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“The Man Who Came To Dinner” Brings Laughter, Twists and Turns to the Welk Theatre Stage

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TR Robertson

 TR Robertson …Randall Hickman and Douglas Davis, co-owners of Broadway Vista, have brought a classic comedy to the Welk Theatre stage, producing George Kaufman and Moss Hart’s, “The Man Who Came to Dinner”. This funny play debuted in 1939 at the Music Box Theatre in New York City and would run for 739 performances, until 1941. In the lead role, Randall Hickman, playing Sheridan Whiteside, brings an impressive, over-the-top performance to the ego-centric, pompous, pushy, insufferable writer along with a cast of bizarre characters. Hickman is an award winning actor, including the San Diego Critics Choice selection.

The story line is a simple one. Sheridan Whiteside slips and falls on his back as he is exiting the home of Ernest and Daisy Stanley. Whiteside has to recuperate in the Stanley home, where he will bring in the strangest cast of characters and friends as he tries to conduct his business. While doing this he begins to drive everyone in the home crazy, runs up huge phone bills, and meddles in family affairs and the affairs of his own friends. One of the story lines of the comedy is that Sheridan Whiteside is based on a real friend of Kaufman and Hart, Alexander Woollcott, who exhibited similar behavior in Hart’s home.

Whiteside will bring convicts into the home, receive a gift of a cockroach farm, put an octopus in the basement, bring 22 Chinese students to the dining room, receives a gift of 4 penguins and an Egyptian sarcophagus; not to mention the endless parade of unusual guests. Throw in an eccentric sister of the Mr. Stanley, who also has a shady past; Stanley’s son and daughter who turn to Whiteside for advice for their own problems and Whiteside’s secretary who has love issues of her own and you have an inter-twined plot set-up for an unexpected conclusion.

A cast of 18 flows in and out through this fun play. Many are performing with Broadway Vista for the first time and many at the Welk for the first time. All are veteran actors and actresses with a number of credits to their resumes. Playing home owner Ernest Stanley is James Winkler. Playing his wife Daisy is Linda Englund. The Stanley children are played by Ben Williams as Richard and Chelsey Moore as June. Eccentric sister Harriet, and an audience favorite for her stage exists, is M. Susan Peck.  Nurse Preen, the brunt of many of Whiteside’s barbs, is played by Li-Anne Rowswell. Whiteside seems to get along with the butler and cook/maid, played by Doug Shattuck as John and Marilyn Wolfe as Sarah. Lou Slocum plays Dr. Bradley, Whiteside’s doctor, who constantly tries to get Whiteside to produce one of the plays he has written. Whiteside’s secretary, Maggie Cutler, is, perhaps, the sanest person in the play, and is played by Brannon Shaw. Maggie falls in love with a newspaper reporter, Bert Jefferson, played by Tim Benson. Cathy Roswell plays Mrs. Dexter, an admirer of Mr. Whiteside, and Jacob Hatch plays Sandy. Whiteside’s unusual friends, who show up at the Stanley home, include Kenneth Gray as a Harpo Marx-like Banjo, Torre Younghans as British actor Beverly Carlton (based on Noel Coward), Doug Olive as Metz and Holly MacDonald as the conniving actress Lorraine Sheldon.

As Whiteside demands and manipulates his way around the home, moving in a non-cooperative wheelchair, each of the characters in the play either fall under his spell or fall out of favor with him. The result is a funny, mad capped romp through the Stanley household, held together by a cast that delivers this zany comedy with a quick, precise pace. Randall Hickman directs the production, sets designed by Douglas Davis with lighting by Jennifer Edwards and sound by Tommy Eyler.

This play was produced as a movie in 1942, starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Jimmy Durante and Monty Woolley as Sherry Whiteside. In 1949, the play was produced as a CBS Radio program starring Jack Benny, Gene Kelly, Gregory Peck, Charles Boyer and Dorothy McGuire. A 1972 production for television by Hallmark starring Orson Welles as the lead role.

“The Man Who Came to Dinner” plays through April 30th on Thursdays through Sundays. For times and tickets call 1-888-802-7469 or go online at https://welkresorts.com/san-diego/theatre/ . Tickets are $39.00 and a dinner package is available for $60.00. Next up for Broadway Vista will be “Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”, directed by Kathy Brombacher.


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