One of the “lost treasures of Broadway,” the Jerry Herman musical, “Mack and Mabel,” will be the stage debut for Naples’ newest professional theatre company, Theatre Zone, at Community School’s G&L Theatre, Mar. 16.
Starring Gary Sandy, who is best known for his role in the 1970’s hit TV series WKRP in Cincinnati, “Mack and Mabel” relives the exploits of Mack Sennett, silent era film director, and his favorite star, Mabel Normand.
Theatre Zone was recently granted Small Professional Theatre status by the Actors’ Equity Association, a limited membership union. The agreement requires the cast and crew to be made up of at least 50 percent equity members.
According to managing director Larry Goodsight, that stipulation raises the quality of productions and gives audiences access to performers who might not otherwise be able to act in Naples, and it gives local talent a chance to interact with professionals like nowhere else in Florida.
“This is quite literally ‘theatre in your lap,’” explained Goodsight referring to the intimate thrust-proscenium hybrid stage at the school. “No matter where you sit, you’ll be no more than 50 feet away from the action. Gary breaks the fourth wall with his charm while talking to everybody in the audience.”
“We call it a ‘lost treasure’ because it didn’t do very well on Broadway -- only about 60 shows, but Jerry Herman has often said it was his favorite show of all the ones he’s written,” said Goodsight. “Herman even gave us complete artistic freedom with this production.”
Directed by Mark Danni, drama teacher at Community School, and choreographed by Karen Molnar, “Mack and Mabel” also features New York actors Susan Nock and Kevin O’Connell. Naples-area residents in the cast include Robert Nardi, David Goguen, Jane Badger, Mary Benepe-Systma, Brad Goetz and Dana Cohen.
The 501(3)c acting company plans to do three or four performances next season but is looking to develop patronage and is reaching out to the community for support, Goodsight said.
Community School also has plans to build an 800-seat proscenium theatre with a full orchestra pit in the next four years.
Performances begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Mar. 16-18, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Mar. 19, at the G&L Theatre on the Community School campus, 13275 Livingston Road north of Pine Ridge Road.
For ticket information, call 449-2323.
Q & A with TV star Gary Sandy
Gary Sandy, star of television hit WKRP in Cincinnati, recently sat down with The Citizen for a short question and answer session.
Q: How did you happen to land the role in WKRP in Cincinnati?
A: “I auditioned for a CBS pilot and didn’t get the part, but the casting director sent me over to MTM. The casting director there said I wasn’t right for the role, but when Mary Tyler Moore saw my screen test, she said I was it and that was that.”
Q: What made you decide to accept a part in the musical here?
A: “I’m a big fan of silent films. That was back when language wasn’t a problem. Everybody knew what was going on by watching how the actors interacted, and Mack is a fascinating character.
Q: What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you while doing a show?
A: “We had to swing a well-known matinee idol around while filming live. His toupee flew off and hit the camera lens. No one knew he wore a hairpiece. Everybody kept acting even though we were beside ourselves.”
Q: How did you get into television?
A: “I tried and tried to get a commercial. Then, first time I auditioned for a soap opera, I got a part in “As the World Turns.” When I was ready to try something else, Fred Silverman let me write my own part in Secret Storm because I’d told him I wouldn’t sign a contract.”
Q: Did you ever have to deal with an unruly audience member?
A: “On tour with Jean Stapleton and Marian Ross, we took “Arsenic and Old Lace” to Birmingham, AL. It was like a sporting event with people munching on popcorn and drinking sodas. There was no respect. It was like they were in their living room.”
Q: What was the most challenging role you ever had?
A: “The most physically challenging was “Barnum.” I had to go to circus school and learn to walk a tight rope while singing. “Billy Bishop Goes to War” was most challenging mentally. I had to be 17 characters.”
Q: What’s the downside of being cast in a comedy series like WKRP?
A: “The casting agents think they know you. But they have no clue. You’re not right unless they’re doing a sitcom about a radio show where the character wears boots.”
Q: What’s the difference between live tape and TV productions today?
A: “Mickey Rooney was asked that about Playhouse 90. He said, ‘When the red light goes on and the curtain goes up, you either cut it or you don’t.’ There’s no time to get it wrong. It’s like a moon shot in 30 minutes. It’s not like film where you do it in pieces and no matter how you mess up, you come off great.”
Q: What’s the one thing you want to do before you die?
A: “I want to have a movie role where people look at just one scene and say, ‘That was an unbelievable acting job!’”