Here’s what’s behind the curtain this week in Tampa Bay theater…
5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT HARVEY: 1) The original Broadway lead in Mary Chase’s beloved 1944 comedy about an amiable bachelor and his invisible rabbit (“pooka”) wingman was not James Stewart, as is often assumed, but Vaudeville star Frank Fay, a racist and anti-Semite so notorious that the KKK and the American Nazi Party held a Madison Square Garden rally in his honor during Harvey’s run. 2) Stewart subbed as lovable Elwood P. Dowd during Fay’s vacation, then replaced Fay, then couldn’t let go: He played Dowd in the 1950 film, a 1970 Broadway revival, a 1972 TV adaptation and a 1975 West End production, by which time he was 67 years old and had played Dowd for as many years as Shatner played Kirk. 3) Say Hello to Harvey was the terrible terrible Donald O’Connor-starring musical adaptation that horrified Toronto for a single month in 1981 before committing pookacide 350 miles short of its Broadway goal. 4) The rabbit has his own goddamned website at www.harveypooka.com. 5) The adorable, Pulitzer-winning original opens this weekend at freeFall Theatre, starring Larry Alexander (freeFall’s Cabaret and The Normal Heart). Stewart lobbied hard for the part but was considered too dead.
PLEASE DON’T SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER — SHE’S 91: “Queen of the Keys” Lillette Jenkins-Wisner has played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and now for Stageworks Producing Artistic Director Karla Hartley. The celebrated pianist and Sarasota resident played an impromptu lobby concert while visiting Stageworks Monday to make arrangements to hold a backer's audition there this summer for a play about Jenkins-Wisner, written by her daughter, Adrienne.
ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS… BUT IS: Ghost Light Theatre’s triplet of one acts now playing at Ybor’s Silver Meteor Gallery fortifies two of the funnier entries from Christopher Durang’s 1994 Durang Durang anthology with a brand-new Durang-compatible comedy by Ghost Light Artistic Director April Bender. Bundled as Durang, Durang with a TWIST, the evening delivers For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls (a wicked Glass Menagerie parody), Wanda’s Visit and Bender’s Out of the Womb, Into the Fire through April 19.
LITTLE STAGE, BIG PLANS: The venerable Carrollwood Players Theatre has carved a second stage out of its Gunn Highway storefront location so it can add cabaret and alternative fare to its slate. Descriptively dubbed the “Black Box” for its soft opening this month (a formal name is coming), the new space is getting its pre-launch shakedown this weekend with a staged reading of Woody Allen’s 1966 farce Don’t Drink the Water.
COULD IT BE . . . SATAN? The Root by CL theatre critic Mark Leib is getting a staged reading plus post-show discussion for three nights during the Cuban Sangwiche Show next Monday through Wednesday in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood. Starring Glenn Gover (freeFall's The Mikado, Gorilla Theatre's Shipwrecked), Leib's play presents a malevolent devil making his case for why the audience should be on his side. Jimmy Stewart lobbied hard for the part but was considered too nice.
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