Royal Palm Players gears up for ‘Battle of the Sexes’

The go-to group for theater fun, Royal Palm Players (RPP), is excited to announce its upcoming season with big productions and thematic concerts based on the oldest competition under the sun, the battle of the sexes. Choose your allegiances wisely!

The theatrics begin on November 10 – 13 with ‘An Ideal Husband,’ a clever comedy by Oscar Wilde starring old friends and new, including Ann Fletcher, Hal McCombs, Sally B. Johnson, Kris Doubles, Jim Sullivan, Cori Hane Palmere, Barbara Stirling, Carol Elwood, Margaret Norvell, Dutch Heidseick and David Jenkins. Performed in a cabaret-style venue, this staged reading puts the audience into London’s high society in the late 19th century. With his sharp wit and peerless humor, Wilde weaves a tangled tale of blackmail, honor and true love.

“I’m really jazzed about the new things that we’re doing at RPP this season, like moving the staged reading into the Crowninshield House,” says Meryl Schaffer, RPP’s new artistic director. “It’s much less formal, with the audience bringing wine to the show. This is perfect, since ‘An Ideal Husband’ opens with a party scene. The audience gets to be a part of the party. Oscar Wilde would have loved it!” She explained that a staged reading is more than actors sitting in chairs and reading a script. “We use some costumes, props and furnishings to set the scene. And there are stage movements, such as entrances and exits,” she said. “but the actors are still reading the play.”

Something new this season is the revival of an old tradition: a collaboration between the Literary Forum and RPP to present a dramatic reading of a classic play. Dan Headington will be directing ‘All My Sons’ by Arthur Miller for one performance in December.

Come the new year, two very special musical performances are on the slate. ‘Dream Lovers,’ a Bobby Darin and Connie Francis tribute, will feature Jimmy Mazz and Marcy Downey. They will return the following evening for ‘Those Were the Days,’ performances bringing renditions of some incredible songs of romantic love and loss from the 50s and 60s.

Director Tad Ingram returns mid-season with a new twist on ‘The Odd Couple’: a repertory presentation of Neil Simon’s classic. In the male cast, Terry Seitz and Mike Gilbert star as Felix and Oscar. In the female version, Julia Pierce and Boots Tolsdorf will bring Florence and Olive to life. Dan Headington, Ed Vick, Nancy Ryan, Maggie Bush, Priscilla Masselink, and Jim Grant are a few of our gifted supporting stars.

Producer Erica Ress Martin said, “The battle of the sexes really takes off when we do Neil Simon’s classic, ‘The Odd Couple,’ both ways. We’ll do the male version one performance and the female version the next. Which is funnier? I’m not sure. I’ve seen both versions on Broadway, and I think the female version is hilarious, but I love the classic Felix and Oscar, too. You have to see both to decide.”

A fitting final round for the battle of the sexes follows with the award-winning musical ‘Guys and Dolls.’ The show pits roughneck gamblers vs. marriage-minded vixens with timeless numbers like “Luck Be A Lady” and “Sit Down (You’re Rockin’ the Boat).” The cast is huge and stunning with Jeff Lehrian, Kimberly Whipple, Erica Ress Martin, James Martin, Ross Witschonke, Nathan Forrester, newcomer Jacy Gabriel and many others. Todd Patterson returns as our director and the “tappers” will be back to keep our feet moving. Everyone just loves to see friends and neighbors up on stage performing and making musical history!

And just when you thought it was all over, Jackie Moynihan will be back for the final knockout with ‘Patsy Cline Returns.’ It’s a fresh and moving show, so anticipated that RPP had to move the venue to the auditorium just to meet ticket demand. “We’re having a crazy run on ticket sales. ‘Patsy Cline’ is nearly sold-out!” said Managing Director Kathleen Kelleher. “Our passion is to make each RPP season the very best.”

However, the cost of staging these better productions dramatically increases with the effort to produce them. To help cover these expenses, RPP is inviting benefactors to sponsor individual shows.

“RPP finds itself in a happy ‘Catch 22.’ We are enjoying better productions and record-breaking attendances while incurring higher-than-ever production costs,” said Linda Rollyson, RPP’s vice president. “That’s a long way of saying we need your support. Let’s keep the upward trajectory of Royal Palm going!”

Carrying forward its mission to entertain, educate and engage, RPP will continue to present Kids’ Drama Club and one-act plays in ArmChair Theater, adding up to a theatrically energized community.

When asked how RPP keeps the fun coming, RPP President Jim Sullivan said, “We just keep growing. Our cadre of actors and backstage volunteers continues to expand. The audiences for the past five years have grown so much that most of our productions are sold out before opening night.” He credits the fact that RPP is constantly improving the quality of the performances and the learning experiences for the people involved.

“It all adds to the fun we are having.”

Tickets may be purchased in the office at the Community Center, through the mail at Royal Palm Players, PO Box 954, Boca Grande, FL 33921, by phone at 964-2670, via email at           royalpalmplayers@comcast.net or via the web at royalpalmplayers.com.

Royal Palm Players was founded in 1990 by Kristina Johnson and Alex Newberry.

Tina, a Wellesley graduate with a degree in drama, was in Boca Grande working as an intern for Dee Wheeler at the Community Center.

Alex, who had worked as a sound technician, was living in his parents’ home on Gilchrist Avenue, now owned by Bob and Ann Fletcher. Alex is still very much involved in the theater today.

Like the young people in a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney film, the two began putting on productions. Local resident Anna Bowditch raised seed money with the help of Bayard Sharp to help the organization get on its feet, arranged for 501(c) 3 status and organized a board of directors. Tina remained the producing director until May 2002, when she was replaced by Elizabeth Spicer, who served for five years.

The present-day artistic director is Meryl Schaffer. The current managing director is Kathleen Kelleher.

Royal Palm Players is celebrating its 27th year of quality community theatre productions.