Behind the Stage Door of the Hampton Playhouse - 44th Season 1992
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The 1992 season got off to on exciting start with Van Johnson as star of LEND ME A TENOR along with Steve Witting and Carina Anderson, R.D. Kennedy (returning after an absence of some years), Lorraine Sarabian (remembered for her role in the Broadway production of ZORBA), Frank Vohs, Karri Nussle, and Mary Sharmat. Van was a big favorite with the Hampton audiences, many of whom remembered him from his golden years at MGM...fans brought him cookies, cakes, and any number of other momentos...and he delighted audiences every night with his curtain speeches recalling his MGM years with such stars as June Allyson, Judy Garland, Esther Williams, and the like. A nicer more congenial person you could not ask for...even now when Alfred and John chance to see him in the city (he lives in the same building) he recalls the theatre calling it one of his favorites and certainly one of the best in the country.
HELLO DOLLY was a standout with Deb Girdler giving her all as Dolly Levi and establishing herself as a regular with Hampton audiences.
THE MOST HAPPY FELLA was a very big favorite featuring Mark Zeller from NY in the role of Tony with Hampton favorites Karri Nussle, Carina Anderson, Patrick Lay, Stuart Marland and Deb Girdler rounding out the exciting cast.
BURLESOUE FOLLIES OF 1992 was the usual big hit with the return of the male and female strippers, the popular musical interlude, and of course the big patriotic finale.
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY was Ray Cooney at his wildest with Karri, Frank Vohs, Dick Kennedy and Deb Girdler in rare form, with Patrick Loy, Chris Roberts, Don LaBranche, and Stephanie Patrick not far behind.
EMCs for the season were Annie Bogach, Matt Compton, Michael Deeg, Meghan Murphy, Kittson Peirce, Chris Roberts, Pekka Siven, Don LaBranche, Peter Darrigo, Kristen Tanze, Matt Halvorsen, and Stephanie Patrick. Musicians -- Laurence Sobel, John Buccini on bass, and Johnny Beach on drums.
Dick Kennedy remembers... "My latest season...was the season of Van Johnson was a pleasure to work with and be around in every way...".
Bruce Resnik, (photo) remembers... "This was my first show at Hampton and the show starred Van Johnson and Steve Witting. In the show, there is a phone that needs to ring at certain points during the show. To make it easier for Van to hear the phone we placed the ringer on stage behind the end table. During the first blackout, the ringer was hit and displaced so that the ringer would not work. Of course the first thing that happens when the lights come back on is that the phone rings. When I went to push the phone button it didn't work. At least for this one, Steve was able to work it out so he did not need it to ring but make the call himself. This would not work for Van later in the act. We needed to have a phone ring. The problem was there was no substitute for the ringer we had. I then got a desperate idea so I got one of the EMCs (Pekka) and had him stand next to me off stage. When it came time for the phone to ring, I had him make the phone ring noise with his tongue loud enough for Van to hear. Van, not knowing what had happened to the phone, first looked at the phone, then off stage to where I was, then out to the audience and gave a shrug, then picked up the phone. The audience loved it. At intermission we were able to fix the ringer."
Patrick Loy remembers... "My most vivid and humiliating theatre memory comes from the mid-season run of Hampton's legendary BURLESQUE FOLLIES. It was a hot and sticky night, the kind that kept the cast, crew and audience soaked to the skin whether they were onstage or off. The weather was unusually cool and rainy that year so the warm evenings seemed all the more brutal. I was happy to be at Hampton. While I thought I had been auditioning well that spring, I hadn't gotten one summer offer by the time I went off to do my spring job.
At the last minute, having lost one of his men dancers, Bob Rizzo, choreographer of HELLO DOLLY found me in Michigan doing DAMN YAKEES and asked me to join the company for the summer. I got back into the city Sunday night and was on a train for New Hampshire twelve hours later. The first show that season was LEND ME A TENOR starring Van Johnson. HELLO DOLLY was number two with the inimitable Deb Girdler as Dolly Levi. Surely Al and John were proud of this production because Deb was fantastic; the sexiest Dolly that the stage has ever seen. Third that year was the BURLESQUE FOLLIES, the unlikely setting for an actor's worst nightmare. 'Ah, to be an understudy and never a star.' In my case more accurately I say 'To be a replacement and never first choice.' I love my work as a dancer and am always grateful for the chance to perform, but on this particular job I was a replacement to the second degree. I was initially hired to fill a spot suddenly vacated by a guy who had gotten a better offer. Then the guy hired to do the 'male strip' spot in the Follies changed his mind. All this to say that here I was, pinch hitting again. I was happy to strip. I had never done it and thought 'Heck, how naked could they want me to get? This was Hampton Playhouse, a family venue if ever there was one.' I said yes and we went to work. We decided on a cowboy affair to the tune of 'Don't Fence Me in.' Connie Meng, the season's musical director and I worked out a sort of sing, strip, sing routine, seasoned heavily with jokes and patter. It sounded like great fun. I wrote my own material which since I can't remember, I can only hope was funny. Bobby assured me it was. On this particular humid summer night, I started my number in the usual way.
