Travel "Around the World in 80 Days" at SCT Center Stage

Nov 21, 2014

Springfield Contemporary Theatre presents Mark Brown's acclaimed adaptation of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days."
Credit (Poster design courtesy Springfield Contemporary Theatre)

Stampeding elephants! Raging typhoons! Runaway trains! Unabashed slapstick! Hold onto your seats for the original "amazing race." Fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg has agreed to an outrageous wager that puts his personal fortune—and his life—at risk.  Join Fogg and his faithful manservant Passepartout in Springfield Contemporary Theatre's production of "Around the World in 80 Days", to be performed over four weekends at SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza.

According to director Rick Dines, this fresh new stage adaptation of the Jules Verne novel by Mark Brown, in its Springfield-area premiere, is  “highly literate, and one of the most honestly accurate adaptations of the book.  It beautifully captures Verne’s wit.  The book is so funny, and it’s just great to see the comedy come out in this adaptation.” He says Brown “set out to do the adaptation for a company of five actors”... playing some 40 characters! “That poses its own challenges, not to mention in a very highly theatrical, heavily-produced but very imaginatively produced way.  It’s reminiscent of children at play—how you take a box, and this and that, and all of a sudden you’ve created an environment. And really, that’s what theater is.  So this is a much more sophisticated version of childhood play, but the material lends itself well to that.”

Ron Seney plays nine characters in all, the main one being Detective Fix, “the sort of bumbling police detective from London who’s trying to capture Phileas Fogg. (£55,000 has been stolen, and Fogg is suspected of being the robber.)” Seney says some of the character changes he makes through the evening are represented merely by slight wardrobe adjustments—“maybe just a hat. But some of them are major—I do change into a woman at one point, in full dress! Then about five lines later I’m a male character again.” Ron’s mustache is hidden behind a feather duster.

Bryant Turnage plays Phileas Fogg—basically only the one character—throughout the show, says director Rick Dines. “In my opinion it’s the most challenging role in the show!  Just because, one, he has to play the straight man to all the craziness; and at the same time Phileas is so dry and almost lacking in personality at the beginning—how do you create an engaging character?”

Cameron Carlton plays Phileas’s manservant Passepartout and one other role, while Patrick Schuster plays 19(!) characters. Adie Williams portrays Aouda, the Indian princess who is rescued by Fogg and then joins him on his trek... but she also plays four or five male characters in the first act!

The New York Times called Mark Brown’s adaptation “smart enough to make sophisticated adults laugh out loud and shamelessly silly enough to keep children in the audience interested and entertained."

And, insists Rick Dines, “unlike many adaptations (especially the films), there is no (hot-air) balloon!” Ron Seney demurred a bit from this flat declaration, but Rick remains adamant on that point... so we’ll see!

Opening night is Friday Nov.21st at 7:30pm at SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza.  Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm through December 14.  For ticket information visit www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org or call 831-8001.