Mike Uncorked: Neil Simon Classic Comes to CentreStage Theatre

Mike Uncorked: Neil Simon Classic Comes to CentreStage Theatre
By Mike Butler

There have been some incredible and unforgettable stage couples in history. From musicals to stage plays you can find pairings that remain as fresh today as when they were first performed. It’s been 55 years since the ultimate odd couple, Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar, graced the stage on Broadway, but the hilarity and poignancy of their friendship and their story is still as top notch as ever.

Written by Pulitzer-Prize winning master playwright and humourist Neil Simon, The Odd Couple is making its way to Kentville for the month of June, and if you need a belly laugh, or twenty, book your tickets now for this sure-fire sell-out of a show.

I’m a huge fan of Simon’s play. It was recently performed on Broadway by Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, but I have always loved the 1968 film version, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and the very popular TV show from the 1970s starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. The Odd Couple has not only been a staple of my life’s entertainment but also my dream theatrical show to perform. It’s been 20 years since Centrestage Theatre in Kentville has performed the male version of The Odd Couple (the female version has been performed a few times in the Valley over the years), but now the wait is over and so is my longing to be a part of the production.

In case you’ve never heard of this extremely witty and poignant play, let me tell you a bit about it: Two suddenly single pals, a sloppy sportswriter and a fastidious news writer, strain their friendship by becoming roommates and unconsciously repeating the same mistakes they made in their marriages. Filled with some of the snappiest one-liners in theatre history, fantastic characters, big emotions, and a the most awkward double date ever, The Odd Couple is a perfect piece of comedic gold for everyone to enjoy!

In saying it was my dream show, I was not kidding. I have wanted to perform in this production for over 20 years and now. The Odd Couple will mark my 70th production in ten years, and what a great celebration it’s been, especially sharing it with one of the best ensemble casts I’ve ever worked with.

This production is directed by my great friend Junie Hutchinson, with Alan Tupper assisting. This isour 13th time working together and Junie knows her comedy staging, having previously directed the female version of The Odd Couple, as well as Neil Simon’s Rumors, and many hits farces by Ken Ludwig, Norm Foster, and others. The stage managers are Gwen Dwynn and Karen Court, with Delores Gaudet helping backstage, and Charley McBride and Alan Tupper are the light and sound techs. The show is produced by CentreStage board member and frequent stage actor Bryen Stoddart.

This exceptional cast is filled with local theatre regulars, like myself as Felix Ungar, Alan Slipp as Speed, and Ross Chapman as Roy, as well as previous Centrestage participants John Smith (as Murray), and Emily Burton and Devon Edmonds as the Pigeon sisters. Joining the cast for his first CentreStage production is newcomer Austin Schwartz as Vinnie, and rounding out the troupe as the divorced, broke, and sloppy but loveable Oscar Madison is Valley Ghost Walks regular Ian Grainger, returning to the stage after a 15 year hiatus. Folks, he knocks it out of the park! It has been beyond pleasurable to create the dynamic duo of Oscar and Felix with Iain by my side and it’s an experience I will cherish forever. This is not to be missed so come down and see us and have a laugh!

The Odd Couple performances are May 31, June 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 with matinee performances on Sunday June 9 and Sunday June 16. Front of House opens at 6:45pm for the evening performances and 1:15pm for the matinees. Tickets are: adults $15; seniors/students $12; children, age 12 and under, $5. CentreStage takes cash or cheques only. Reservations are recommended and are held until 15 minutes before show time. It is strongly recommended you call 902-678-8040 for reservations. Check out centrestagetheatre.ca to read up on upcoming shows, auditions and special events happening at the little theatre with the big heart!