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Two Pasco theaters bringing back the venerable 'Li'l Abner'

Guess I'd better dig out my corncob pipe and brush up on my Dogpatch lore.

Seems that both Richey Suncoast Theatre and Stage West Community Playhouse are doing the 1956 musical Li'l Abner, based on Al Capp's popular comic strip, in the 2009-2010 season.

I grew up reading Li'l Abner — it ran from 1934 through 1977 — and the characters and story elements have been buzzwords in our family since I can remember.

"I feel like Joe Btfsplk," means it's a bad day, week, month or year, since Btfsplk lived under his own personal little dark cloud that followed him around.

If you say someone looks like Evil-Eye Fleegle, it's a warning to steer clear, since his glance delivers a "whammy" that can lay you low.

Kickapoo Joy Juice refers to any beverage with strong taste, though in the strip, it was moonshine and in the musical it's a strong potion that makes men handsome but indifferent to women.

And every high school had a annual "Sadie Hawkins Day" dance, when the girls invited the boys, a reference to the homely, man-hungry young woman who pursued every eligible bachelor she saw.

The comic strip had scores of characters over the years, and the musical keeps many of them, including the sexy Appasionata von Climax, Stupefying Jones and Moonbeam McSwine. The strip was biting political satire, but the musical seems to emphasize the romantic-sexy side of the story.

The actor who originated the title role on Broadway and played him in the movie is Peter Palmer, who now lives in Temple Terrace and recently helped some area kids in their high school production of the show.

Richey Suncoast will open its season with the show from Sept. 10-27.

Stage West has it scheduled for March 4-21, according the Jessica Nichol, marketing director for the theater.

Beyond that, the lineup for Stage West's Main Stage and its smaller, more adventurous Forum, includes several fresh-to-us shows, including a couple of murder mysteries, a trio of comedies, a serious drama, and the two musicals. And tickets prices are the same as this year.

The Stage West Main Stage Season:

Sept. 10-27: Heaven Can Wait, a comedy/fantasy about a boxer who is accidentally taken aboard the airplane for the Hereafter, then, when the mistake is discovered, is allowed to come back in the body of a wealthy financier, whose wife had just murdered him.

Nov. 5-22: Anything Goes, the 1962 Cole Porter musical aboard the S.S. American, based on his 1934 show. It has shipboard romances, comical gangsters, a raucous nightclub singer-turned-evangelist, and a couple of Chinese religious converts.

Jan. 7-24: Ax of Murder, a murder mystery set in a theater, with a play within a play becoming horrifyingly real.

March 4-21, 2010: Li'l Abner (unless the play committee changes it).

May 6-23, 2010: Everything in the Garden: Just in time for the economic downtown, this dark adult comedy is about suburban housewives increasing the family income in an unexpected way.

The Forum at Stage West 2009-2010 season:

Oct. 9-18: Deathtrap: Playwright Ira Levin (Veronica's Room) is back with another twisting, turning adult murder mystery involving a writer with writer's block and a murderous intent.

Feb. 5-14: A Company of Wayward Saints: A comedy-farce about a troupe of road-weary actors trying to make one last theatrical coup before heading home.

April 9-18, 2010: Shadow Box: The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about three terminally-ill cancer patients facing the inevitable as they deal with their various and sundry relationships. The Boston Globe described it as "Truly startling and in its uncompromising way, very, very funny." Hmmm.

Season tickets are $60 for all five Main Stage Shows, $20 for all three Forum shows. Call (352) 683-5113 for ticket details.

Two Pasco theaters bringing back the venerable 'Li'l Abner' 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 8:03pm]
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