Buz Davis Makes Directorial Return to The Carnegie with HARVEY, Now thru 4/27

Buz Davis Makes Directorial Return to The Carnegie with HARVEY, Now thru 4/27

During his decade of producing shoestring theatre in a proud but dilapidated auditorium, impresario Buz Davis could only dream of the day he might return to find that hall had received a multi-million dollar renovation, and that he was once again at the fore of creating captivating theatre there. That dream comes true this spring.

The Carnegie closes its 2013-14 Theatre Series with the Pulitzer Prize winning comedy HARVEY, playing weekends today, April 11 - 27, 2014 at The Carnegie in Covington. Popularized by the 1950 Jimmy Stewart film, HARVEY features some of the area's favorite professional actors in the much-anticipated directorial return of former Carnegie impresario Buz Davis after a 15-year absence. Tickets are $17 - $24 and are available online at www.thecarnegie.com or by calling The Carnegie Box Office at (859) 957-1940 (open Tu - Fr, noon - 5pm).

Elwood P. Dowd is well-liked, and inexhaustibly happy, and from a respected family... and his best friend is an invisible man-sized rabbit named Harvey. Committing Elwood to a sanitarium, his social-climbing sister Veta is herself mistaken as loony while Elwood and Harvey gleefully carry out their bon vivant cocktail calendar with the hospital staff in hilarious pursuit.

Director Buz Davis pilots this production of HARVEY in a hall much transformed since his tenure as theatre director there in the 1990s. The balcony was condemned and piled deep with decades of refuse. A basketball would be thrown into the lighting grid prior to performances to scare off the bats. There was no air conditioning. Davis fondly recalls performing in a late summer show called "Sweat," which included the distribution of frozen washcloths at intermission.

Yet for all its flaws, more often than not audiences left the old theatre with a sense of wonder at what had been accomplished. Homemade improvements were devised, including a fly system for bringing scenery, lighting instruments and people on and off stage. The same actors performing one night would be selling concessions or running lights the next. The space was an early venue for Fahrenheit Theatre Company (which later became Cincinnati Shakespeare Company), welcomed national acts like Emmylou Harris and housed the area's first regular series for staged readings and performance art, according to Davis.

"Devoid of niceties and rife with artists of all stripes, we produced magical theatre here, with no budgets, no HVAC, no carpets, old seats, donated and found curtains and supplies and volunteers from every walk of life," says Davis. "It was rarely comfortable, but always filled with engaging, entertaining, provocative stuff: hosting a handful of young theatre companies, local high schools, regional and national music acts and international organizations and producing a few things ourselves. This grand old lady of a room was packed and humming!"

Twenty-five years and a $2.5 million renovation later, the theatre is still special, a beautifully restored and technically superior performance space that retains many of its quintessential quirks.

"Now, the challenges are different. The holes are gone and it's very comfortable here. It is a pleasure to come home to the Carnegie and direct HARVEY," says Davis.

Amid its four-year, 1,800-performance Broadway run, Mary Chase's HARVEY took the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. But as with so many stage productions, it was the film adaptation that would truly catapult HARVEY into the national consciousness. The 1950 film of the same title starred Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, earning him an Oscar nomination and his co-star, Josephine Hull, an Oscar win for her role as Elwood's sister, Veta Louise Simmons. Stewart would reprise his role on stage in the 1970 Broadway revival. The recent 2012 Broadway run featured Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons (CBS's The Big Bang Theory) as Elwood.

A company of Cincinnati favorites will inhabit these starlit roles in The Carnegie's production, led by stage and screen actor Nathan Neorr as Elwood. Cast in films with stars including Nicolette Sheridan and in several national television commercials, Neorr returns to The Carnegie in a total reversal of his nefarious role as Herr Zeller in The Carnegie's January staging of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The role of Veta Louise Simmons will be played by award-winning theatre artist Regina Pugh*, longtime favorite with Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati and a nearly twenty-year veteran of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Michael Bath* makes his Carnegie Theatre Series debut in the role of sanitarium director Dr. William R. Chumley. Perhaps the area's most demanded character actor, Bath's resume includes award-winning credits at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Know Theatre and as a company member with The Clifton Players, where he works frequently with HARVEY director Buz Davis.

Rising talents and Clifton's Untethered Theatre Company members Carter Bratton and Leah Strasser make their Carnegie debuts as young Dr. Lyman Sanderson and Nurse Kelly, who are horrified after mistakenly subjecting Veta to intensive mental therapy. Mike Hall returns to The Carnegie as the oafish orderly, Duane Wilson, along with Tom Manning (Judge Omar Gaffney) and Lisa DeRoberts (Myrtle Mae Simmons). Christina Jeans (Miss Johnson), Abby Rowold (Betty Chumley) and Martha Slater (Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet) each make their Carnegie debuts.

*Actor appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Tickets to The Carnegie's production of HARVEY are $17 - $24 and may be purchased online at www.thecarnegie.com or by calling The Carnegie Box Office at (859) 957-1940 (open Tu - Fr, noon - 5pm).

HARVEY will include nine performances over three weekends, playing Friday, April 11, 7:30pm; Saturday, April 12, 7:30pm; Sunday, April 13, 3pm; Friday, April 18, 7:30pm; Saturday, April 19, 7:30pm; Sunday, April 20, 3pm; Friday, April 25, 7:30pm; Saturday, April 26, 7:30pm; and Sunday, April 27, 3pm. Tickets are $24 Adults, $22 Carnegie and Enjoy The Arts Members, $19 Groups of 8 or More, and $17 Students.

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