Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Odd Couple" Closes Flush with Laughs

Posted by Bruce Miller

We closed The Odd Couple today to a sold-out house, a theatre full of laughter, and a standing ovation. Congratulations and thanks to all involved.

We had three shows running simultaneously this summer--a first for us. Into the Woods, Disney's High School Musical and The Odd Couple. All three shows were hits, with lots of sold out performances. All three ended on a high note.

As soon as the house lights came up after Odd Couple curtain call, Joe Pabst (the director) and I scurried onto the stage to begin collecting the props we had lent to the production. As soon as the audience cleared, Jeff Clevenger (Speed), Jennifer Frank (Gwendolyn Pigeon) and Dave Bridgewater (Oscar Madison) joined us. Seems that over the years we’ve all learned the same valuable lesson. When you lend a prop to a show, be sure to claim it immediately after the final curtain call, or expect never to see it again.
Somewhere there’s a black hole that contains all the props that are routinely sucked into it approximately 60 minutes after each show ends. These props are destined to remain missing forever. It’s one of the laws of stage physics. I guarantee you that anyone who comes looking for props tomorrow will walk away empty handed. I’ve never figured out where the props go, but they go somewhere. And they go very quickly.

Jeannie Kilgore, who’s been subbing for stage manager Joseph Papa this week, warned me that one of the tin coffee mugs went missing in action this week, before the show even closed. It seems that Scott threw it down the hall one night, as Felix is supposed to, midway through Act II. The mug has never been heard from since. Seems Scotty’s got a great pitching arm. And the black hole was waiting, like a catcher, just offstage, behind home plate. Go Red Sox!

Jeannie also apologized for her faux pas during last night’s curtain speech, dutifully performed by Phil Whiteway. Phil and his family headed off to Nags Head today. Since he knew he’d be missing the final performance, he attended last night to personally thank our outstanding cast and crew.

Whenever Phil shows up at the theatre, he feels honor bound to make a curtain speech. God bless him for it. I HATE making curtain speeches, and more times than not, I ignore my responsibilities (opportunities?) and remain silent. Phil is far more responsible than I. He knows that making curtain speeches is an important component of our efforts to raise funds and sell tickets. So he selflessly mounts the stage, time after time, exercising due diligence for himself and also for me.

Anyway, as his pre-show welcoming speech was drawing to a close, Jeannie Kilgore was pushing buttons in the booth, preparing for the first sound cue (pre-show music) that she intended to start as soon as Phil finished. But, Jeannie, as I said earlier, is only filling in for Joseph Papa, and didn’t know exactly which button was which. So just as Phil was on his last two or three sentences, Jeannie hit the button that started a particularly loud rendition of the second sound cue—a exuberant toilet flush coming from off stage right. Phil apparently played it to the hilt and graciously allowed himself to be flushed off stage. The audience laughed uproariously. Jeannie was mortified.

At least we now know how to end Phil’s curtain speeches and still get a robust first laugh for the show.

Thanks again to everyone who made The Odd Couple such a hit. You couldn’t have been more Odd, and we appreciate it.

--Bruce Miller


Anonymous said...

You've done two Neil Simon's in two years at the Hanover Tavern. Do you think Muriel, Pete and Nancy would be pleased to see you relying so much on Neil Simon when they worked so hard to present Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Crucible, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, etc.?

Bruce Miller said...

This is a great question, and an important one, and I thank you for it. Actually, yes, I think Muriel, Pete and Nancy would be pleased and proud. It's wonderful that people remember them as being the ones who brought America's great and most challenging dramas to the Richmond stage. They did exactly that, and deserve all the credit in the world.

They also learned, I'm sure through the school of hard knocks, that the best way to keep their theatre healthy and strong was to find the proper balance of commercial and challenging work. They knew that filling seats and selling tickets was an important part of their job. Otherwise, they never would have been able to continually produce the challenging theatre for which they are remembered.

What may not be remembered is that they also produced lots of comedies. In fact, Neil Simon is the most frequently produced playwright in the history of Muriel, Pete and Nancy's magnificent 40-year reign.

I invite you to peruse the full production history that can be found on our website by clicking About Us, History. You'll find that Barksdale produced Barefoot in the Park twice, The Odd Couple once, as well as Plaza Suite, The Good Doctor, Chapter II and Brighton Beach Memoirs--all by Neil Simon.

The only playwright to come close was fellow humorist George S. Kaufman. Muriel, Pete and Nancy produced six Kaufman productions, as compared to seven Simon, and two of the Kaufman's were repeats of "George Washington Slept Here," just like two of the Simon's were repeats of "Barefoot in the Park."

Hopefully, I've learned a lot from Muriel, Pete and Nancy. I work my hardest to honor their unparalleled legacy.

Thanks for asking such a great question.