Things aren’t looking so hot for The Soapbox Playhouse, the fictional theater company in the upcoming production of Inspecting Carol opening on Nov. 29 at The Phoenix Theatre. With dissension in the ranks and funding running dry, this ragtag theater group will need to pull it together to impress an inspector from the National Endowment for the Arts if they hope to receive much-needed grant money to survive. Things go from bad to worse for this feisty bunch of actors when they mistake an out-of-work, inept actor for the undercover inspector and start entertaining his ideas for their annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” Will they succeed?
Well, that’s in the hands of this screwball crew and their high-strung and overly emotional director, Zorah. Real-life, director Keith Dahlgren may have a little something to say on the matter too. Dahlgren, along with his own eccentric lineup of actors, will bring this uproarious comedy to the stage just in time to rescue you from one more night with the relatives this holiday season.
With an illustrious history in the Seattle theater scene, it’s no surprise that Dahlgren has done an outstanding job of casting this production. Zorah, the intense director, is brilliantly portrayed by Amy Susynski, who embodies the role so well that at times it’s hard to tell where Amy ends and Zorah begins. Watching her character unravel is nothing short of delightfully decadent.
The youngest cast member, 10-year-old Oliver Sargent, has no problem keeping up with his adult counterparts in his role of Luther, the too-big Tiny Tim. The acting bug bit Sargent early when he performed in his first school play in second grade. While he has a few more plays under his belt now, this is the first time he will perform in a non-school production, and he is not the least bit nervous about it either. He proudly states that he has all of his lines memorized, thanks to Mom’s help, of course. There is no doubt that Sargent takes his role seriously, and it shows. This dapper young man comes to rehearsals dressed in his best suits and is quick to call for feedback the moment he bounces off stage. Sargent is an absolute joy to watch both on and off stage and is not to be missed.
A last-minute cast change seems like it should be just another plot twist in this topsy-turvy play. Still, for director Dahlgren, it was a very real-world problem that needed a speedy solution. Tom Cook, who was initially cast in the role of Phil, had an unexpected emergency that left him unable to perform. Thankfully, a fellow castmate knew someone who would fit the bill perfectly. With only a week until opening night, John Fry will be taking over the role of Phil. While it’s clear that the cast will miss Tom, they are thankful that John was able to step in and wish Tom a quick recovery and a rapid return to the stage.
Other cast members include Susan Connors as Dorothy, a deliciously cringeworthy vocal coach; Raymond Miller as Walter, The Soapbox Playhouse’s first Black actor; Jim Snowden as Wayne, the mistaken wannabe actor; Cindy Chen as the inspector Betty; Stacy Lynn Gilbert as MJ, the hilariously frustrated stage manager; Mark Abel as Kevin, the financial director and bearer of bad news; Jay Jenkins as Larry, an exasperating actor who does an excellent job of adding fuel to the fire; Jim Thompson as Sidney and who also doubles as the real-life set builder for this production; and last but certainly not least, Ian Wight, who plays Bart and serves as the real-life stage manager when he’s off stage. The cast has every intention of tickling your funny bone with this witty comedy written in 1991 by Daniel J. Sullivan.
If you haven’t had the chance to visit The Phoenix Theatre yet, now is the time. This intimate venue is tucked away in Firdale Village, just a hop, skip and a jump away from downtown Edmonds. Step inside, and you are greeted with a cozy lobby and a warm welcome. While you wait for your drinks, take a moment to admire the pictures showcased on the walls from previous performances that have lit up the stage in years past. “The Phoenix Theater is Seattle’s best-kept secret,” says owner Melanie Calderwood with a smile. After taking over ownership in 2009 from the previous theater company, Calderwood decided to exclusively produce comedy shows. When asked why, she says, “There is too much drama in the world out there. They can come here for a laugh.”
Opening Nov. 29 and running through Dec. 22, 2019, with ticket sales already over 70% sold out. Don’t wait to grab your seat!
Inspecting Carol written by Daniel J. Sullivan and Directed by Keith Dahlgren
Nov. 29 – Dec. 22 / Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Phoenix Theatre
9673 Firdale Ave.
Tickets: $25 adults and $20 Seniors/Students/US Military members and veterans
To purchase: 206-533-2000 or www.tptedmonds.org
— By Judy Hendrix
Judy Hendrix is an Edmonds writer, mom to a handful of boys and one incredibly stubborn Saint Bernard, Frog. You can read more about her antics at www.saintfrog.com.