Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Bob Keyes email@example.com
Good Theater staged the musical comedy "Little Me" in its inaugural season. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the theater-in-residence at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland is bringing the fluffy musical back for a revival.
Stephen Underwood during a dress rehearsal for the Good Theater production of “Little Me” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland. Underwood starred in “Little Me” with Good Theater a decade ago, establishing himself as one of Portland’s best comedic actors.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
WHEN: 7 p.m. today; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Through April 1.
WHERE: Good Theater, St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $20 to $30
INFO: 885-5883; goodtheater.com
Stephen Underwood, who starred in the original show, reprises the role that helped establish him as one of Portland's most talented, nimble and funny actors. He plays seven husbands and lovers of heroine Belle Poitrine, stretching his stage capacity with a madcap, rapid-fire succession of accents and mannerisms.
Brian Allen, the theater's co-founder with Underwood and its artistic director, opted to bring back "Little Me" as a way to cap the 10th anniversary.
"This was the first show we ever sold out, and also the show that made people sit up and take notice," said Allen, who directs a cast of 13. "It put us on the theater map in Portland. It just felt like it would be a good one to do again."
For Underwood, the second time around gives him a chance to gauge his growth as an actor. He was perfectly happy with his first performance in this role. But in the decade since, he's taken many acting classes that have sharpened his comedic timing and touch.
He's eager to try out some of those techniques to give his various characters more depth.
"It's a thousand different moments," he said.
The show opens tonight and runs through April 1. A word to the wise: It almost certainly will sell out most of the run after opening weekend.
"Little Me" opened on Broadway in 1962. Neil Simon wrote the book with Sid Caeser in mind, and Caeser starred in the original New York production. The show received 10 Tony Award nominations, and won one for Bob Fosse's choreography. It had a revival in 1982 and again in 1998, the latter earning Martin Short a Tony for best actor in a musical.
The Portland cast includes many Good Theater regulars. In addition to Underwood, it consists of Kelly Caufield-Lawson, Lynne McGhee, Glenn Anderson, Todd Daley, Marie Dittmer, Betsy Melarkey Dunphy, Meredith Lamothe, Jen Means, Erik Moody, John U. Robinson, Andrew Sawyer and Tyler Sperry.
The story begins with Belle, who recounts her life from her humble beginnings to her starlet Hollywood status. But it revolves around the male lead. As written by Simon, the script requires one actor to play the seven men in Belle's life as she tells her story.
Allen takes that concept even further. Everyone in his cast plays multiple roles. The original Broadway show had a cast of 36, and Allen is shrinking that down to one-third that amount.
Part of his decision was based simply on space. The St. Lawrence stage is limited, as are its backstage accommodations.
But Allen also wants to spread around the comedic mayhem. He hopes to inject a sense of on-the-edge hilarity across the entire cast, so that Underwood isn't the only one having all the fun. Each actor is responsible for multiple costume changes, wigs and props.
"This is just a really fun and funny show, and it made sense to me to get everyone involved in that spirit," Allen said.
"LITTLE ME" is just one of several major local productions kicking off this month. Other March theater events of note include:
• Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., presents "Hidden Tennessee," a two-act play featuring the work of Tennessee Williams, through March 18. The evening includes three one-act plays and a short story. Tickets range from $15 to $39. Call 774-0465 or visit portlandstage.org.
• Dramatic Repertory Company presents John Belluso's "A Nervous Smile," opening tonight and continuing through March 18 at the Studio Theatre at Portland Stage. Belluso, who died in 2006, was an award-winning playwright and champion for artists with disabilities. "A Nervous Smile" explores the dark side of life with a disabled child. It was Belluso's last play, and he wrote it based on a real-life situation. Tickets range from $10 to $35. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit dramaticrep.org.
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Molly W. Bryant Roberts, Paul Drinan and Laura Graham star in Dramatic Repertory Company’s “A Nervous Smile” tonight through March 18.
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Portland Ovations brings “South Pacific” to Merrill Auditorum March 17-18.