By Larry Backus
There is a very special two-act show that will be presented at the Cumberland County Playhouse on the evening after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 29. My friend Sara Senft is a longtime volunteer, usher and supporter of the Playhouse. She called because she is very excited about this show. It is the first that she has ever sponsored, along with Shadden Tire, and she thought Playhouse fans and longtime local residents needed to know about this unique performance.
The forty-year reference is to the anniversary of Buster and Carol Irvin’s collaboration with the Cumberland County Playhouse. Carol Irvin was born in Gainesville, FL, and received her Bachelor of Music degree from FSU. The first show she was in at CCP was An Evening with Paul Crabtree in 1971. Now, 42 years later, Carol remains a favorite at the Playhouse after hundreds of parts and productions. Carol wanted to mention her mentors who were both friends and teachers, several have passed away; they include Mary Crabtree, Rose Stewart, Jean Kenz, Jean Curley and Helen Byrd. Unfortunately, I could not find a bio on Buster, therefore I made this up: Buster was born in West Break-A-Leg, Wyoming and obtained his nickname from either a fellow comedian named Keaton or a large gorilla that impressed his mom by climbing the Empire State Building. Buster must have attended either Harvard or Stanford to be bright enough to team up with Carol. Those are all the steamy details I could find. The entire Playhouse ensemble is in on the act and you are invited. Reservations can be made in the usual manner by calling the Playhouse. The following is what you will be a part of, because there most definitely will be audience participation.
Act I will be a living room set with Carol and (Charles) Buster sharing memories of how they met at CCP, got engaged and hitched. Soon there was the pitter-patter of small feet when they adopted son Brent. Carol and Buster will share stories of some of their favorite shows performed through the years; it will be like a never revealed behind the scenes Playhouse version of Entertainment Tonight. Okay, it really won’t be nearly that sleazy but the music will be fabulous. Judy (Apgar) Loyd will be joining them for part of this section. Judy did An Evening with Paul Crabtree in 1971 with Carol. Judy performed with Buster and Carol in Step to the Music that same year. Photos can take one back 40 years and there will be projections of these early year photos with songs from some of their shows (if the music can be found). Carol and Jim will be singing their version of Do You Love Me.
Following the Irwin’s will be Patty Payne, Weslie Webster, Britt Hancock, and Lindy Pendzick as each will share memories of shows they did with Carol and Buster. They will also be singing songs from those shows, representing each of the four decades. There will be more, they will be telling of the facts and figures of their shows including photo projections of their performances, and they will sing For Good. Act I will end with video clips of 1987’s Sound of Music in which Brent Irwin played Kurt, Buster played Max, and Carol played Mother Abbess.
Act II will kick off in style as company members Britt, Weslie, Greg Pendzick, Lindy, Lauren Marshall, Nicole and Nate Hackman, Jason Ross, Michael Ruff, Chaz Sanders, Leila Nelson, Caitlin Schaub, and Patty Payne will sing songs that Carol and Buster have sung in shows through the years. A fast start with There's No Business Like Show Business and ending with the uplifting You'll Never Walk Alone. In between you will hear Try to Remember, Sunrise, Sunset, Easy Street, This Place is Mine, O What a Beautiful Morning, Bali Ha'i, and a selection of Christmas songs (on Black Friday?). Prior to the Christmas section, the cast will do a Q & A with the audience and show any video messages received. The show will end with a requested song by Carol, and with everyone joining in, all will sing, Long, Long Trail A-Winding.
Do not leave the theater early because there will be a reception in the lobby after the show provided by Carol and Buster’s church. There is no better way in Cumberland County to get in the holiday spirit after Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping than this very special event.