Chesney, Rich Kropp
Wykeham, John Otto
Fancourt Babberley, Jack Calvert
Amy Spettigue, Lisa Machack
Verdun, Elizebeth Roche
Spettigue, Jon Mills
Sir Frances Chesney, Bill Love
Lucia D’Alvadorez, Carol Dapagony
Delahay, Julie Knoc
About the Play
and the Author
.by Jane Bowers
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.
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.
this production, the real Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez was played by Jeanette
actors who have played the part of the aunt in various productions
include Jose Ferrer, Louis Nye, Darryl Hickman, Roddy McDowell and
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.
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.
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.
died June 19, 1914 in London.
by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
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.
More Photos Page 2
Director, Tony Vezner
Technical Director, Shelley Dotson
Assistant Stage Manager,
Linda Bremer, Mary O’Dowd
Mary Dempsey, Liz Egan, Debby Mills,
Carolyn Redding, Jane Stacy, Jane Bowers
Roland Imes, Jane Bowers
Noel Smith, Paul Roach, Bill Redding, Mary Ellen Schutt, Peggy Carlson,
Bea McLean, Sharon Feldt, Cassandra Johnson, Pat Huth, Holly Cejka,
Jackie Weiher, Mary Pavia, Roxanne Taylor, Jane Bowers
Mary Maureen Gentile
Janel Horvath, Charlie Egan
Danna Durkin, Liz Egan, Tom Frohnapfel, Dennis Hudson, Ann Marie
Hultgren, Harry Hultgren, Mike Janke, Todd Sleezer
Set Construction Chair,
Set Construction Crew,
Paul Roach, Pat Huth, Mike Huth,
Heintz Karplus, George Dempsey,
Fred Sauers, Grace Abrahamson,
Tom Squillo, John Allen
Set Painting Chair,
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
Ralph Byers, Stephanie Williams
Production Box Office,
Mary Ellen Schutt
Production Group Sales,
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 Publicity Chair,
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.”
comedy . . . it can be so comic.
Imes, TWS Active since 1965