‘On Golden Pond’ leads Neil Simon Festival 2016 season

ST. GEORGE — Neil Simon Festival founder Richard Bugg recently announced the 2016 lineup for the 14th annual Neil Simon Festival, including two plays from festival namesake Neil Simon and plays by Ernest Thompson and the team of Randal Myler and Mark Harelik.

All plays will be presented at the Heritage Center Theater, 105 N. 100 East in Cedar City. Tickets range from $21 to $26, with group pricing available.

The plays include “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “London Suite” by Simon, “On Golden Pond” by Thompson and “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” by Myler and Harelik.

We are pleased to present two of Neil Simon’s finest plays, a musical biography of Hank Williams and the always wonderful ‘On Golden Pond,'” Bugg said. “‘On Golden Pond’ will be presented with a twist. Neil Simon TV and movie star Clarence Gilyard will star as Norman Thayer in the lead role. Clarence is a great actor and the casting twist will be entertaining for all.”

“On Golden Pond”

“On Golden Pond” is the love story of Ethel and Norman Thayer. Norman is a retired professor nearing 80 with heart palpitations and a failing memory, but he is still as tart-tongued, observant and eager for life as ever.

Ethel is the perfect foil for Norman: She delights in all the small things that have enriched, and continue to enrich, their long life together. They are visited by their divorced, middle-aged daughter and her dentist fiancé, who then go off to Europe, leaving the dentist’s teenage son behind for the summer.

The boy quickly becomes the “grandchild” the elderly couple has longed for, and as Norman revels in taking his ward fishing and thrusting good books at him, he also learns some lessons about modern teenage awareness — and slang — in return. In the end, as the summer wanes, so does their brief idyll in the final, deeply moving moments of the play.

“On Golden Pond” opened to great critical and popular acclaim. This touching, funny and warmly perceptive study of a spirited and lovable elderly couple facing their twilight years introduced the significant playwright Thompson.

Evening performances for “On Golden Pond” will be July 13, 16, 20 and 29, 2016, and Aug. 4 and 13, 2016. Matinee performances are July 22 and 27, 2016, and Aug. 6 and 11, 2016.

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway”

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway” is the spectacular musical biography of the legendary singer-songwriter frequently mentioned alongside Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan as one of the great innovators of American popular music.

“Our country and western fans will love the NSF presentation on the musical life and trials of Hank Williams,” Bugg said. “Fans will be reminded of an incredible talent whose life was way too short.”

The play follows Williams’ rise, from his beginnings on the Louisiana Hayride to his triumphs on the Grand Ole Opry and his eventual self-destruction at the age of 29.

Along the way, audience members are treated to indelible songs like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Move It on Over” and “Hey, Good Lookin’,” which are given fresh and profound resonance set in the context of Williams’ life.

Experience the exhilarating feeling of Williams on stage in a particular place on a particular night. Watch classic country with the edges raw and the energy hot.

Evening performances are July 11, 15, 21 and 30, 2016, and Aug. 3 and 12, 2016. Matinee performances are July 23 and 28, 2016, and Aug. 5 and 10, 2016.

“Brighton Beach Memoirs”

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” by Simon is part one of his autobiographical trilogy: a portrait of the writer as a young teen in 1937 living with his family in a crowded, lower-middle-class Brooklyn walk-up. Eugene Jerome, standing in for the author, is the narrator and central character.

Dreaming of baseball and girls, Eugene must cope with the mundane existence of his family life in Brooklyn: formidable mother, overworked father and his worldly older brother Stanley. Throw into the mix his widowed Aunt Blanche, her two young (but rapidly aging) daughters and grandpa the socialist and you have a recipe for hilarity, served up Simon-style.

This bittersweet memoir evocatively captures the life of a struggling Jewish household where, as his father states, “if you didn’t have a problem, you wouldn’t be living here.”

Evening performances for “Brighton Beach Memoirs” are July 14, 23 and 27, 2016, and Aug. 5 and 11, 2016. Matinée performances are July 16, 21 and 29, 2016, and Aug. 3 and 13, 2016.

“London Suite”

America’s premier comic playwright crosses the Atlantic for a suite of hilarious comedies set in a deluxe London hotel – a sedate place until these characters check in. The four comedies are titled “Settling Accounts,” “Going Home,” “The Man on the Floor” and “Diana and Sidney.”

In “Settling Accounts,” the hotel suite is occupied by an inebriated Welsh writer who is holding his long-time business manager, caught absconding with the writer’s money, at gunpoint. The villain concocts increasingly far-fetched explanations of what he was doing at Heathrow with the cash.

An American widow and her daughter, in England to buy shoes, take over the suite in “Going Home.” At the daughter’s insistence, the mother spends her last evening in London with a rich Scotsman.

The hotel guests in “The Man on the Floor” are a married couple from New York who have lost their tickets to Wimbledon and are about to lose their suite to Kevin Costner, who absolutely must have it now.

The evening ends on a funny, bittersweet note with “Diana and Sidney,” another chapter in the lives of two characters from Simon’s “California Suite.” Diana, the Oscar-winning actress, and Sidney, her bisexual husband, are now divorced and are seeing each other for the first time in years.

Sidney needs money for his lover, who is dying of cancer. The money is not a problem for Diana, but the realization that she still loves him is.

Evening performances of “London Suite” are July 12, 22 and 28, 2016, and Aug. 6 and 10, 2016. Matinee performances are July 15, 20 and 30, 2016, and Aug. 4 and 12, 2016.

The Neil Simon Festival is a nonprofit organization.

Resources

  • Tickets are on sale through the festival website or by calling 435-267-0194 or 866-357-4666.
  • Neil Simon Festival Facebook | website
  • Inquiries, donations or letters to the actors may be sent to Neil Simon Festival, P.O. Box 83, Cedar City, Utah, 84721.

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