WILLSBORO - One spring musical production is giving students and area residents alike the chance to see a professional musical theatre act right in their backyard.
The Willsboro Drama Club will present "Mame" Thursday, May 7 through SAturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 10 at 2 p.m. The production is a lighthearted and thoroughly entertaining Jerry Herman hit, featuring the performances of two accomplished Broadway stars.
Leslie Hearn of Broadway's "La Cage Aux Folles" stars as Mame Dennis, an exuberant and unconventional woman of New York City in the 1920s, who takes in her orphaned nephew, Patrick, and introduces him to her free-wheeling lifestyle.
George Hearn, Leslie's husband, stars opposite her as the Southern aristocrat Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside. George is also a veteran Broadway performer, having won Tony Awards for his performances in "Sunset Boulevard" and "La Cage Aux Folles," where he and Leslie met. He is also well-known for his Emmy Award-winning performance in the title role of "Sweeney Todd," as well as key roles in "Wicked" and "Putting it Together."
The two anchor a talented group of theatre performers from throughout the region. A number of students from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh join the cast, including Keene native Tyler Nye as a grown-up Patrick. Visual artist Ted Cornell, a former director of New York's Shakespeare Theatre Festival, stars as Banker Babcock. Other familiar faces include Julie Frisbie, Susan Richards, Erin Ganter, and Jackie Wardell. Whole families such as the Longwares from Willsboro and Balzacs from Jay are also featured.
"This year we wanted to do a full-blown community production; not just the kids," said director Derrick Hopkins.
As in previous years, high school and elementary students from Willsboro, AuSable Valley, and Keene make up a majority of the cast. Hopkins said adding so many adults has given the young theatre buffs a new learning experience.
"All of a sudden, they see George and Leslie and college students that are a few years ahead of them, and they want to try to bring themselves up to their level," Hopkins said. "I'm trying to show them what it is really like out there."
Hopkins said directing two very established performers has been a humbling experience for him as well, but praised the Hearns for their willingness to contribute to Willsboro's drama program.
"It's just a remarkable gift that they give," he said, pointing to their participation in other local productions through Essex Theatre Company and the Depot Theatre.
Also new this year is a larger orchestra with more than a dozen musicians. Accomplished pianists Matthew Russell and Jennifer Moore share the duties of musical director. Diane White is in charge of choreography.
"Mame" is the musical adaptation of the novel "Auntie Mame," which was written under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis in 1955. It is chock-full of classic musical numbers including "If He Walked Into My Life," "We Need a Little Christmas" and the title song, "Mame."
Leslie said the musical holds special meaning for her, as it was one of the first Broadway shows she saw as a young girl.
"I saw 'Mame' and I was completely changed," she said. "It was like the moment you know what you want to do in life. I've always wanted to do this part, and now I get to do it."
"It's just been fun," said George of the production. "Seeing young people excited about doing musical theatre; some may go on and do it professionally."
As if seeing two Broadway performers on stage wasn't exciting enough, audience members can also enter to win "Dinner with the Stars." Raffle tickets will be on sale for $10, with the winner receiving a free dinner at the Essex Inn with George and Leslie.
"Mame" will be performed Thursday, May 7 through Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 10 at 2 p.m. at Willsboro Central School. Tickets are $20. For more information or to make a reservation, call 963-4456 x 214 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.