Within the last six months, many theater groups have displayed an eagerness to walk the walk - if the walk consists of "The 39 Steps."
The madcap stage adaptation of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie has been a popular choice for professional and community theaters since the comical crime caper ended its Off-Broadway and Broadway run amassing over 1,000 performances.
Professionally, Mill Hall's Millbrook Playhouse presented "The 39 Steps" in July and is Allenberry Playhouse's current attraction. Wellsboro's Hamilton-Gibson Productions gives the first non-professional staging running Nov. 9 through 17.
Each of the trio of artistic directors agree that it's the mixture of part-spy tale and part-broad comedy, with a cast of four playing 150 roles, which adds to the show's inventiveness and appeal.
Set in 1914, "The 39 Steps" is played at breakneck speed winding through wild chases, narrow escapes and downright silly detours as an innocent bystander to a murder races across Europe to solve a killing before he can be blamed. Fleeing from the police and a bunch of diabolical hit men, his only clue to the killer's identity is scribbling on a note which refers to "The 39 Steps."
Millbrook Playhouse - Speaking recently to Teresa K. Pond in her New York residence before heading to her "home" in Alaska, where she will put the finishing touches to Millbrook's 50th anniversary season, the artistic director selected "The 39 Steps" as this summer's finale and the only non-musical presented on the upstairs Main Stage.
Although 2012 was her first stint as Millbrook's artistic director, Pond, having previously directed at the old barn playhouse, knew that this show might only be fully appreciated by rabid fans of Hitchcock movies, and with only minimal sets and props, also by theater purists.
The comedy did, however, show up as one of the most-liked on several surveys that were filled out by Millbrook patrons at the season's conclusion.
The show's director commended Pond in his program notes for her "brave decision to do such a complex show."
Allenberry Playhouse - Artistic Director Roque Berlanga is in the cast of Allenberry Playhouse's season-ending attraction, running Wednesday through Sunday, now through Nov. 10. Call 717-258-3211 or visit www.allenberry.com for ticket information.
Berlanga, playing one of the two "clowns," switches hats and attire to change characters dozens of times in rapid-fire succession.
Having lined up "The 39 Steps" almost a full year before the April-October season, Berlanga chose the comedy because " ... it is a riotous smash. It uses ingenious theatrical inventions and is an engaging fast-paced whodunit that celebrates the magic of theater. "Steps" is also part of a mission to keep exposing the theater's range beyond classic musicals and marks the return to mysteries and farces that used to be performed often."
Hamilton-Gibson Productions - Wellsboro's community theater is billing "The 39 Steps" as "Hitchcock meets Monty Python meets Buster Keaton."
Speaking to Thomas Wells Putnam in the HG box office earlier this week, the guiding artistic director acknowledges that this zany spoof is a huge endeavor to mount. With no pre-casting, there was a good turnout at auditions especially for the two "clown" roles with demanding physicality. "One of the show's great strengths is that the script never allows itself to be taken seriously," Putnam said.
Picking up on the script's references to Hitchcock's "Rear Window," "Vertigo," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Strangers On A Train," "The Birds" and even "Psycho," adds an extra degree of enjoyment.
Unlike most theater groups whose seasons extend from early fall to late spring or early summer, HG operates on a calendar basis so that the upcoming production is one of the last theatrical attractions of the 2012 season.
Directed by former Mansfield professor Mike Crum, the first non-professional production in Northcentral Pennsylvania of "The 39 Steps" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 with a 2:30 p.m. matinee Nov. 11 at the Deane Center, 29 Water St., Wellsboro.
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