Monday, August 6, 2007

One Pair of Turtle Doves for Another

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin

This weekend in our smash-hit production of The Odd Couple at Hanover Tavern, two of the stellar cast members will be stepping out, making room for two stellar pinch-hitters.
Scott Wichmann, who plays neat freak Felix, and Jen Meharg, who plays the delightful Cecily Pigeon ... or is it Gwendolyn? ... will be stepping out of the show this weekend. Richard Koch and Vicki McLeod will be filling their shoes. The fun thing is that Scott and Jen are a married couple and so are Richard and Vicki.

Major replacements isn't something that happens too frequently on Richmond stages because generally our shows don't run for months or even years, like shows can on Broadway or Off-Broadway. Take Line by Firehouse favorite Israel Horowitz, which is often called the longest running show in history. Granted it only plays one night a week. Or consider Forbidden Broadway which has been running in one incarnation or another since 1982.

The only Broadway production that I have seen twice was John Doyle's incredible re-imagining of Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. I saw it with Patti Lupone (who was awe-inspiring) and then when she was on vacation, with her replacement Judy Kaye. I had heard such great things about Judy Kaye's work in other productions of Sweeney Todd and in her Tony-winning turn in Souvenir, I went back to see her. My favorite moment of hers was when she was upstage-right playing the xylophone (this is one of those John Doyle shows where the actors are also the orchestra) with a look of abject terror on her face. Now, it should be noted that she was up in the corner and maybe wasn't too concerned with being seen, and she did learn the show knowing that she'd be subbing for only a week or two. Nonetheless, her performance was fantastic (very different from Ms. Lupone's, but fantastic still).

It was very funny when I was calling Ticketmaster to order tickets and check on availability because every time I asked about the show they said "Patti Lupone will not be appearing in this performance. Judy Kaye will be taking her place." I KNOW! That's why I'm going back!

But I digress...sometimes, in Richmond, especially with a long-running show like The Odd Couple, there is a time when some of our performers have to step out for a few performances. The last time I remember this happening was several years ago during Barksdale's production of Where's Charley? when the late, great Jim Hilgartner had to leave a couple of weeks before the end of the run and the side-splitting Joe Pabst took over the role of Mr. Spettigue. Incidentally, Joe is the director of our hit production of The Odd Couple! (Not to say that it hasn't happened since, but that's the last time I remember.)

So this was really supposed to be about Vicki and Richard and now I've gotten off-track when I asked Vicki about Richard and herself, I got a very fun response, which I had thought I would use as information for writing about them, but it seems more fun to leave in her voice and just post her own words (I'm awaiting permission from her to do this):

"Let's see...Richard and I met in 1987, working on a locally written, produced and performed comedy pilot for WCVE, Channel 23. The show aired on all the PBS stations in Virginia, with the hope that it would be picked up and become a regular show. Alas, it did not and so we have remained cloaked in obscurity, rather than rising to become Famous PBS Stars.

Okay, how about...Richard loves sleeping very late (whenever possible), eating pizza (he could eat it every night and never grow tired of it, or so he claims) and listening to the music of Mozart and the Beatles, among many other types of music. We both love all kinds of music, listen to it every day and have a huge collection of CDs.

I love working out (I am a personal trainer, certified through the American Council on Exercise), helping others work out and eating really healthy stuff (like a bowl of oatmeal and egg whites, cooked together, or a huge salad with chicken or tuna on it). I also like to eat junk on occasion: really unhealthy buttered popcorn, nachos and beer or big, mean pancake breakfasts with lots of strong, black coffee. I love getting up at or before dawn and going to bed early. I love reading historical diaries and being in the country. I am an introvert, though many people don't believe me when I tell them that."

I would like to add that the first time I saw Richard or Vicki onstage was in Run for Your Wife at Swift Creek Mill Playhouse. Also in that cast were Joy Williams (who appeared recently in Barefoot in the Park at the Tavern, The Magic Flute with Theatre IV and who I just taught with in the Stage Explorers session at Hanover Tavern), Paul Deiss (who is Music Director for the soon-to-open production of Urinetown at Swift Creek Mill), Jason Marks (last seen in Little Shop of Horrors with SPARC), and...Joe Pabst! It was a riot! So when I make it out to see The Odd Couple this weekend (if I can find a seat in a sold out house) I will try very hard to shake the image of Vicki McLeod looking stunning in her lingerie.

--Billy Christopher Maupin


Joe Pabst said...

Thanks, BCM, for a wonderful little tidbit on Richard & Vicki, or as they are known in "obscure celebrity" world: VICHARD! I will say that, if one could build a career on being a fill-in, I would be famous! My first pro role in Richmond was filling in for Michael Cole in the Mill's "Into the Woods" in 1991. I was Wizard-For-A-Day in Theatre IV's "Wizard of Oz"; played Wilson/Pawny Bill in Barksdale's "Annie Get Your Gun"; 70-something Frances Nurse in B-dale's "The Crucible"; I even played the Queen in a Theatre IV production of "Sleeping Beauty" -- when I learned that, when wearing a gown, it is important to LIFT THE SKIRT before you step, lest it detach itself from the bodice and end up around your ankles! (Thank goodness for petticoats!!) I once had the dream of being in every play produced in an entire Richmond season -- for at least one performance! Anyway, I am looking forward to performing with VICHARD this weekend, as I, too, shall be filling in for Steve Moore while he spends time with his family. It should be a blast!!

Thespis' Little Helper said...

I am currently picking myself up off the floor, thinking of you as the Queen in Sleeping Beauty. That's really fabulous! That goes on my list of "If I Could Go Back in Time to See" productions, right up there with Dorothy Loudon as Angela Lansbury's first replacement in Sweeney Todd. (Speaking of queens, I'm gonna rope that in and stop right there).

That's a quite impressive list of fill-ins. You could have a completely separate resume! It had slipped my mind that you are going in as Roy this weekend. I apologize for the omission and will definitely amend that on the morrow.

Might there be an extant video of your turn as the Queen in Sleeping Beauty?

oneeyeddog said...

I also happen to know that Vicki loves strappy, high-heeled shoes, and has the greatest legs in the world for showing them off!

Frank Creasy said...

So Joe, does that mean that you and wife Deborah are known collectively as...Jobarah? Or is it Deboe?

I'm sure Richard and Vicki will do a terrific job, and Joe, a trip to the Tavern confirmed for Carol and me what I'd suspected: You did a FANTASTIC job of directing that talented cast in "Odd Couple". Well done sir!

joe pabst said...

Alas, there is no video (extant or otherwise) nor even a picture of my turn in drag. A pity, considering that one of the other cast members, experienced with drag makeup, performed an amazing transformation! My roommate at the time, who was also in the cast, even remarked that I was "mighty pretty"! (After that, I took to locking my door at night...) Thank you, Frank, for your kind words! This show certainly ranks as one of my favorite projects. It seems the audiences are having as much fun as the cast is!

Jacquie O. said...

Wait a minute...was this the production of Sleeping Beauty that I was in? Do I have a photo???
Stay tuned folks! And if you see me driving around in a shiny new red will know why!

Anonymous said...

I saw Richard and Vickie and they were both GREAT!! I'm sure Scott is great as well, but I can't imagine him being any better than Richard.