language while also presenting something that is very effective as a piece of drama, as a piece of visual and verbal entertainment and I think it’s going to be a great deal of fun. It’s a wonderful comedy; it’s very warmhearted. You really find yourself loving all the characters and rooting for everything to turn out in the end for everyone, which, of course, it does. There is a happy ending, and all is well.”
“Joy and Stuart Pankin have not done this show before, but I’m very, very excited that they’re able to join us for this production,” Rossmiller said. “Many of our audiences will remember Joy and Stu from many, many performances over the decades. Joy was a founding member of Saint Vincent Summer Theatre with Fr. Tom Devereux and my mother and a lot of other people. Joy is a Seton Hill graduate. She has been acting at the Theatre on and off ever since. She brought Stu, her then-boyfriend from grad school, to join her at Saint Vincent in 1972. Stu subsequently became very well known to much of America in films and television shows of all sorts. They have come back at regular intervals to perform here at Saint Vincent. I have not had the pleasure of working with them previously as a director since they haven’t been back since I have been artistic director, so it’s my first time directing them, which is very exciting and very scary in a way for me.”
“I’ve loved Joy and Stu’s acting for as long as I can remember, quite literally,” she noted. “I can remember being a very little girl watching them perform and just being enthralled by the wonderful work they did, so I’m really looking forward to having the chance to do a show with them. I’m very excited that it’s this one. I think Stu is going to make a wonderful Jeeves. I think he has a very, very perfect sense of humor, of comic timing, both for things that are outrageous and for things that are very quiet and dry, and I think that he is going to be a wonderful presence at the heart of this story. Joy is playing Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia, who is one of the great comic women of all time. Very warmhearted but boisterous and brash, and she’s famous for her love of fox hunting and outdoor sports. And I think Joy is going to do a wonderful job with the role.”
“I’m looking forward to Kevin Daniel O’Leary’s performance of Bertie Wooster,” she said. “Kevin is a wonderful, versatile actor, very good at all sorts of things, comedy included. I think he’s going to do a wonderful job playing a character who isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is but who you love anyway because he is so decent and generous even as he’s messing everyone’s lives up. He’s doing it for the best of intentions, and you can’t help but fall in love with him.”
“I’m very excited by the rest of the cast as well,” Rossmiller added. “David Cabot, who is familiar to our audiences, and who was in our first show this summer, is also going to be in the third. He has, in some ways, one of the most fun roles in the show. He’s actually playing two characters, two very different characters. He’s playing Aunt Dahlia’s husband, a crusty, elderly, wealthy British gentleman, and he’s also playing Anatole, their cook, a manic, excitable, passionate French chef. I think it’s a really, really wonderful fun role. For an actor to do contrasting parts like that in the same show is always a challenge and always terrific fun. So I’m looking forward to seeing him in both those roles.”
Luke Halferty will play the role of Gussie Fink-Nottle. “Luke was first seen on our stage last summer in Too Many Cooks playing Shirley, a comic assistant gangster, and he did a wonderful job,” Rossmiller commented. “He is very young, he’s not even out of college yet, but he is mature, professional and talented beyond his years and I had a blast working with him last summer. I’m really looking forward to his take on Gussie.”
Daina Michelle Griffith is going to be playing Madeline Basset, the object of Gussie’s adoration. “Madeline is also a wonderful comic creation,” Rossmiller said. “She is a very self-consciously, soulful young woman. She’s romantic, she’s interested in poetry, she has a very elevated view of love and romance. Sadly her sensibilities are being consistently thwarted and offended throughout this play. Nothing ever seems to work out in the way she dreams it will. I’m really looking forward to Daina’s take on this. She’s a marvelous actress, and Madeline is one of the great comic female roles of all time.”
Saint Vincent Summer Theatre patrons are asked to make ticket reservations in advance because seats are reserved at all performances except Thursday evening preview shows, which are general admission. Reservations may be made by calling the theatre box office at 724-537-8900. Theatre patrons may also make reservations online by going to www.svst.org. A credit card is required for on-line reservations, and such reservations are transferable, but non-refundable.
Individual tickets are $10 for preview performances, $19 on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings, $22 on Friday and Saturday evenings and $16 for matinees. Special theatre party group rates apply to groups of 20 guests or more. Senior citizens, 62 or older, are eligible for a $2 discount upon request on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings only. Special subscription plans are also available. Four-show and three-show subscription plans are again being offered this season through June 30. In addition, student tickets are available for $10 for any seat, any performance.
Saint Vincent Summer Theatre would like to thank the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. Veterans and active duty military personnel will be admitted free of charge to any performance during the week of July 4. (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, July 1, 2, 3 and 5).
Saint Vincent Summer Theatre performances are all scheduled in the comfortable, air-conditioned Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on the Saint Vincent College campus. Free van shuttle service is provided to and from the spacious and convenient parking areas adjacent to the Saint Vincent Basilica.
Saint Vincent Summer Theatre will continue to feature its well-known Cabaret, the special after-the-show party to which all theatre patrons are invited. Saint Vincent students serve snacks, hot dogs and beverages after the production and also provide entertainment. The cabaret is open after all performances except Thursday preview shows and all matinees. Theatre officials encourage donations if patrons enjoy themselves at the after-the-show party.
The final production of the summer season will be A Grand Night for Singing July 31 to Aug. 17.
The 25th annual Saint Vincent Summer Theatre Gala will be held Friday, July 11. Stuart and Joy Pankin will serve as the honorary chairpersons of the evening. All proceeds benefit the Saint Vincent Summer Theatre. To receive an invitation or further details, phone 724-805-2901.
A free brochure is available by contacting the Saint Vincent Theatre box office at 724-537-8900.
Photos: David Cabot, Daina Michelle Griffith, Luke Halferty, Kevin Daniel O’Leary, Joy Pankin, Stuart Pankin
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