THE RAINMAKER Opens At Northern Stage 3/16

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As the region emerges from a long and difficult winter, Northern Stage taps into the eternal optimism of the American spirit with N. Richard Nash's acclaimed comedy-drama-romance The Rainmaker, on stage from March 16 through April 3 at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction.

For this production, Northern Stage has assembled another top-notch artistic team, including British director Giles Ramsay and lead actors Justin Adams and Sutton Crawford, who portrayed Wolfgang Mozart and Constanze Weber in the company's recent production of Amadeus. Ramsay, who heads the U.K. non-profit Developing Artists, has traveled the world staging Theater Productions in remote and volatile areas. He will inject this classic tale of Depression-era Americana with all of the storytelling power gleaned from cultures on four continents.

The members of the Curry family, like their neighbors, are suffering through a debilitating drought, with cattle dying and no sign of rain. Suddenly, a charismatic stranger who calls himself Starbuck appears at their door offering to bring rain-for a price. The Currys, equally mistrustful and desperate, must make a decision. Starbuck's offer seems too good to be true . . . but what if it is true? What do they have to lose besides one hundred hard-earned dollars? And what does Starbuck's arrival mean for daughter Lizzie, whose fiercely independent and outspoken nature have helped keep her unmarried? Starbuck's arrival changes each family member forever.

The Rainmaker runs live on stage at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction from March 16 - April 3, 2011. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 p.m., except for the Opening Night performance on Friday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m., with a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Thursday, March 24. For tickets and information, call 802-296-7000. Tickets are also available through the Northern Stage website, www.northernstage.org.

While N. Richard Nash wrote a great number of works for the stage and screen, from the very dark to the utterly lighthearted, The Rainmaker stands as his most remembered piece by far. Since 1954, the play has been translated into 40 languages, including an unwritten African language in which performers learned the parts by hearing them repeated. This longevity is likely due to the fact that, while the plot is uncomplicated, its main theme is universal: even in the most difficult times, hopes and dreams remain alive. "I tried to tell a simple story about droughts that happen to people, and about faith," Nash later wrote.

Whether Bill Starbuck is a miracle worker or a charlatan is almost irrelevant; he provides a breath of fresh air to the Curry family, and he leaves each member of the family forever changed. As director Giles Ramsay notes, it is almost like a fairy tale, with Starbuck as the dashing "prince" riding in on his (presumably) white horse to convince the luckless Lizzie that within her there is a beautiful princess. Despite the hardscrabble surroundings, Nash notes in his foreword that the action should be seen through a "romantically gauzed lens."

The Rainmaker started as a one-act production of the Philco Television Playhouse in 1953 and hit Broadway's Cort Theatre as a full-length play on October 28, 1954, running for 125 performances, until Feb. 12, 1955. Geraldine Page starred as Lizzie, with a young Darren McGavin, fresh off filming Summertime in Venice with Katharine Hepburn, portraying Starbuck. In his review, Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called it "warm, simple and friendly; the humor is captivating, and the characters are lovable and original."

As a side note, in the original production, sheriff'File was played by Richard Coogan, who had gained fame as the original "Captain Video," an early television superhero. In fact, in 1949, Coogan did the Captain Video show live until 7:30 p.m., then jumped in a cab to go from the Dumont Television Network studio to Broadway to perform in Mae West's Diamond Lil.




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