* Sing, sing, off comes the vest
* Sing, sing, off comes the shirt
* Sing, sing, off comes the pants... to reveal a leopard print, cowboy fringed G-string, leaving very little to the imagination. (I would never have guessed how little imagining that Hampton audience would have to do that night.) At this point, I would wander dawn the steps and into the audience where I would do my little cowboy patter and flirt with the summertime seashore ladies. I was being my usual clever self when in the middle of the bit the house went completely silent. The silence didn't last very long however, when like a clap of thunder, the audience in my immediate vicinity broke into an exclamation of riotous laughter completely out of proportion with the joke I had just told. I was baffled and it took me a second or two to register the pointing fingers. When I did, and was able to follow the course the fingers were pointing, my eyes came to rest on the source of the uproar. There, hanging from the side of my leopard print, cowboy fringed G-string like a lonely ornament on same peculiar tree, was my right testicle, pink and fuzzy and mightily confused without his brother! What to do but put it away and go on. My entire show business career passed before my eyes in those moments. The computer chip in my brain was able to override the shock I was feeling and kept me going. That I didn't dive under a seat was amazing and that I was able to finish the number a miracle!
These are the eight minutes that make up my most memorable and frightening theatrical memory. I have Alfred and John to thank for keeping me on top of their reject pile at callback. I also have Bob Rizzo to thank for thinking of me first (or more than likely second or third) to replace the dancer who signed a contract but didn't take the job. I am grateful to Kevin Charboneau for deciding not to strip that year. Most of all, however, I am grateful to the manufacturer of that G-string for keeping the rest of my anatomy where it belonged during that long slow climb back onto the stage and into my senses on that sticky summer night at the Hampton Playhouse."
Don LaBranche remembers... "It's a Ray Cooney farce. I'm onstage as a British Bobby in the common room of a London hospital. Tom Souhroda is in a wheelchair playing a patient. A third actor, acting as doctor completes our group. In the middle of our dialogue the 'doctor' says to me 'don't go away... I'll be right back.' This is not in the script. He exits stage left. Tom repeats an earlier line to me, 'Funny, isn't it?' We ad lb for a few minutes until the 'doctor' returns with a beeper he'd left in the dressing room which was necessary to continue the scene, which we did. A few nights later if happened again. This time, just as the 'doctor' reached the door, an arm emerged to hand him the beeper. Tah Da! - Live theatre - don'tcha love it!"
Tam Souhrada remembers... "My first of two seasons at the playhouse was the summer of '92. We had just finished a very successful run of MOST HAPPY FELLA, when John and Alfred invited me to stay on for the next production, a British farce, IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY. I was to play a wheelchair bound septagenarian land being 31 years old at the timel I was excited to portray such a challenging and fun role. But, little did I know, the challenge was not to be the character's age or infirmities. Playing one of the leads was the always hysterical Frank Vohs. We had a very funny scene in the second act full of malapropisms and mistaken identity. One evening during the first week of performances Frank seemed a little disturbed. I was in the middle of one of my lines when Frank all at a sudden interrupted me and said, 'I'll be right back.' Not the line you want to hear ... onstage - there I was - in a wheelchair, playing a 75 year old man - yikes! My mind raced, and I just started talking - God knows what came out of my dry as a desert mouth. I heard Frank tearing up the backstage searching for the prop he had forgotten, while I continued my, I'm sure, incoherent monologue. After what seemed like 10 minutes but probably was only 30 seconds, Frank returned to the stage and said, 'Now where was I?'"
John McNally remembers... "My favorite memory from my association with the Hampton Playhouse occurred during the '92 through '95 musical seasons, namely that I was fortunate enough to work with fine musicians each season that I played drums at the theatre, most notably Mr. John Buccini on Bass. it is probably not widely known that the musicians became very close over the course of a summer. On matinee days, we would often go to lunch as a group. My fondest memories, however, are of matinee days, when the musicians would stay behind after the first show and have impromptu jam sessions. We would have guest musicians and singers, and would attempt just about any song or musical style on request."