Cast of “Four Old Broads”
Stage West Playhouse in Spring Hill has once again shown its versatility in local repertoire and talent with its latest production – Four Old Broads. Over the years, this theater has performed musicals, such as Camelot; comedies, such as The Odd Couple; and dramas, such as To Kill a Mockingbird.
Four Old Broads takes place in an assisted living facility (ALF). If the characters seem to recall those of the television series Golden Girls, it is not by chance. The director, Mark Burdette, even chose to use the show’s theme song during stage breaks. All seven cast members agree that this piece will make audiences laugh. During rehearsals, the actors themselves often burst into laughter even after hearing the same lines over and over.
Betsy Glasson, who plays Imogene Fletcher, has been with Stage West for thirty years. It was a teacher who brought her to the theater.
“I was very shy and when I was a freshman in high school, the speech teacher asked me to help with a play by handing out scripts. I did it for about thirty minutes and then she asked me if I would mind getting up and only reading a small part She cheated on me like you wouldn’t believe I got the comedy lead role on the show and I became addict.
One of her most difficult, but favorite roles, was the lead role in Victor, Victoria because she had to play both a man and a woman with thirty-two costume changes.
“Playing gives you the opportunity to do things you would never do. It sets you free,” comments Betsy.
Dalton Benson, who plays Sam Smith, the only man in the cast, is a doctor and has worked for Stage West for twenty-seven years. Not only did he perform, but he also directed. His first theatrical role was Sancho Panza in Man of La Mancha and it was the first time he returned to the stage in twenty-five years. Some of his favorite roles were Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret, Ben Franklin in 1776 and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof mainly because he loves musicals.
“I’m a doctor to support my acting habit,” Benson jokes. “I love everything about it, although I don’t like the auditions very much because they’re nerve-wracking.”
The hardest part of acting is what he calls “hell week,” the last week of rehearsals where you put the finishing touches on the production and put it all together.
Benson has directed about 20 shows at Stage West, ranging from dramas like A Streetcar Named Desire to musicals like Ragtime and comedies like Young Frankenstein.
Michelle Root recently directed Death by Chocolate. Now she puts on her acting hat and plays the role of Beatrice, a former burlesque dancer. Michelle enjoys playing the role of Beatrice because “she’s sassy and outspoken. She knows what she wants and she goes for it.”
Her favorite role was Dotty in a comedy called Noises Off because, as she says, “I’m a huge Carol Burnett fan and loved the movie. The biggest compliment I received was when one of the audience members looked at me and said, “Carol Burnett would be proud.”
Being an actor requires flexibility. Jeanine Rogers plays Ruby Sue, one of the nurses and she just got the part a few weeks ago.
Jeanine started dancing at the age of five. Later she started playing the flute and also joined the choir. All of this prepared her for the theater. Then in college, she started performing in musicals. Jeanine was often in the chorus line because she was a gymnast and could do cartwheels and other stunts.
When she came to Stage West in 2004, her first role was Maria Callas in Master Class. It remains one of his favorites.
“It took me four months to learn this show because it’s a one-woman show. It’s a difficult part because I’m on stage all the time,” remarks Jeanine.
Another favorite of hers is Nurse Ratchett in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest because “she was a very complex character and she was so evil”.
She portrayed the role so well that the first time she came out for her curtain call, the audience “booed” her.
“At first I was surprised because I thought they didn’t like my performance. The cast was happy for me that I got booed because it was actually a compliment.”
Lynda Dilts-Benson plays Edie Mae, one of the residents. Lynda is married to Dalton and, like her husband, also directs. She joined Stage West in 1998, working behind the scenes. It was almost by accident that Lynda moved from behind the curtain to in front.
“They were doing Funny Girl and couldn’t choose the role of Mrs. Brice [Fanny Brice’s mother]. The only reason I accepted [to do the part] it’s that I had only seen the film and in the film Mrs. Brice has a very small role.
In the play, however, the part is much larger and the character sings several songs. However, Lynda was up to the task and even won the equivalent of a Tony at HAMI−Stage West. Her favorite role so far has been Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter.
“I’ve loved this character and this play since I was fifteen. My high school history teacher took us to see the movie when it came out.
Lynda loves being able to pretend she’s someone else, and she enjoys the camaraderie of creating magic as a team.
“I don’t do this to get applause from an audience, but you want these accolades for the theater, not the individual.”
Sheryl Depp plays fellow ALF resident Maude. This character is addicted to a particular soap opera and spends his time planning his funeral. She got into acting when she was in college because she wanted to “reinvent” herself. After decades away from the theater, Sheryl joined Stage West in 2008. She thinks her current role will likely be her favorite.
“It’s funny and I’m lucky to be funny. I had done a really sad role several years ago and made people cry. I like to make people laugh rather than cry.
When Lynda was still working, it was difficult to adjust to her busy work schedule. Now that she’s retired, she has more time and it’s more fun because she doesn’t have to worry about going to work the next day.
Nichelle (Nikki) Mohre-Cassidy plays Pat, the show’s other nurse. She developed her love for theater from her father.
“He raised my sister and me with all kinds of musicals. He took us to see The Nutcracker every Christmas and to see the Phantom of the Opera several times.
Nikki has many years of acting experience. She performed in community theater when she was in high school and majored in theater in middle school.
Nikki has just finished playing one of the narrators in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and describes it as her “dream role”. Her favorite role, however, was that of Jacqueline in Don’t Dress for Dinner, a British comedy.
“What I find most rewarding about acting is the ability to entertain an audience. The best thing about theater is how it helps children of all different personality types and abilities. It brings kids out of themselves like I’ve never seen before. It takes hyperactive kids and focuses them. It takes shy kids and brings them out of their shell. Seeing kids blossom on stage and behind the scenes is a remarkable journey.
The play has constant exchanges between the main characters with many amusing lines containing sexual innuendo covering topics such as Viagra; memory loss; Beatrice’s love life; and the conquests of Sam, the resident ladies’ man. The actors feed off each other’s lines and don’t miss a beat. Exaggerated facial expressions will make you laugh too.
One of the funniest scenes takes place at the end of the first act. Three of the ladies enter a dark scene, dressed in camouflage gear, with branches and flashlights strapped to their heads. They are investigating some suspicious activity going on at the ALF. The results are hilarious.
Each character has their unique personality, even the two nurses, who have minor but very crucial roles to play. The contrast of personalities and their interaction is one of the factors that give the room its charm.
If you want lots of laughs, you can always grab Four Old Broads. There will be three other performances this week: Friday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday Sunday. April 16 & 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be ordered online at www.stagewestflorida.com or by calling the box office at 352-683-5113.