I got a fun phone call Sunday morning. Jennifer McNamara, who’s producing Port Huron Civic Theatre’s May production of The Producers, called me to let me know that the audition board selected me to play Max Bialystock. I’m very pleased, and grateful, to get the chance to play Max, and especially for a group I’ve learned so much from and which has provided so many great memories. Thanks to director Jeff Pedue (who was Felix in the first show I directed, The Odd Couple, back in 2003), musical director Mark Konwinski, choreographer Emilee Caughel, stage manager Jo Lantz and Jennifer for their trust in me.
I first heard the cast album for The Producers in early 2001, about the time I started doing community theater. My wife, Doreen, and I went to New York in November of that year, two months after 9/11, and saw Matthew Broderick and most of the original Broadway cast do the show on a Sunday afternoon. Brad Oscar, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Tony for his role as Franz Liebkind, played Max that day, with Jim Borstelman doing Liebkind. I believe Nathan Lane was battling a throat ailment for several weeks and had cut back on his schedule. Brad Oscar was fantastic as Max, and I left the St. James Theater certain that I wanted to play that part someday.
Move ahead ten years: The Producers became available in 2009 for amateur productions at last. PHCT put it on this season’s schedule. I auditioned Friday with about 30 other talented singing and dancing actors (I’ll never forget trying to learn Emilee’s choreography with nearly 60 other feet – I think a few more lefts than rights, mine included – in the PHCT rehearsal space), several of whom I’ve had the pleasure of teaching or directing in my day job at St. Clair County Community College. The creative team has put together a strong cast from this group, including a new face, Tim Ziegler, as Leo Bloom; Sean Michaels as Franz; Pete Howard as Roger De Bris; Britney McKiernan as Ulla; and Ty Evenson as Carmen Ghia.
I told Jennifer this morning that her call was the one I’ve been hoping for a long time. Thanks again for making today a Super Sunday for me. And thanks to everyone who’s had a hand in getting me to the very fortunate place I am today: doing something I truly cherish. It’s a great privilege to be an actor, I tell my students, and every moment you get to entertain, cajole, terrify and move an audience with what is essentially child’s play is a special moment. Don’t take them for granted.
We’ll get underway in a couple of weeks. I’ll try to write about the experience as we move through the rehearsal process, for the benefit of anyone who wants to look over my shoulder. Always a teaching moment!