'The Odd Couple' tickets can be purchased at the door, but for the first time they can also be bought online at oddcouplemadison.eventzilla.net.
Oddly enough, Felix and Oscar are nowhere to be found when The Center Players celebrate “The Odd Couple” on stage in Madison.
Instead, it’s messy Olive and fastidious Florence who bring Neil Simon’s girl power version of this comedy classic to life in seven shows running this weekend and next. Starting Thursday tonight at Madison Square Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m., shows continue through Sunday and then again March 6-8. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
“The Center Players always want to provide a lot of opportunities for our audience to enjoy the show and for our cast and crew so we want to let the show run longer,” director Ken Hackman said. “Our cast has put so much time and effort into rehearsals, we want more people to see it.”
“The plot line is basically similar to the male version of ‘The Odd Couple,’ but with the added gossiping and the way women interact, it’s different enough that fans will find it new,” he said.
The plot line doesn’t differ much from the 1965 original Broadway hit by Simon, except in the gender roles. That, and the guys’ poker group from the earlier version has become a weekly Trivial Pursuit match with female friends, portrayed by Lalane Ray-Higgins as Sylvie, Sarah Tracy as Vera, Jenny Cochran as Mickey and Marquita Levy as Renee. The upstairs neighbors are the Costazuela brothers of Barcelona, Manolo (Derek Byrd) and Jesus (Jackson Kiser).
Friends since second grade, Mandy Hackman, a veteran of Center Players on stage and behind the scenes, and Susan Alderman, a newcomer to the Center Player stage, portray Olive and Florence.
Hackman, who admits to being messy like her character Olive in real life, started talking about auditioning with Alderman, who concedes she is more Florence at home in her cooking but not necessarily in her cleaning.
“I knew Maddy was excited about the play,” Alderman said.
“And I didn’t have to do a lot of talking,” Hackman said.
Both are 2007 graduates of Madison Central High School and collaborated on projects back then. That made getting back on stage together a snap. “It was easy to pick up our rhythm,” they both agreed.
Director Hackman, is Mandy’s father. While his credits with The Center Players run to 23 on- and off-stage productions out of the group’s 55-play run, this is the first time he has directed his daughter.
That may be a first but it’s his second time with the female version of “The Odd Couple.” He directed the play for The Center Players 10 years ago. However, this version is not a carbon copy of his 2005 version.
“There are some things that are handled completely different,” he said. “I work so spontaneously that there are things that were not in the last one.”
“The Odd Couple” has enjoyed a long, successful run since it was first introduced 50 years ago. After the hit on Broadway, and the popularity of the 1968 movie and the TV show in the 1970s, Simon wrote the story from the female perspective in the 1980s.
“He went back to the well and the well was still full so he rewrote it for women,” Hackman said.
The story is timeless, and it’s funny for audiences today, he said. Just like Simon returned to one of his classics, The Center Players brought this well-received production back for a second go-round.
“This next 2015-16 season (starting in the fall) will be The Center Players’ 15th season, and we decided to go back and do some of our audience favorites,” Hackman said.
The schedule of shows that will be included in the Center Players’ anniversary season will be announced in “The Odd Couple” program. Expect to see more audience favorites from years past, said Mandy Hackman, who serves as president of the community theater board.
This season still has one more production that will be sure to please audiences. The musical “All Shook Up” will be on stage in June.
“The Odd Couple” tickets can be purchased at the door, but for the first time they can also be bought online at oddcouplemadison.eventzilla.net. The cost is $12 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors, ages 60 and older.
Online buyers also pay a $1 convenience charge. For those tickets, either print the ticket confirmation or show the confirmation on a smartphone or tablet at the door for entry.