Front Row Center – November 2013

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Local Hero
Original Screenplay by Bill Forsyth
Adapted for the stage and Directed by Neal Checkoway


front-rowLocal Herowas a cult movie, starring Burt Lancaster, written and created by Bill Forsyth in 1983. It is a quirky and whimsical movie in which a big Houston oil company intends to buy an entire village called Ferness in order to build a huge oil refinery on the Scottish coast. They send a young ambitious deal-maker called “Mac MacIntyre” over to Scotland to sign up the locals. Once he gets to Scotland, he begins to slow down and enjoy the local scenery and the whisky. He becomes entranced by the simple beauty of the place. Eventually his boss, who is an astronomy buff, shows up and decides to build a research institute and observatory there, and the refinery is built somewhere else. Thus the fragile ecosystem is saved from destruction.

The appeal of the movie is mainly the beautiful cinematography and the various encounters between MacIntyre and the characters that he meets in Scotland. Neal Checkoway was able to obtain limited theatrical rights from Bill Forsyth, and so we were privileged to see the world premiere of Neal’s stage adaptation of Forsyth’s screenplay. He has not strayed too far from the original, and a quirky and whimsical movie has become a quirky and whimsical play. The staging is brilliant and the sound and light effects are amazing, but on the other hand there is little tension in the story, and as a result the dialogue and the pace of the action seem slow. If you enjoyed the movie, you will certainly have enjoyed the stage version.

A huge cast put their heart and soul into the production. Mark Bennett is entirely convincing as “Felix Happer” the eccentric CEO of Knox Oil, while Neal Checkoway is entertainingly wacky as his psychiatrist. Patrick DuMouchel plays Mac with subdued humor and Doug Pinkerton (a genuine Scot) is very real as the local innkeeper “Gordon Urquhart.” Collette Clavadetscher is sweet as Gordon’s wife “Stella.” Jennings Bennett – a newcomer to LLT – plays “Danny,” Mac’s UK helper and sidekick, with a certain charm and falls in love with local maiden and marine biologist with webbed feet “Marina” (played by another newcomer Tina Leonard). Roland McKoy (a third newcomer) plays the local vicar. Fred Koesling comes ashore in the second Act as Russian sailor “Victor,” and sings an impressive Basso Profundo at the inn, and Dave McIntosh has a good time as eccentric old man “Ben Knox” who lives in a shack on the beach. Sometimes the accents were hard to follow, but mainly the rest of the cast were convincing as Scottish locals. I should mention Chet Beeswanger, Patricia Guy, Zane Pumiglia, Graham Miller, Don Chaloner, Pierre Blackburn, Jim Ryan, Judy Long, Beryel Dorscht and Catharine Huff. We had the pleasure of real musicians on stage – Chuni Medeles Cordova on accordion and Juanpi Medeles Cordova on violin. Shellie Checkoway was the tireless and ever-present Producer of the show, Leslie DeCarl was Stage Manager and Diane Jones was her Assistant.

The next show is the classic period drama “The Heiress” directed by Roseann Wilshere. The screen adaptation of this play won several Academy Awards – it opens on November 8 and runs through November 17. I am helping as Assistant Director, so Harriet Hart will be guest reviewer next month.


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