Charley's Aunt
by
Brandon Thomas 
Directed by Tony Vezner

Sep.5-Sep.15, 2002
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8:00PM Sundays at 2:30PM Also, Sunday, Sep.8 at 7:30PM Saturday, Sep.14 at 2:30PM

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The laughs come fast in this ever-popular comedy of errors and disguises. Jack and Charles invite their girlfriends to Oxford--properly chaperoned, of course, by Charley's wealthy aunt. But when the aunt writes that she'll have to postpone her trip, thus threatening the girls' visit, the boys creatively invent a new "aunt," their friend Babberly dressed as a woman! All goes well until the real aunt turns up. Then the fun begins!
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 . . . . . . .  About  . . . . . . 

   . . . .  Notes  . . . .  

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 the play and the author

Director and Actor

Cast:
Jack Chesney, Rich Kropp
Brassett,  Denny Wise
Charley Wykeham, John Otto
Lord Fancourt Babberley, Jack Calvert
Amy Spettigue, Lisa Machack
Kitty Verdun, Elizebeth Roche
Stephen Spettigue, Jon Mills

Colonel Sir Frances Chesney, Bill Love

Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, Carol Dapagony

Ela Delahay, Julie Knoc
 


 

 

About the Play and the Author 
.by Jane Bowers

A comedy classic for nearly 110 years, Charley’s Aunt has become a staple of regional, college and professional theatres everywhere since its initial opening at the Theatre Royal of London in 1892. The show’s slapstick humor was wildly appreciated and ran there for over four years, yielding 1,466 total performances. It was quickly translated into many languages and until the early 1930s, not a week went by without a performance somewhere in the world.  At one point, 44 different productions of what may arguably be the most popular English farce ever written were running at the same time across the globe.

This popular farce has also been produced in radio and television formats, has been the basis for a hit Broadway musical and has been made into least ten films.  It sprang up as a silent movie in 1915 and again in a 1925 version which featured Sydney Chaplin, brother of Charley Chaplin.  In 1930, Charles Ruggles starred in the first talkie version. It  was so well received that it was given multiple-screen airings.  In 1940, Arthur Askey starred in the leading role in the U.K. spoof entitled Charley’s Big Hearted Aunt. In 1941, 20th Century Fox produced the 81-minute movie version known in Britain as Charley’s American Aunt, in which Jack Benny played Lord Fancourt Babberley, Charley’s aunt, complete with dress, shawl and curls.  The play  was also re-fashioned into the musical Where’s Charley? by George Abbott.  The musical initially ran between 1948 and 1950 at the St. James Theatre and has since also enjoyed many revivals.  It featured music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and the hit song “Once in Love with Amy”, sung by Ray Bolger who played Charley Wykeham.  The musical version is said to have helped to further the careers of then aspiring actors Rex Harrison and Noel Coward.  In 1952, Ray Bolger repeated his Broadway success with a U.K. musical film version of the Broadway hit.  In 1957, the play reached critical acclaim as a black and white televised broadcast on Playhouse 90 with Art Carney in the leading role.

In this production, the real Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez was played by Jeanette MacDonald. 

Other actors who have played the part of the aunt in various productions include Jose Ferrer, Louis Nye, Darryl Hickman, Roddy McDowell and Raul Julia. 

Though playwright Brandon Thomas wrote over a dozen comedies, Charley’s Aunt is the play by which the world remembers him.  Born in 1856 in Liverpool, England, the British gentleman was privately educated and pursued songwriting and acting in addition to his writing.  He appeared onstage for the first time as a comedy actor in 1879 and around this time married Marguerite Blanche Leverson. 

It is said that Thomas wrote Charley’s Aunt in 1892 as a lark in order to further the career of fellow actor and comedian, W.S. Penley, as well as his own.  At the time, he was an experienced actor of eleven years and an author of six plays.  Clearly, that lark has put him permanently on the theatrical map.  

Other light plays also written by Thomas include Comrades, 1882; The Colour-Sergeant, 1885; The Lodgers, 1887; A Highland Legacy, 1888; The Gold Craze, 1889; The Lancashire Sailor, 1891;  Marriage, 1892; The Swordsman's Daughter, 1895; 22a Curzon Street, 1898; Women Are So Serious, 1901; Fourchette & Co., 1904; and A Judge's Memory, 1906.

Thomas died June 19, 1914 in London.

 


 

Acknowledgments:
Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Special Thanks

To Gingiss Formalwear, LaGrange, IL for their assistance with the mens costumes and to our TWS friends: Jill Neely, Charron Traut, Ginny Lennon, Ginny Richardson, Mike Plam, and Judy DiVita for lending furniture.

