Photos courtesy of Mark Garvin Photography
Neil Simon is one of America’s most prolific and successful playwrights. For over five decades, his ability to create humor from the lives and struggles of everyday people has resonated with audiences across the United States. It is the 30th Anniversary of the Broadway debut of Biloxi Blues, the second installment of Simon’s acclaimed semi-autobiographical Eugene Trilogy, which also includes Brighton Beach Memoirs (’83) and Broadway Bound (’86). Inspired by Simon’s own experiences in boot camp during World War II, Biloxi Blues is a funny and touching coming of age story set in 1943.
While stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi to complete basic training, the Jewish Brooklyn-born Eugene Jerome confronts anti-Semitism and his first sexual experience. Along with his fellow recruits, Eugene suffers under a hard-nosed hard-drinking platoon leader Sergeant Merwin J. Toomey, and wonders if he’ll live long enough to achieve his dreams.
Portraying Eugene is People’s Light newcomer, James Michael Lambert. A graduate from UCLA, Lambert has been seen on television’s Mad Men, as well as on stages across the country appearing in the tour of Mamma Mia, at South Coast Repertory Theatre in A Wrinkle In Time, and as Ralph Malph in the musical adaptation of Happy Days, which led him to work with director Garry Marshall. Also making their People’s Light debuts are Jordan Geiger (Arnold Epstein), Luke Brahdt (James Hennessy), and Ben Harter- Murphy (Don Carney).
People’s Light Associate Artistic Director Pete Pryor will portray Sgt. Toomey. He is reunited with Julianna Zinkel (Rowena) and Clare Mahoney (Daisy) who all appeared in Pride & Prejudice directed by Samantha Bellomo at People’s Light in 2014.
As with Bellomo’s widely praised production of the Austen classic, the inclusion of movement is a core element to her interpretation of Biloxi Blues. Bellomo says “Our production will explore the juxtaposition of the percussive boot camp cadences with the lyrical popular songs of 1943. The many scene changes that happen in the course of the play will also be choreographed as drills. It will be exciting to create the physicality of the WWII army. I can’t wait to tackle the physical and mental challenges of Biloxi Blues!”
It is the first production of a Neil Simon play in the company’s forty year history. Samantha Bellomo and Pete Pryor, however, have each previously worked on Simon productions with different companies including 1812, which Pryor co-founded. “Pete and Samantha have a rich history with Simon’s work outside of People’s Light. We’re thrilled to bring their infectious enthusiasm for Simon’s humor and heart onto our stages” says Producing Director Zak Berkman. “It is also important to us that our 40th Anniversary Season features iconic plays with dynamic ensembles. From Wilson’s Fences to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard to Simon’s Biloxi Blues, the energy, empathy, and risk-taking of a group of skilled and accomplished actors are front and center.”
Enhance Your Experience at People’s Light
Join People’s Light for Canteen Nights after Thursday evening performances (May 7, 14, and 21). These Talkbacks, led by Director Samantha Bellomo, include the entire Biloxi Blues cast and will be held in the upper lobby of the theatre where non-alcoholic concessions will remain open.
After the 7:30 performance on Wednesday, May 6, veterans and family members from Warrior Writers will share original works in a brief, post-show performance. There is no additional charge, admission is free for Biloxi Blues ticket holders.
People’s Light continues its Scoop program on Wednesdays. Scoop on Wednesdays: History, Context, and Gossip is a lively discussion before every Wednesday 7:30 pm performance (May 6, 13, and 20). Dramaturg Mary Elizabeth Scallen will host Pete Pryor (who portrays Sgt. Toomey) and get the inside scoop about such things as the rehearsal and production process, design choices, and the world of the play. The program begins at 6:00 in The Farmhouse Bistro. Cost of $15 includes light fare. Call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.
Mother’s Day Brunch at The Farmhouse Bistro
Treat mom to a delightful Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday, May 10 at The Farmhouse Bistro. Their award-winning gardens and 18th century Farmhouse offer a charming, historic setting for this special occasion. A Mother’s Day package includes a buffet brunch and 1 ticket for Biloxi Blues. Pricing for children 12 and under is $44, $66 for teens and $83 for adults. Reserve your table and tickets online at PeoplesLight.org or call the box office at 610.644.3500.
Biloxi Blues previews on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30pm, Thursday, April 30 at 7:30pm and Friday, May 1 at 8 pm. The play opens on Saturday, May 2nd at 8 pm and runs through Sunday, May 24 at 7pm.
Be Social with People’s Light & Theatre
About People’s Light & Theatre
People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. For tickets call 610.644.3500 or visit peopleslight.org.