Under The Big Top
As Reverend Kingsley in Under The Big Top.. The two other clowns are Jeff Starbird (L) as "No-No" and Sam Chesney (R) as "Splinters".
That's also me under all that Elephant. I don't think this is what Ashley Montagu had in mind. Pictured with "Lulu" is Linda Strasser (L) and T.J. Mullin (R) as The Evil Ringmaster. T.J., a fine actor and musician starred in all the Heritage Productions and now runs the Heritage Square Music Hall in the same space.
of The Lonesome Pine
The Way of The West
As Uncle Rufe (holding jug Top L) in
The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine
As Rufus McSween
(dealing under the table sitting 2nd from R)
in The Way Of The West
In the two above photos the other cast are as
Alex Rieth (sitting on T.J.'s lap Left as "April May June Hatfield" and in bonnet Right Center)
Steve Leuthauser (Left at T.J.'s right flank with flintlock and sitting opposite me at the card table Right as "Jim Royle"). I used to bug Steve all the time to do his Jack Benny impression-- He's really terrific and is a great make-up artist.
Jack Prather (Left photo, Top left aiming a flintlock at T.J. as "Red Fox" and Right next to T.J. as "Deke McSween"). I used to kid Jack all the time about his regular speaking voice which resembles Bill Scott's "Dudley Do-Right". These days, it empowers his associate Oscar the Robot (below).
Pat Holloran (Left Photo- Lower Left flank of Alex as "Jeeter Hatfield" and Right standing R of Alex in bonnet as "John Wesley Ringo"). Pat has quite possibly one of the greatest Baritone-Bass singing voices I've ever heard. And;
Debbie Laurie (Left Photo-Top Right resembling Delta Burke in her "Swamp Flower" wig and Left between Linda and Alex ).
was the Genius Music Director during my tenure in the Rep Company. Doug finished his schooling since then and now runs the Clear Space Theatre Company in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
The Clear Space Theatre Company
In its time the Heritage Square Opera House was the best entertainment value in Denver Colorado for your Dinner-Theater dollar. You got reasonably good food and drink, the regular melodrama plus a rousing Vaudeville Olio. Professor Douglas Yetter who directed the music, was especially adept at putting together tuneful medleys at a moments notice. Although I only played drums in the Olio he has my highest regard for his great musical prowess. It was a fairly accurate sample of how Music Halls in the early 1900's tended to operate and it was my first steady employment in Theatrical Repertory.
The Denver Post
Tuesday February 16, 1982
If ever there was a reason for Alexandre Dumas to spin in his grave, the latest production of the Heritage Square Opera House is it. As "freely" adapted at the hands of mischievous G. William Oakley, and directed by Bryan Foster, Dumas' classic "The Count of Monte Cristo," moves from underneath that protective cover to the wild and woolly world of melodrama. Perhaps on a still night, you might hear the faint calls of Dumas crying "Look what they've done to my play, Ma." The uh, vehicle, takes place in the Napoleonic Era and is the story of Edmund Dantes' arrest and conviction for a crime he didn't commit, his escape from the feared fortress of Chateau D'If, and his transformation from a ragged prisoner to the Count Of Monte Cristo, who "thrilled the capitols of Europe while he veiled the pursuit of his fearful vengeance." That little bitty paragraph takes a cast of 12, five scenes moving from taverns, offices, palatial homes, inns and forests, and two acts, to complete.
...And although he has but one scene, Lowell V. Noel will long be remembered for his role as Faria, the original heir to the fortune of Monte Cristo. Faria and Dantes meet in the slammer-which is a laugh in itself-and the fun part comes every time Dantes mentions the words, "Monte Cristo". Noel is an outsized dude and he goes into a fit, roaring, out of which comes the words "Slowly I turn. Inch by inch, step by step," whereupon he jumps on Dantes and tries to strangle him to death. A definite high point. Eventually the audience even helps out.
...It can be seen that, with side jokes alone, the actors are hard pressed to get the story line out in the time allotted, which means they speak quickly-very quickly-something like a news broadcaster who has been told to compress a 15-minute segment down to five. Does it end happily? Well, for the hero and heroine it does. Otherwise how could they get on to the Olio that comes after?
The Denver Post
Tuesday April 20,1982
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Children of all ages!" That's the call to the circus and last week the Heritage Square Opera House opened its latest offering, "Under The Big Top." It is one of the nuttiest, and nicest, productions they've ever done. The play has been "readapted" by G. William Oakley from a script discovered aboard the historic Goldenrod Showboat in St. Louis and is based on the turn-of-the-century play, "For Her Child's Sake" by Theodore Kremer.
...The production even opens with an unusual touch. To music, the cast appears and attaches streamers to a ring which is then lofted over the pit area to resemble the big top being raised.
...The villain makes his appearance on the back of Lulu, a circus elephant the likes of which you will never see again.
Lulu looks like a refugee from the film "Elephant Man" with glazed and brightly shining blue eyes and with a trunk that seems to have a mind of its own. And while Lulu is not supposed to be a major character in the play, "she" manages to steal just about every scene in which "she" is in. We come to a flashback at the Kingsley parsonage in Cedarville, N.Y., to discover that the heroine is the love-smitten daughter of the Rev. Albert Kingsley "A very particular parson," who is played by Lowell V. Noel. Noel, a man of some size, has his work cut out for him because he is not only the parson but the inner workings of Lulu, as well. Consequently, when he appears in his first scene as the parson and there is perspiration on his brow, there's a good reason for it. That elephant costume must be an oven to work in.
...A melodrama must end with the hero and heroine victorious and the villains crushed and the remaining scenes deal with that. "Under The Big Top" is shorter than most Heritage productions, so it would be a good opportunity to stay over for the popular vaudeville olio that stars the Opera House Players in a variety of song, dance and comedy routines.
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