Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Column: A great stand-in Matthew McGee performance won't happen


All because Show Palace Dinner Theatre actor Susan Haldeman is going to be a nuptials no-show, we aren't going to get to see a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

It almost happened because the Show Palace's owners and staff realize that performers actually have lives outside of theater and can't always devote 10 or 12 solid weeks to being on the stage during rehearsal and performances of a show.

Go figure.

So when artistic director Matthew McGee signs someone to a role, there are sometimes caveats. For example, two actors playing major parts in the upcoming Thoroughly Modern Millie were perfect for their roles, but they both had previous obligations.

Joey Panek, who plays Millie's friend Jimmy, had promised to be at a wedding on April 11. McGee quickly scheduled understudy Jefferson Behan, a Show Palace veteran, for that night.

Even more difficult was working around the prior obligations of jazz artist Paulette Dozier, who is in great demand throughout Florida as a performer, recording artist, acting teacher and commercial model. McGee wanted her to play the key role of Muzzy, a rich and sophisticated chanteuse.

"She's glamorous, like Lena Horne or Pearl Bailey, and that's hard to find," McGee said. That meant understudy Sara DelBeato would have to step in for at least eight shows, and Rachel Brinker would have to step into Ms. DelBeato's really fun role as the cranky secretary Miss Flannery.

"Sara gave a good audition (for the Muzzy role), but Paulette was so darned good, I said I would love to have her 80 percent of the time than not at all," McGee said.

As it turns out, Ms. Dozier and her agent have rearranged her schedule, so she won't be out as much as she first thought.

"She's really loving it here," McGee said, which gives her an incentive to try to work it all out.

But what about that once-in-a-lifetime thing we're going to miss?

It seems that Ms. Haldeman was also scheduled to go to a wedding, which meant her role as the fake Chinese landlady, Mrs. Meers, would be wide open for one night. It's one of those over-the-top, too-much-fun-to-be-work roles that Ms. Haldeman can play to the skies — remember her side-splitting rendition of the harridan Domina in Funny/Forum?

"I was going to step in for her that night," McGee said. And those of us who saw him do the hilarious, cross-dressing reporter Mary Sunshine in Chicago and/or Bertha Bumiller, Aunt Pearl Burras, Inita Goodwin and Phoebe Burkhalter in Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas — to say nothing of the flamboyantly gay director Roger DeBris in The Producers — can only imagine what he would do in a one-night stand as a fake Chinese landlady in the white slave trade

Sorry, but that's what we'll have to do — imagine it.

Ms. Haldeman isn't going to a wedding after all.

Hey — maybe someone important in her life will decide to tie the knot soon, and we may get to see McGee as Mrs. Meers after all.

Volunteer, anyone?

Get into gear

Award-winning community theater play director Saul Leibner was all smiles when I talked with him last week about his cast for the upcoming Driving Miss Daisy at the Forum at Stage West (April 17-26).

The three-person show is a difficult one, both for actors and director. The subject is touchy — racism in the post-World War II South — and it must be handled with care lest it become condescending or offensive.

Leibner feels the Pulitzer Prize-winning play is in good hands with his three players.

Lorus Hawbecker will play Miss Daisy; Glenn Claytor will be her driver Hoke; and Leslie Richards will be Miss Daisy's protective son Boolie.

Theater-goers will remember Ms. Hawbecker as the stern, unforgiving grandmother in Richey Suncoast Theatre's excellent production of Lost in Yonkers last fall, which Leibner also directed. Her timing, body language and delivery were, well, simply awesome.

The tall, elegant Claytor, an attorney by profession, was impressive in his 2007 stage debut as an aspiring playwright in the comedy-drama 45 Seconds from Broadway at Stage West Community Playhouse. Even though his character, Solomon, was having to wait tables to survive, Claytor made Solomon's basic dignity shine through.

Richards was a natural for Boolie, Leibner said, not only because of his long list of acting credits — Young Man in Veronica's Room, Bill Sikes in Oliver, Miles Gloriosis in Funny/Forum, a knight in Camelot — but because he's from Georgia and already has a fine Georgia accent that he won't have to fake.

Column: A great stand-in Matthew McGee performance won't happen 02/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 20, 2009 8:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.