Harvey, one of Broadway’s all-time biggest comedy hits, starts September 8 at Church Hill Theatre and will run through September 24. Opening on Broadway in 1944, Harvey played until 1949, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Best Play and delighting war-time audiences. The 1950 film version starring Jimmy Stewart then endeared Harvey to millions of people around the world. This Church Hill Theatre revival directed by Bonnie Hill will bring this iconic six-foot-tall rabbit to a whole new generation.
The play’s premise is simple—The Dowd family and their friends cannot enjoy a normal social life because Elwood brings his best friend Harvey everywhere. Harvey is what we would call a “party animal” but in addition to liking a drink, Harvey is an invisible pooka and, oh yes, also a very large rabbit. Elwood’s sister Vera decides that a long, even permanent, stay at Chumley’s Rest, a psychiatric facility, is the only solution. But a mix-up puts the wrong Dowd inside and the medical establishment is no match for pooka magic. By the end of the play, even the shrinks are struggling to define reality.
The always charming Elwood P. Dowd is played by Frank St. Armour. His frustrated sister Veta (Debra McGuire), niece Myrtle Mae (Brianna Johnson) and aunt Mrs. Chauvenet (Sheila Austrian) work with their lawyer, Judge Gaffney (John Kamp), to have him committed. The sanitarium staff then do their best but psychiatrists Dr. Chumley (Brian McGunigle) and Dr. Sanderson (James Diggs), along with a helpful nurse (Sharon Herz) and tough orderly (Michael Moore) are unable to bring order out of chaos. Mrs. Chumley (Sheila Austrian) and an irascible cab driver (Bob Chauncey) eventually help sort things out. And because Harvey is a pooka, he plays himself.
Assisting Bonnie Hill on the production team are Stage Manager Steve Atkinson, Producer Sheila Austrian, Set Designer Earl Lewin, Set Construction Chief Carmelo Grasso, Lighting Designer Doug Kauffman, Assistant Stage Manager Jean Messick, Costumer Christina Johnson and Properties Chief Wendy Sardo.
Lead image” Elwood introduces Harvey to his sister and aunt: Left to Right: Vera Louise Simmons (Debra McGuire ), Mrs. Chauvenet (Sheila Austrian), Elwood P. Dowd (Frank St. Armour)
Harvey opens at Church Hill Theatre on Friday, September 8 and will run until September 24. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and on Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are available on the CHT website: churchhilltheatre.org