I have been fortunate enough to have a performing career that spans from film and television to live theater and concerts. Each medium has its own unique challenges and appeals.
In film and television, if you screw up – it’s not that big of a deal. You just reshoot the scene until you get it right. With live theater, you don’t have that luxury. Your only safety net is the talents of the other actors to help cover if something goes awry.
I return to the stage starting Friday September 30th as television star Andrew Rally in the hilarious Paul Rudnick comedy I Hate Hamlet. Produced by Elgin Theatre Company and under the skilled direction of Regina Belt-Daniels, the side-splitting laugher imagines a reality in which my character is cast as Hamlet in Shakespeare in the Park based not on classical talent, but entirely based on his television notoriety. It is stunt casting in its purest form.
Adding to the comedy, the ghost of John Barrymore comes back from the dead to teach Andrew how to play Hamlet. While alive, Barrymore, of course, was regarded as the greatest Hamlet of all time.
COMEDY & DRAMA
A lot of actors get pigeonholed. The thought is that if one is good at comedy, they must only be good at comedy. Reciprocally, if one shows a talent for heavy drama, the assumption tends to be that drama is their only area of expertise.
I enjoy playing both drama and comedy. Dramatic roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will always be treasured experiences for me. Of course, I am probably most well-known for redefining the groom’s role in the comedy hit Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding and for singing the lighthearted Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice songs in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
In short, I enjoy the challenges of both drama and comedy. And thus far I have been lucky enough to be accepted in both types of roles from audiences around the country.
Bringing I Hate Hamlet to the stage at Elgin Arts Showcase is an experience I will always treasure. I am privileged to be surrounded by a stellar assembly of talent. Co-starring in I Hate Hamlet are David Gasior as the ghost of John Barrymore and Trace Gamache as my love interest Diedre.
This is the second time I’ve had the joy of playing opposite David. Ironically, our last collaboration was in the drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in which I played McMurphy and David played Chief Bromden.
David is an incredible actor, with the chops to pull of both heavy drama and farcical comedy. I couldn’t ask for a better Barrymore. It’s a juicy role that I hope I will have the chance to play at some point in my career. If I do get that opportunity, it will benefit from having played opposite David.
Trace is hands down one of the most talented actresses I have ever played opposite. Every time we do a scene, new discoveries are made about our characters. Creating something new is always enjoyable, and with Trace I am creating something new every time we do our scenes. She is beautiful, smart, and impeccably talented.
There are three other characters in the I Hate Hamlet – all of them crucial to the story. For our production, we have the amazing talents of Travis Greuel as Hollywood hotshot producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz, Karen Mayberry Greuel as real estate agent and amateur psychic Felicia Dantine, and Alison Thomas Hage as talent agent Lillian Troy.
I have long hoped to play opposite Travis. His performances in The Little Mermaid and 42nd Street at the Woodstock Opera House absolutely wowed me as an audience member. I am so happy to finally share the stage with Travis.
Karen is also a brilliant performer. Like with her husband Travis, I have long been a fan of Karen. The way she has embraced Felicia right from the start set the bar high for the rest of us in the cast.
And, what can I say about Alison? She is a rock who always knows who her character is and what her motivations are with each scene. She is a joy to play opposite.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also make note of the wonderful talents of Andrew Ross, who sign acts the Sunday performances for the benefit of the deaf and hard of hearing.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Of course, every successful theatrical production requires the talents of a director who can offer a thrilling and unique vision and the leadership to get all the talents to work together to create a piece of art. Regina Belt-Daniels is one of the best directors in the Chicagoland area. It is an honor to work with her on Elgin Theatre Company’s I Hate Hamlet.
Matt Hordyke is also irreplaceable as the stage manager for this menagerie of talent. Deb Swinford adds to the visual action as the fight choreographer. Steve Connell has been a superhero with his set construction, then painted by the esteemed Barry Norton. Jon Kamp is our resident expert on promotional videos and publicity photos and Madeline Franklin is a social media rock star getting the word out. I also thank Jesse Hyde at Truth & Justice Entertainment for his publicity work. Producer Richard Grieger also deserves much credit for putting all the pieces in place.
ORDER YOUR TICKETS
I truly hope you’ll make plans to attend I Hate Hamlet at the Elgin Arts Showcase September 30th through October 9th. You will be treated to a grand and glorious time.
For tickets and performance information visit www.Elgin-Theatre.org.
We look forward to seeing you in the audience.
I always make it a point to come out after performances to thank those in attendance. So please stick around so I can show my appreciation.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
If you appreciate the nature of my words here, I ask that you take just a moment to share this article with your social media of choice. Follow me on Facebook (/rikki.travolta) and Twitter (@RikkiLeeTV)
What a lovely tribute to the cast and crew! Thank you, Rikki Lee. And as for me, you’ve been my dream Andrew. I’m excited for our opening!