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That familiar face is none other than Matthew McGee

If you think you recognize the fellow sipping coffee as a colleague chainsaws a pile of business documents in the GoTo Meetings.com television commercial on many channels right now, you're probably a patron at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre or American Stage in St. Petersburg.

The sipper is Matthew McGee, the extremely popular artistic director, actor, singer and preshow greeter at the Show Palace and co-star of the newest show at American Stage, A Tuna Christmas.

McGee has also done spots for Amscot (he's the one with the fortune teller), Common Sense America, Sonny's Barbecue (he's the one stealing ribs from the little kid), and the New Jersey Turnpike (he's the one who sells his kids to get a plasma TV — hey, it's funny. Really.) and he has done voice-overs for a whole string of businesses.

With all he's doing, it's amazing that McGee has time to squeeze in TV ads. He's just co-written and is directing the holiday show at the Palace, The Frosty Follies; is doing up to eight shows a week in St. Petersburg; and is getting ready to play the outrageous Broadway director Roger De Bris in The Producers at the Show Palace.

(To see some of his work, visit heresmatthew.com.)

The Frosty Follies will open on Thursday, but the cast is in place and ready to start work on The Producers, which doesn't open until Jan. 3.

Besides McGee, another Show Palace favorite and Tuna Christmas co-star, Candler Budd, is playing Franz Liebkind, the bird-loving ex-Nazi who writes Springtime for Hitler in The Producers. Michael L. Walters, who played Albin/Zaza in the Show Palace's La Cage aux Folles a few years back, is playing producer Max Bialystock (the role originated by Nathan Lane on Broadway), and Michael Ursua is going to be Leo Bloom (originated by Matthew Broderick), the nerdish accountant who comes up with the money-losing-money-making scheme that's at the heart of the show.

Erin Romero, who was a hoot as the squeaky-voiced Lina Lamont in last season's Singin' in the Rain, will play the voluptuous Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson, or "Ulla" for short.

The Show Palace grabbed the production rights for The Producers as soon as they became available and is doing the first regional production of the show in Florida. The Broadway version won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, played more than 2,500 performances and spawned other productions from London to Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Tokyo, Athens, Copenhagen, Bratislava, Sydney, Vienna, Berlin, Prague and all over the United States.

As expected, tickets for the Show Palace's The Producers are flying out the door, and Show Palace producers Nick and Sal Sessa are adding shows as quickly as they can.

Unlike The Producers' Max and Leo, these guys know a hit when they see it.

CHANGE AT RICHEY SUNCOAST: Because a national touring company has claimed "first dibs" on performance rights to the musical comedy The Pajama Game, Richey Suncoast Theatre has had to change its scheduled run of that show to something else.

In its place, the theater is doing Crazy for You, the high-energy musical with music by George Gershwin (Feb. 26-March 15).

The Show Palace did Crazy for You in 2002, and it was the biggest seller of the year.

Besides a cute plot — about a rich playboy who wants to be a dancer, but is thwarted by his domineering mother and demanding fiancee — it has all those wonderful Gershwin tunes: I Got Rhythm, They Can't Take That Away from Me, Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me, to name a few.

It's a challenging show, with lots of dancing and big production numbers, but it has a lot of plum roles that should attract good performers to the auditions.

SPEAKING OF SHOWS …:When I was mentioning a couple of weeks ago the good shows I saw but didn't get to review during my all-too-brief "retirement," I forgot to mention one of the best I've seen in ages: Lost in Yonkers at Richey Suncoast.

People who saw the show (and saw me there) called to ask why I didn't mention it. As a former presidential candidate famously told David Letterman after he failed to show up for a scheduled appearance on the TV funnyman's late night show, "I screwed up."

Lost was directed by Saul Leibner, who won a HAMI Award for his direction of that show at Stage West Community Playhouse during the 1996-97 season. The show itself won a HAMI as "Favorite Show," and actors picked up five more HAMIs for their performances in it.

The Richey Suncoast production was equally delightful, thanks to Leibner's great direction and terrific performances by all seven cast members. Outstanding were Lorus Hawbecker as the cantankerous Grandma, Jim Poe as the gangsterlike Uncle Louie and Susan Nichols as the dippy Aunt Bella.

The show drew good crowds, but I really wish I'd been here to let even more people know what a fine show this was.

It's not often enough that we get a chance to see a thoughtful comedy-drama like this Neil Simon gem.

That familiar face is none other than Matthew McGee 11/21/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 7:39pm]
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