Friday, October 25, 2013

HARVEY Hopes to Help U-High Hop to Scotland

Normal University High School will open the classic comedy Harvey by Mary Chase tonight at 7 pm. Harvey is a fun show about a kind but eccentric man named Elwood P. Dodd who has a best friend that only he can see. Elwood's invisible companion happens to be a 6-foot-3 "pooka," resembling a human-sized rabbit, named Harvey. But Veta, Elwood's sister, isn't thrilled by his unconventional idea of a best pal, and she argues that Harvey is prima facie evidence that Elwood belongs at the funny farm.

Harvey is often performed at high schools and community theaters, and its good-natured message about how much more interesting life is if we support the eccentricity in our midst never goes out of style. U High's production is a little different, however, in that, as the first production of their season, it's hoping to help pave the way for a trip with a different play to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival late next summer. While that's a great opportunity for U High students, it's also expensive, as you might imagine.

Right now, everybody at U High, including the cast and crew of Harvey, is working very hard to raise funds for the trip. And you can help them out! You can attend opening night tonight at U High's Stroud Auditorium, or get out to the Friday or Saturday night performances, also at 7 pm, or the Sunday matinee at 2 pm. Your ticket price ($10 for adults and $5 for students) helps them out, as do any extra donations you'd like to make.

Here's the blurb from the U High website:
"University High School Theatre and Thespians- present the Pulitzer-prize winning comedy Harvey by Mary Chase as their 2013-14 season opener. This heart-felt comedy of errors features U-High senior Sullivan Peterson-Quinn as Elwood P. Dowd, an affable man, who claims to have an invisible friend - a 6', 3'' tall talking rabbit named Harvey. Performances are Friday and Saturday, October 25th-26th at 7pm and Sunday, October 27th at 2pm in Stroud Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door or online here."
I don't often publicize high school theater events, but I love Harvey as a play (the 1950 movie with James Stewart is pretty fun, too), Ben and his wife Rachel are local theater artists whose work I enjoy, and I think it's a great idea to support a high school theater program hoping to send kids to Scotland.

Keep an eye out for other U High fund-raising events between now and next summer, but in the meantime, get out to Stroud Auditorium this weekend!


  1. How splendid for them! As for HARVEY, I started looking at how it has been cast over the years, and as usual went way overboard. So (deep breath) here goes:

    Let's say that there are 4 principal (or at least interesting to see who's playing them) roles:

    Elwood; his sister Veta; Dr. Chumley; Nurse Kelly

    1944 original Broadway production
    Frank Fay; Josephine Hull; Fred Irving Lewis; Janet Tyler
    (Jesse White played Wilson. The several replacements for Elwood during the run included Joe E. Brown, Jack Buchanan, and James Stewart. One of the replacement Veras was Marion Lorne, see below.)

    1950 movie
    James Stewart; Josephine Hull; Cecil Kellaway; Peggy Dow
    (Jesse White played Wilson.)

    1958 DuPont Show of the Month
    Art Carney; Marion Lorne; Loring Smith; Elizabeth Montgomery
    (Charlotte Rae played Veta's daughter Myrtle. Larry Blyden played Dr. Sanderson. Jack Weston played Wilson.)

    1970 ANTA Broadway revival
    James Stewart; Helen Hayes; Henderson Forsythe; Mariclare Costello
    (Jesse White played Wilson.)

    1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame
    James Stewart; Helen Hayes; John McGiver; Madeline Kahn
    (Jesse White played Wilson. Richard Mulligan played Dr. Sanderson. Arlene Francis played Betty Chumley. Fred Gwynne played the cabdriver.)

    1996 TV movie
    Harry Anderson; Swoosie Kurtz; Leslie Nielsen; Jessica Hecht
    (Jim O'Heir [Jerry of Parks&Rec] played Wilson. Jonathan Banks played the cabdriver.)

    2012 Roundabout Broadway revival
    Jim Parsons; Jessica Hecht; Charles Kimbrough; Holley Fain
    (Carol Kane played Betty Chumley.)

    From which we can see that a WIDE variety of men have played Elwood, including Jimmy Stewart at two very different ages. And that for 25 years Jesse White was seen as the irreplaceable Wilson. And that Jessica Hecht moved up from the nurse to the sister for last year's stage revival.

  2. And that University of Illinois alum Holley Fain (who played Catherine in PROOF in U of I summer rep opposite my friend Steve Keen as the imaginary father) continues to do well for herself. :-)

    Thanks for the rundown, Jon. Always fascinating to see who played what when.