 

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Setting:   

Production Credits

Director, Tony Vezner
Technical Director, Shelley Dotson
Stage Manager,
Susan Kosiarek
Assistant Stage Manager,
Stephanie Abramowitz
Costume Designers,
Linda Bremer, Mary O’Dowd
Costume Crew,
Mary Dempsey, Liz Egan, Debby Mills, 
Carolyn Redding, Jane Stacy, Jane Bowers
Dialect Coach,
Martin Aistrope
Dramaturg,
Roland Imes, Jane Bowers
Lighting Designer,
Sandy Liakus
Lighting Crew,
Noel Smith, Paul Roach, Bill Redding, Mary Ellen Schutt, Peggy Carlson, Bill Rotz
Makeup Designer,
Karen Arnold
Makeup Crew,
Bea McLean, Sharon Feldt, Cassandra Johnson, Pat Huth, Holly Cejka, Jackie Weiher, Mary Pavia, Roxanne Taylor, Jane Bowers
Program Editor,
Mary Maureen Gentile
Properties Designers,
Janel Horvath, Charlie Egan
Properties Crew,
Danna Durkin, Liz Egan, Tom Frohnapfel, Dennis Hudson, Ann Marie Hultgren, Harry Hultgren, Mike Janke, Todd Sleezer
Set Designer,
Shelley Dotson
Set Construction Chair,
Mark Hewitt
Set Construction Crew,
Paul Roach, Pat Huth, Mike Huth,
Heintz Karplus, George Dempsey,
Fred Sauers, Grace Abrahamson,
Tom Squillo, John Allen
Set Painting Chair,
Sandy Squillo
Set Painting Crew,
John Allen, Jane Bowers, Peggy Carlson
Brian Centers, Carol Clarke, Mary Clarke
Mary Ellen Druyan, Mary Maureen Gentile,
Rich Kropp, John Mueller, Rick Pavia, 
Lori B. Proksa, Tom Squillo, David Swain
Sound Designer,
Shelley Dotson
Sound Crew,
Ralph Byers, Stephanie Williams
Strategic Marketing,
Joe Petrolis
Production Box Office,
Mary Ellen Schutt
Production Group Sales,
Karen Holbert
Production Hospitality Crew,
Jane Bowers, Carol Clarke, Mike Dekovic, 
Mary Ellen Druyan, Eileen Duban, Pauline Gamble, Mary Maureen Gentile,
Bonnie Hilton, Karen Holbert, Mike Huth,
Pat Huth, Duane Mills, Arlene Page,
Jim Patten, Joanne Patten, Connie Sierzputowski, Janette Taft
Production Lobby Photo Display,
Marjorie Mason Heffernan, Jane Stacy
Production Posters,
Kathleen Kusper
Production Publicity Chair,
Arlene Page


Director’s Note
This is usually the space that is set aside for me to share my thoughts about the current production.  However, we produced Charley’s Aunt first in 1971 with the very able comic actor Roland Imes in the role of Lord Fancourt Babberley.  I have asked Roland to share some of his thoughts about that production with you here and I am happy to yield the space to him to share his memory gems with you.
Tony Vezner, Artistic Director

Writing about a play, which was first produced over a hundred years ago, is somewhat challenging.  Mix in the fact that I had a part in that play when TWS produced it in May 1971, 31 years ago, and the broth gets thicker.  Additionally, add in the improbable and ridiculous action, misunderstandings, and frenetic scenes and the mixture becomes a delight.

There were very interesting and unique things about that production that stay in my mind.  If you were here, perhaps you will remember.  First, our director used the whole theatre, not just the stage.  Entrances were made from the last row with characters wandering up to the stage.  When the amorous Mr. Spettigue felt that the aunt from Brazil was worth his advances, he would run and chase her (him/me) out of the stage wings, bursting into the audience from the lobby, racing down and through the audience.  Everyone took part except for the actors on stage who had the difficult task of pretending nothing was happening.

We had a curtain in those days.  With the final line, the curtain closed and reopened immediately with the cast still in exactly the same positions.  A well-rehearsed ten seconds went by and the cast exploded into the auditorium, sitting in laps, kissing hands, laughing, and suddenly, on perfect cue, all running back on stage to their places.  What an ending!

Our Mr. Spettigue, who was about 67 at the time, asked me one night as we waited on our cue in the lobby and were both breathless from our race up the stairs, if I could put something in my purse “just in case”.  It was a bottle of nitroglycerin.  I remember I ran much slower after that.

I remember the fast changes back stage when I had to change from Oxford type student clothes to widow weeds – several layers with hat and shawl, change my voice to “aunties” and be back on stage in two and a half minutes.

At one performance I came out from stage left not having been told that we were oversold.  Our crew had placed a patron on stage down front with his seeing-eye dog beside him.  Charlie’s aunt did what you would expect a sophisticated lady to do – don’t look at the dog, do not take notice of anything unusual, simply lift the skirts and step over the dog and trounce on over to my mark.

In those days handicapped patrons parked in our rear parking lot and came through the work area.  As I was leaving the theatre with my makeup still on, there was an automobile with several women in it, all elderly.  The driver got out, came to me, and pointed to a frail lady in the passenger side whose face was red – she was crying.  The driver looked at the woman and said “She never laughs.  We have never even seen her smile.  And look how you have made her so happy.”

Ah, comedy . . . it can be so comic.

Roland Imes, TWS Active since 1965 


 



To obtain tickets over the phone, call 708 246-3380.