OPCT opened its first show of 2015 on February 6, with the family-friendly comedy “A Toby Show,” which will be on stage through February 20 in Orange Park, Florida. The play was written by the late Aurand Harris who penned over fifty plays, the majority of them geared toward good family entertainment. The play is a throwback to the days before radio and television, when traveling actors played to large and small cities in tent shows.
This is a fractured fairy tale. And what is a fractured fairy tale? Well, the popular movie “Into the Woods,” released at the end of 2014, is a perfect example. They are stories that use fairy tales you know, with changes to the characters, setting, point of view, or plot. When you see this show you will quickly realize that it’s a very funny version of “Cinderella.” And be sure to take the kids, young and old, it’s suitable for all ages.
The show is set in 1915, and takes place in the parlor of a family home. The show centers around Toby, a naïve, homespun country boy, who is both the narrator and a character in the play. Imagine a cross between Gomer Pyle and Forrest Gump, and you have him pegged.
Toby has come to town for a job as a handyman with snooty uppercrust Mrs. VanUndersquire, who lives in a spacious mansion with Sophia and Mauderina, her spoiled and unrefined grown daughters. Cindy, her stepdaughter, is unappreciated, and required to toil as an overworked housemaid. Toby, of course, ends up in a role like that of the fairy godmother.
A young Prince Burtock arrives at the household, having piloted his plane, rather than being driven by a coachman. The prince has a problem: he must chose one of the sisters as a wife, as he must marry before he can claim a large inheritance. He is handsome and charmingly played by Charles Brown, whom we last saw as a druggie teenager in First Coast Theatre’s “Die Mommy, Die” at Club Metro. The Prince is accompanied by his grandfather, Colonel Dimwiddie, who is almost deaf, and played marvelously by long-time OPCT veteran Ray Chute. The Colonel has an invisible dog, Ulysses, who barks long and loud and perfectly on cue (thanks to Lights and Sound Operator, Lisa Coughlin).
Director Bill Kroner, in his directing debut with OPCT, brings a show he truly loves to life; one he has previously directed twice, several years ago, in Jacksonville. Kroner has selected an absolutely perfect cast to deliver all the zany and sometimes corny humor contained in this gem of a play.Yolanda Olmstead (Sophia) and Lindsay Nussbaum (Mauderina) make a fabulous comic team as the daughters who both want to marry the prince. Darian Parks, a newcomer to the local theatre scene, is absolutely believable as the lovely step-daughter who steals his heart instead at the ball. Sara Green as Mrs. VanUndersquire is wonderful as the scheming mother. Ms. Green stepped into this role with only five rehearsals, but you would never know it from her polished performance, as she captures the fancy dressing greedy old gal to the letter.
We had first seen Jeffery Rommel on stage in a hilarious role as the chameleon criminal in “Murder Among Friends,” and were impressed. Mr. Rommel took over the demanding role of Toby on short notice as well, and he is a superb comedian, very animated, with impeccable comic timing. You are going to love him.
The evening we saw this show, the audience members were mainly adults and they laughed long and hard. In theatre today, it can be difficult to find a play to take your children or grandchildren to see that you will enjoy equally, but “A Toby Show” is one; we guarantee it.
The set was designed by Director Kroner and built by David Wells, and was a visual delight, which included upholstered furniture, and many flowers, part of the entrance to an off-stage gazebo. Kroner was also the costumer and the apparel was colorfully captivating. Bill tapped into the great selection of clothing at the Hubbard House Thrift Shop for many of the picture-perfect creations.
The production Stage Manager was Denise French, who kept everything running smoothly.
Kudos as well to Barbara and David Wells, the creators of the program. The entire program uses color illustrations very effectively, and is filled with excellent biographies of the actors that include color photos.
Of interest, OPCT’s next scheduled play is “The Philadelphia Story,” beginning April 10, 2015.
For information and tickets, call (904) 276-2599 or visit opct.org.