St. Vincent Summer Theatre opens 50th season with 'Harvey'
Greggory Brandt, producing artistic director for Saint Vincent Summer Theatre, says it's going to be a summer of laughter and memories.
Make that 50 years' worth of wonderful memories, as the university's summer theater company prepares to raise the curtain on its golden anniversary season.
Brandt has chosen to open the milestone season with a show that Saint Vincent staged during the theater's inaugural season in 1969. From May 24-June 10, he will direct a production of “Harvey,” a 1944 play by Mary Chase that earned her the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945.
Indiana's favorite son
The play has been adapted for television and film several times, including the memorable 1950 movie starring Indiana, Pa.'s favorite son, James Stewart.
“I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to one of the first shows of the first season and this one immediately jumped out as a good one to feature,” Brandt says. “Also, I always enjoyed this play and movie and thought our patrons' base would too.”
Cav O'Leary, a Greensburg native now living in New York City and 10-year veteran of St. Vincent Summer Theatre, will reprise Stewart's iconic role as Elwood P. Dowd, “an incredibly genuine and charming guy who happens to have a 6-foot-tall imaginary rabbit friend named Harvey,” O'Leary says, adding that Dowd is “either more naive or more perceptive than everyone around him.”
O'Leary is aware of the challenge of filling the shoes of Stewart, who originated the role on Broadway and in the film, and “Big Bang Theory's” Jim Parsons, who played him in a 2012 Broadway revival in 2012. He isn't trying to imitate their performances and doesn't watch the movie or stage play clips for that reason.
Making his mark
“It's important to me to put my own mark on the character,” he says. “I want to find out who this character is in my own right. I have a very different energy than both of those actors so I hope that I can bring something new to a character that so many people know and love.”
Renata Marino of Greensburg plays Elwood's sister, Veta, a social climber who is trying to find a suitable husband for her daughter.
“I would say her desire to be what she wants to be and her relationship and support of her brother drives the action of the play,” says Marino, a veteran actor and education director at Stage Right. “The character is going to be so much fun; she is so unlike me in all ways and that always makes it fun.”
Other featured actors in “Harvey” include Ron Siebert, Harley Allen, Cary Anne Spear, Daniel Krell and Jason Michael Swauger. Making their Saint Vincent debuts will be Cyndi Plyler of Ellwood City, Lilli Babb, Kayleen Seidl and Daniel Pivovar.
Rounding out the season
The fun continues with two additional shows and a Christmas season revue, all directed by Brandt, to round out Saint Vincent's 50th anniversary season:
“Nunsense” June 28-July 15 is a musical about five members of the Little Sisters of Hoboken missionary order that decide to stage a variety show in the school auditorium to raise money for burials of 52 residents of the convent accidentally killed by the cook's vichyssoise.
“Leading Ladies” Aug. 2-19 is a Ken Ludwig farce about two English Shakespearean actors that perform scenes from Shakespeare in Pennsylvania Amish country as part of a scheme to claim an inheritance from a little old lady in York.
“Home for the Holidays: A Christmas-Style Concert Celebration” Dec. 14-16 will feature more than 20 classic holiday selections from Broadway musicals, memorable movies and other timeless holiday traditions.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.