The play is not a musical but is instead a play with music, provided by a marvelous skiffle band, an important part of the show. Not familiar with skiffle? It is a mix of jazz and country that was popular in the US back in the ’20s, but faded in the ’40s. However, the British revived it in the early ’50s as a sort of mix of rock and roll and bluegrass. Early skiffle used many homemade instruments and in this show you will find a musician using a washboard. You will love listening to the playing and the vocals of Stefanie Batson (Keyboard), Misha Frayman (Guitar), Damon Martin (Bass) and Michael Taylor (Percussion).
You may have seen a number of the cast members in other shows in local theatres. Alec Hadden as Alan is a larger than life wannabe actor who shows off his well-trained baritone voice in a solo. Hadden, a recent JU graduate, has been seen in “Drood,” “Les Misérables,” “Tommy” and “9 to 5,” just to name a few credits.Kristen Walsh plays Pauline Clench, who has agreed to marry him, as Roscoe Crabbe, her previous intended, has reportedly met an untimely end. Ms. Walsh has had impressive roles in two 5 & Dime productions, “33 Variations” and “The Pittman Players.” Matt Tomkins is Charlie “The Duck” Clench, Pauline’s father, a gangster who owed Roscoe Crabbe a considerable sum of money prior to his death . Tomkins, a master of comic timing, has previously appeared at Theatre Jacksonville in “Figaro,” where he played two very different hilarious characters; he also appeared in “Les Misérables” and “Lombardi.” Jack Barnard appears as Lloyd Boateng, a very wise and funny older ex-con. Barnard, who is making his 27th appearance on ABET’s stage, is one of the finest character actors on our local stages. Miles Para is the proper but sexy and outspoken Dolly, in search of a romantic interest. She has previously appeared at Theatre Jacksonville in “Is He Dead” and “As You Like It.” Jim Warren plays three roles as a driver, policeman and barman. We loved him best as the stone-faced policeman in this show. Mr. Warren got back into acting after a prolonged absence by honing his skills with the Vintage Players, and then appearing in “Anything Goes,” “Hotbed Hotel,” and “White Christmas” at Orange Park Community Theatre. Lucas Hopper is impressive as the energetic small-time gangster and unrepentant murderer, Stanley Stubbers. Mr. Hopper has made two previous appearances locally with Theatre Jacksonville as Paul Hornung in “Lombardi” and Timothy Cleary in “The Subject was Roses.” Bill White appears as the appealing Alfie, a very funny waiter, 87 years old, who gets knocked about like a ping-pong ball and dies a couple of times, but is saved by his pacemaker. White has been in many, many shows, about fifteen, during the past nine years since he became involved with community theatre.
Four members of the cast were newcomers to the local theatre scene. All were impressive and we are looking forward to future appearances from them.Jerry Redfield plays the shady lawyer Harry Dangle, who is the father of Alan. He brings an impressive resume from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas and we are sure to see more of him in the future. Sebastian John Inks plays the leading man of the title, as Francis, with two bosses that he juggles awkwardly throughout. As Francis, he is very much in command of the stage and a funny guy. His experience with the Mad Cowford Improv Group is evident when he becomes involved in ad-libbing. Blythe Scott is Rachel Crabbe, who spends most of the time dressed as a man badly in need of a shave as she impersonates Roscoe, her dead twin brother. Why? We leave that for you to discover when you see the show. Ms. Scott has been a part of Gary Baker’s Improv classes at ABET, and previous did film and TV work in New York. Thankfully, she sheds the wig and beard before the end of this play and we can see how attractive she really is. Colin Morgan is making his community theatre debut playing two roles, as Gareth, who is a chef, and as a policeman. In addition he choreographed the fight scenes. We saw him in “Pink” at Club Metro a couple of months ago. He has a BA in theatre and music from Nova University.
Director J. C. Wells designed the uncluttered set as an open stage with dusky rose walls and various props moved on and off. The simple room with three openings works perfectly for the many frantic entrances and exits of the cast.
Stage Managers, Ashley Macko and Julian Andreu (who also appeared in a cameo role as a Boy Scout) kept things moving and produced the many food props right on schedule. Kimberly Berry as Costume Designer chose clothes with a clearly British look from the ’60s, which included vests and jackets for the men, and short skirts for the women.
Others in the all important Production Team included Bryan and Gordon Frank for Lighting, Stefanie Batson as Musical Director, and Sheena Knott as the Light Board Operator.
This unusual play is fast-paced and well acted by the entire company. You will love the music. Be forewarned there is some ribald humor at times, but it zips by quickly.
Director J. C. Wells does a marvelous bit of directing this excellent cast during two hours or more of zaniness. And one of the great things about the cast is the mix of established local talent with a number of talented newcomers making their community theatre debuts.