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A look at this year’s Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater schedule

November 13, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys" opens Saturday, Nov. 13, as the first play of the season at the Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater on Sanibel with an opening night pre-show reception at 7 p.m.

Perhaps one of Simon's greatest plays, "The Sunshine Boys" is a poignant look at human relationships complete with the laugh-a-minute dialogue and strong characters that are Simon's trademark.

This show runs through Dec. 4 with performances on Tuesdays through Saturdays, starting at 8 p.m. There will be no performance Thursday, Nov. 25, or Friday, Dec. 3. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for children 16 and under.

"The Sunshine Boys" pays homage to the history of comic theater and a tribute to the performers who make it so memorable. The original Broadway production - nominated for several Tonys and produced by Emanuel Azenberg with direction by Alan Arkin - opened on Dec. 18, 1972, at the Broadhurst Theatre. It transferred to the Shubert and then the Lunt-Fontanne before completing its 538-performance run. Jack Albertson received a Drama Desk Award for his outstanding performance as Willie Clark.

This is the story of a once-popular vaudeville comedy team known as The Sunshine Boys who, after 43 years together as Lewis and Clark, parted company on not-too-friendly terms - one partner wanting to continue his career and the other feeling it was time to retire.

When a lucrative opportunity comes up with a major TV network more than a decade later, their agent has to try and convince them to reunite for just this one gig. But first, there are a lot of skeletons to be cleaned out of their closets.

Long-time theatre professional Michael Oberfield appears as Al Lewis. Originally from Michigan, Oberfield has been in the theater for 36 years and has appeared in Neil Simon comedies at least three previous times.

Paul Bernier, a director and performer at Broadway Palm, recommended him for this role. He most recently appeared for the Prather Family Group (owners of the Broadway Palm) in "Meet Me In St. Louis," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and "Big River" at their Dutch Apple Theater in Lancaster, Pa.

"I've done 'The Sunshine Boys' before when I was way too young. I'm really excited about doing it again! I love comedy and greatly enjoy acting in it. I can act and I can sing, but I can't truthfully say I dance They move me around on stage when they need something that resembles dancing!

"I lived here in Fort Myers for eight years, then moved away and I hope to move back - at least to Florida. I have a nephew here and a brother and sister in Boca. We're all just a bunch of snowbirds who become permanent."

Oberfield's counterpart, Robert Feigenblatt, in his second time out as Willie Clark, was born and raised (to age 13) in New York City, then moved to Miami.

"I can't say I've been in the theatre since I was kid, although I did do a lot of theatre in high school. Then I took a 32-year hiatus to finish growing up, get a job and have a family. I started back in 2006 at Cape Coral's Cultural Park Theater in Arsenic and Old Lace This is my 26th or 27th show since then; I last appeared in 'No Sex, Please, We're British.' Last year I was in Theatre Conspiracy's New Play of 2009, 'Time and Ina Meyerhoff.'

"In April I'll appear with the Laboratory Theatre in 'Hamlet' at the Sidney & Berne Davis Center downtown in the River District of Fort Myers."

Like Oberfield, he can sing and he can act, but "My dancing's not so hot!

"I have made an important decision, though, about my career I've decided I want to be an actor when I grow up!"

The theater is located at 2200 Periwinkle Way, Sani-bel. For tickets and discounted subscription rates call BIG Arts Marks Box Office at 395-0900. The Sunshine Boys is presented through special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Next up at the theater is "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)," written by Michael Carleton, John Alvarez and Jim Fitzgerald. A non-stop holiday romp through everyone's favorite Christmas stories, it plays Dec. 16-31. Performances run Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. on Dec. 31) - No performances Dec. 24 and 25).

The rest of the season is just as 'high class,' starting with

n "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Jan. 15 Feb. 12, Performances run Monday through Saturday, 8 p.m.

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," written by William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin and Rebecca Feldman, is making its Sanibel debut. In this fantastic new musical, six over-achieving students are brought together to compete for the spelling bee championship, but what they take away will be a lot more important than a trophy. Selected members of the audience may also get a chance to participate, so you might want to bring your thinking cap! This two-time Tony Award-winning musical is not to be missed.

n "It Runs in the Family," Feb. 19 March 26. performances run Monday through Saturday, 8 p.m.

The master of farce, Ray Cooney, is back on stage at the Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater with It Runs in the Family. Dr. David Mortimer is about to face a tough crowd - 200 neurologists - for a presentation, when in walks his former nurse, whom he hasn't seen in 18 years. What she tells him will turn his life upside down: he has an 18-year-old son, who is in trouble with the law and is waiting for him in the lobby.

n "Ain't Misbehavin," April 2-30 (No performance April 23), performances run Tuesday through Saturday, 8 p.m.

At the height of the historic Harlem Renaissance, venues like The Cotton Club were jumpin' to a new beat called Swing. Ain't Misbehavin' is a finger-snapping, toe-tapping, Tony Award-winning musical revue - a tribute to the black entertainers of the early 1900s - that centers on the music of one of the most prolific musicians of the time, Thomas "Fats" Waller. Featuring many famous tunes including "Ain't Misbehavin,'" "Honeysuckle Rose," "Black and Blue" and "The Joint is Jumpin'."



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