Take four quirky women, a lecherous old man, a con artist, a drag queen, and various other characters, and you have a recipe for hilarity. “Four Old Broads on the High Seas” is a sequel to last year’s production, “Four Old Broads,” and features many of the same characters. All of the main roles are performed by the same actors that performed them in the original.
The premise is that four elderly women and a “dirty old man” decide to take a cruise. We are introduced to other characters during the play, such as the captain, an elderly couple, the porter who also performs as a drag queen act, the ship’s detective, and a con man.
The five main roles − Beatrice, Imogene, Edie Mae, Maude, and Sam are played by Michelle Root, Betsy Glasson, Lynda Dilts-Benson, Sheryl Depp, and Dalton Benson, respectively. They remain true to their personalities from the original. Beatrice is still “hot to trot.” Imogene is engaged to Sam and is still wide-eyed and innocent. Edie Mae is the same religious zealot who believes that the rest of the group are unrepentant sinners. Sheryl Depp is still flaunting her title of Miss Magnolia, and Dalton Benson, although engaged to Imogene, hasn’t lost his lust for love. As you can imagine, the contrasts in personalities lead to some funny dialogue and situations.
Into the mix, we add Captain Sterling, played by Sam Petricone. He is a professionally trained actor with more than 23 years of experience.
“In 1998, I was in California and started studying under the famous drama coach, Jeff Corey. Leonard Nimoy, Jack Nicholson, and other famous actors had studied under him,” he remarked.
Corey suggested that he do theatre, and he landed parts in such plays as “The Odd Couple” and “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Petricone moved to Spring Hill in 2000 and started performing with Stage West. He has been in 28 shows. His favorite roles have been Juror Number Eight (the Henry Fonda role) in “12 Angry Men” and Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon.”
Petricone commented, “In doing a role, you don’t want to imitate. You want to act, but in “Frost/Nixon,” the director wanted me to be more like him [Nixon], so I worked with an impressionist to get the voice right.”
He liked the role in “12 Angry Men “ because he got to play against type, and it was a challenge. “The Henry Fonda character was very calm, and I’m not that way. It was fun because it was challenging.”
For Petricone, acting is very rewarding. The actors who perform with Stage West are not paid, so they are not in it for the money. They’re in it for the experience and the fun.
“I love that when you do something, even if it’s bad, it’s over with, and you start with something new. There’s always something different. Going to rehearsals never feels like it’s a drudgery,” he stated.
However, along with the rewards, there are challenges.
“It’s challenging because I can’t get the characters down until I learn all the lines. Then I grow into the character, so I’m a lousy auditioner,” he admitted. Apparently, this doesn’t interfere with his performance and, like other method actors, adds to the believability of his acting.
Keith Surplus plays the part of Herbert, a con man who woos the women by pretending to be wealthy. Depending on who he’s trying to con, his last name is either Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, or Biltmore.
Surplus got into acting in high school and has been in theatre for twenty years. Two of his favorite roles were very different. “I played Igor in “Young Frankenstein,” and I got to be very cartoonish. As far as serious roles, Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar” was very intense and emotional,” Surplus remarked.
Several things make acting rewarding to Surplus. One is the audience’s reaction, whether it’s crying or laughing. The other is getting to meet them afterward and talk with them.
However, there are challenges too. “With live theatre, if something [a mistake] happens, you have to be quick on your feet and cover it,” Surplus concluded.
Sheryl Depp reprises the role of Maude, which she performed in the original play. She has a bravado that comes from having won the title of Miss Magnolia but also displays a certain amount of insecurity that all of us can relate to.
Ms. Depp did some acting in college but didn’t really get back into performing until she came to Stage West in 2008. So far, Maude has been her favorite role because “it’s incredible to make people laugh.”
The most rewarding thing for her is all the people she’s met and the friends she’s made. However, there are challenges, as well. “Remembering my lines is a challenge. Also, during the show last year, I was retired and had a lot more time. I decided to go back to work this year, and it’s a little harder to pull it all together,” Ms. Depp stated.
“What I like best is how the character has changed. Becoming the winner of a beauty contest is such a confidence builder, and Maude needs to still have fun in her old age,” she concluded.
“Four Old Broads on the High Seas” is deftly directed by Mark Burdette, who directed the original play last year. This is the first time he’s directed a sequel. In many ways, it was easier than directing the original.
“Whereas the original was very much my production, this one belongs to the cast. They know these characters. They ARE these characters. All I had to do was place them appropriately on stage, sit back, and enjoy their antics,” Burdette remarked.
“The most challenging thing about a sequel is that the audience is entering the theater with certain expectations. Living up to those expectations is always challenging. I believe we’ve done our job, though,” he added.
“The high point of directing this show has to be the laughter. These amazing people have me in stitches at every rehearsal. Audiences are in for a couple hours of non-stop laughs and surprises,” Burdette concluded.
There are three remaining performances of “Four Old Broads on the High Seas.” Show times are Friday, May 5th, at 7:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday, May 6th and 7th, at 2:00 pm. The shows are almost sold out, so it’s recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance at their website, www.stagewestflorida.com, or by calling the box office at 352-683-5113. The theatre is located at 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill.