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Stage West Community Playhouse presents perennially popular 'Li'l Abner'

Area fans of the comic strip-to-musical Li'l Abner will get a second chance to see the denizens of the mythical Dogpatch, Ky., when Stage West Community Playhouse opens its version of the 1956 Broadway show Thursday.

The first was in September, when Richey Suncoast Theatre opened its season with the popular show.

The comic strip ran for 43 years (1934-77) and was filled with one hilarious plot after the other involving the backwoods characters who lampooned just about every treasured American icon.

The musical focuses on just a few of those plots, mainly the time that Dogpatch was declared the "most unnecessary town in the U.S." and thus a good nuclear testing site; the federal government's discovery of Mammy Yokum's secret recipe for Kickapoo Joy Juice that makes men handsome and strong but, unfortunately, uninterested in females; and the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race when girls can pursue the fellows with the object being matrimony.

All three subjects give ample opportunity for swipes at the government, blatant sexism, overwhelming stupidity, inadvertent incompetence and, of course, true love.

Playing the handsome but dense Li'l Abner is HAMI Award-winning actor Mitch Gonzalez (Lun Tha in The King and I; Billy Crocker in Anything Goes).

Abner has so far avoided the amorous attentions of the beautiful Daisy Mae Scragg (Sharon Vetter reprising the role she played at Playhouse 19 in 2006), but with Sadie Hawkins Day coming up, the situation may change.

Excitement fills the town when Mayor Dan'l Dawgmeat (Bill Dimmitt, HAMI as Alfred in My Fair Lady) gives the news that the town will be the target of a nuclear test, since it's considered totally useless by the feds.

As the townspeople have second thoughts, others get involved, including the assertive Mammy Yokum (six-time HAMI winner Betsy Glasson); the lazy Pappy Yokum (Dave Stenger, Benny in Guys and Dolls); the fearsome Earthquake McGoon (Paul Wade, HAMIs for Bert in The Man Who Came to Dinner and Man in Veronica's Room); the pig-lovin' Moonbeam McSwine (Patty Villegas, HAMI as Mrs. Sowerberry in Oliver); and many others.

The biggest influence could be Sen. Jack S. Phogbound (Ray Johnson), who is courted by the voluptuous Appassionata von Climax (Liz Voorhees). Or perhaps it's the fast-stepping Evil Eye Fleagle (Dylan Friel), whose very glance can spell danger.

Very important is Marryin' Sam (Dalton Benson, HAMI as Emcee in Cabaret) and Stupefyin' Jones (DiAnne Klatt), who can stop men in their tracks with her beauty.

As the citizens of Dogpatch work to save their town, there's romance, conflict, political satire and an outcome that surprises everyone.

.Fast facts

If you go

What: Li'l Abner, a musical

Where: Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

When: Thursday and March 5-7; 12-14 and 19-21. Shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $18 adults, $9 students. Box office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (352) 683-5113.

Stage West Community Playhouse presents perennially popular 'Li'l Abner' 02/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 4:30pm]
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