TWISTED SISTERS: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford live again in camp feast ‘Baby Jane’
CantonRep.com entertainment editor
Posted Oct. 15, 2014 @ 12:01 am
Read more: http://www.cantonrep.com/article/20141015/Entertainment/141019655#ixzz3KH4c2ypH
If you’ve seen the 1962 black-comedy classic “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” you know that Bette Davis is quite the spectacle as an aging, demented meanie in thick clown-like makeup and a flouncy party dress.
In the local stage production of “Baby Jane,” opening Friday at downtown Canton’s Kathleen Howland Theatre, the over-the-top Davis role is being played by a towering man, Roman Feemster.
“You put a 6-foot-8 man in a dress and you’ve got something,” Feemster’s co-star Craig May, said with a chuckle. “Plus he’s got this voice going on that makes everybody laugh. It’s like a little-girl drag-queen voice, plus he does the bitten consonants just like Bette Davis.”
In “Baby Jane,” Feemster’s character, Jane Hudson, is the resentful and menacing caretaker of May’s wheelchair-bound character, Blanche Hudson, Jane’s sister, who was played in the film by Joan Crawford. (Offscreen, according to all accounts, Davis and Crawford despised each other.)
“This is a dimension of Craig I have never seen before,” Feemster said of his co-star. “Blanche is a character next to his heart. He plays it perfectly. He is every bit Joan Crawford. It’s always hard not to laugh.”
The play, being presented by the local stage troupe Gilda Shedstecker Presents, is a condensed version of the “Baby Jane” film.
“It follows the movie pretty closely, but it really takes that extra lag time out,” Feemster said. “The writer (Dale Gutzman) has taken all of your favorite scenes and put them into the show in a cohesive manner. It flows smoothly and makes you laugh and gasp at the same time.”
“We didn’t want to just ape the movie,” May said. “We’re doing it on a very ramped-up level. We’re definitely going for the comedy but all the moments and the lines that people are waiting for will be there.”
Feemster said his favorite line to deliver is the cruel classic, “But’ya ARE, Blanche! Y’are in that chair!”
“The first act isn’t too bad, but the second act is murder,” May said. “I’m dragging myself down the stairs to the phone, getting dragged around the stage by Roman and getting the crap beat out of me. It’s an incredibly physically challenging show. I’m onstage pretty much the whole time.”
May recalled seeing a “Baby Jane” TV remake starring Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave while in high-school, then seeking out the much-superior original film.
“It blew me away, the whole atmosphere and intensity of it. I feel it’s one of the most entertaining movies ever made,” he said. “And it started me down a very interesting path. I heard from my parents that Joan Crawford had done all these horrible things to her children and that led me to research her and now I’ve come full-circle. I’m playing her — an iconic actress in an iconic role.”
The local “Baby Jane” cast, directed by Doug Tennant, also includes Jacki Dietz as Elvira the maid, David Bowen as Jane’s piano player, Ellen Fox as his mother, and Patrice Rittenhouse as the nosy next-door neighbor, Mrs. Bates.
“Baby Jane” is the latest bold comedy from Gilda Shedstecker Presents, whose previous productions at the Howland have included “Sordid Lives,” “Baby With the Bathwater” and “Harry’s Hotter at Twilight.”
“It’s a fairly progressive theater company as far as I’m concerned,” said Feemster, a veteran player. “I think we’ve pushed the envelope in terms of what people want to see. We do cult classics, things that other companies may feel are too risky for their namesake.”
Read more: http://www.cantonrep.com/article/20141015/Entertainment/141019655#ixzz3KH4vQaWd