Have you heard the story of two ne’er-do-wells who kidnap a young boy, Red Chief, in Summit, Missouri, and hold him for ransom?
If that classic O. Henry tale sounds familiar, it could be because the Bay St. Louis Little Theatre produced O. Henry’s play “The Ransom of Red Chief” last year, and they’re bringing it back by popular demand with the original cast (except for newcomer Jeff Campbell) who enamored Bay audiences before.
Ably directed by Larry Clark and produced by Cheryl Grace, Red Chief is a funny story that has spawned several popular movies, including “Ruthless People” and “Home Alone,” but nothing compares to seeing it brought to life on stage, and the Bay crew does not disappoint with this hilarious incarnation.
One reason is the stellar cast; everyone knows their role by heart, but they’ve lost none of their enthusiasm for this production. If anything, they seem more energetic for having such confidence in their performances.
Young Michael La Beau plays Red Chief as if he’s been acting all his life, which explains why he was cast in two episodes of the popular TV show, “NCIS New Orleans.” Stage veterans Jim Codling (Sam) and Bill Matkins (Bill) shine as the two dunderheaded kidnappers who bite off more than they can chew. Bay stalwarts Terry Cullen, Irv Hansen and Sarah Morgan go the distance in making the down-home, good-hearted townspeople of Summit memorable, remeniscient of beloved characters from Andy Griffith’s Mayberry.
You’ve heard the expression, “everything but the kitchen sink,” but gosh, in addition to the 10 talented children in this cast, there’s even a dog called Tobey, played by Codling’s lovable canine Lottie. And, like all great canine actors, Lottie can hold her own with any human cast.
The fun is augmented by Laurie Spaschak’s and Dean Noel’s set design replete with one unforgettable cave. More significantly, how director Clark and stage manager Mark Madison successfully wrangled all these kids, a dog, and an entire town of folks into a company that made all the timing-intensive slapstick work so well, is something this reviewer would like to know.
This is one time when the proverbial O. Henry twist will come as a surprise to no one in the house, but as the saying goes, this one’s about the journey, not the destination.
Bay St. Louis Little Theatre’s ‘The Ransom of Red Chief’
Where: Bay St Louis Little Theatre, 398 Blaise Avenue, Bay St. Louis
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 20, 21, 27, 28; and 2 p.m. Jan. 22 and 29
Adults: Jim Codling, Bill Matkin, Michael Le Beau, Terry Cullen, Jeff Campbell, Irv Hansen, Robert W. Smith, Gloria Noomar, Connie Hanson, Kathy Mauffrey; Lex Mauffrey, Marilyn Borja, Elie Silverhawk, Linda Aiavialasitti
Kids: Michael LeBeau, Jay Melton, Amaya Clark, Liam Morgan, Leena Morgan Ethan Mauffrey, Marcus Cordeiro;
Canine: Lottie Codling
For reservations: call 228-467-9024 or go to www.bsllt.org.