The Community Players of Concord continues its 84th production season with an adaption of the “The Philadelphia Story,” the famous Katherine Hepburn play and movie, which opens tonight at 8 at the .
The play follows the trials and tribulations of a socialite who plans on getting re-married. But that plan falls awry after the arrival of a tabloid reporter who wants to cover the wedding and her ex-husband.
Jim Webber, the director of this production, said the performances were going “extremely well” while joking that it was probably due to the good weather since the cast and crew didn’t have to cancel rehearsal dates due to snow. Webber said the Community Players have had very good luck with romantic plays (perfect for Valentine's Day weekend) and comedies, especially in the winter months, when people need a good laugh.
“People will get out of the house,” he said. “Ending their cabin fever.”
The play is similar to Hepburn play and movie of the same name although instead of three sets, the Players have split this performance into two. Webber said the cast is “very experienced” and is doing a fine job in their roles. There are 15 actors in the play and another 20 working behind the scenes, according to Webber.
Webber said the play was actually written for Hepburn to turn around her career because she had reached a point where the movie audiences were sick of her.
“They thought she was kind of a bossy, pushy woman, and she sort of is,” he said. “So (Broadway playwright Philip Barry) wrote a play where she played a bossy pushy woman who is really misunderstood.”
Webber said Hepburn took the play on the road and later sold it to MGM as a package including herself and it revived her career and was a huge success. Webber called Barry “a wonderful writer” and the play a staple of local, regional, and summer theatre for decades.
This performance, Webber noted, also includes a local family.
Chris Demers, the assistant principal of the Kimball-Walker Schools, will be performing with his wife, Paula, and daughter, Katharine. Katherine, who is 13, plays Dinah and is performing for the first time in a non-musical play with her parents and other adults. Webber called her performances great and said she is fitting into the role nicely.
Katie Proulx, who plays Tracy Lord, the socialite, is amazing in the lead role, according to Webber.
“She’s phenomenal,” he said. “She’s a beautiful, extremely talented, gorgeous woman. It’s a star role and we really lucked out to get someone who is up to the challenge.”
What is the most difficult thing about directing a performance like this? Balancing everything you need to do in your life, like full-time work, and putting on a great performance, according to Webber, who also contributed to the production end of the play, working as the set designer.
“It’s fine when you’re 20, but when you get older, it’s hard,” he said, with a laugh. “But it’s a great play. I love it. And, I’m looking forward to it.”
David Preece, one of the producers of “The Philadelphia Story” and a playwright in his own right, said working with Webber was “such an honor.”
“He’s a professional from A to Z,” he said. “He has an eye for perfection and a detail that you just don’t see in other directors.”
Performances of “The Philadelphia Story” will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12.
In May, the Community Players of Concord will present Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”
Cast and crew
The cast and crew of "The Philadelphia Story" include:
Katie Proulx – Tracy Lord
Aaron Compagna – Sandy Lord
Katharine Demers – Dinah Lord
Mary Walker – Margaret Lord
Benjamin Russell – Seth Lord
Charles Mitchell – C.K. Dexter Haven
Chris Demers – Mike Connor
Paula Demers – Liz Imbrie
John Conlon – Uncle Willie
David Afflick – George Kittridge
Frank Budelman – Thomas
Judy Lowe – Elsie
Kevin Belval – Mac
Pat Delzell – May
Mark Landry – Edward
Jim Webber – Director
Allwynne Fine and David Preece – Producers