16 Jun 2015
Cast connected to 'My Favorite Year'
"Auntie Mame" cast members (from left) Colleen Zenk, Erica Quirk and Walt Willey rehearse a scene for the 2014 WilleyWorld Community Productions comedy. Willey and Quirk will act in "My Favorite Year," the 2015 WWCP show, July 24 to 26 in the Ottawa Township High School auditorium.
Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 9:21 am | Updated: 9:21 am, Tue Jun 16, 2015.
WilleyWorld Community Production Company will present "My Favorite Year" as its seventh annual summer show to kick off Riverfest.
Based on characters from television in the 1950s, the fast-paced comedy with music will run Friday through Sunday, July 24 to 26.
“ 'My Favorite Year is a tremendously touching, funny, fast-paced comedy,” said Walt Willey, co-founder of WilleyWorld Community Productions. “It’s loosely based on the week Mel Brooks, a freshman writer on Sid Caesar’s show, was made to babysit Errol Flynn.
"The story goes that Flynn was to be that week’s guest on the show, which was broadcast live. He supposedly showed up drunk for the first rehearsal and Caesar wanted to fire him on the spot. Brooks intervened and Caesar put him in charge of Flynn — with his job on the line if anything went wrong. Or so the legend goes.”
Willey, an Ottawa resident, is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Jackson Montgomery on the long-running soap opera "All My Children." He began producing theater in Ottawa and Starved Rock Country in 2009.
“John Newby (Starved Rock Country founder) and I were tossing ideas around one day, and came up with the notion that I should produce a show with talent representing all of the community theaters in Starved Rock Country, an all-star cast, so to speak,” said Willey. “And that’s what we decided to do. This is the perfect show for it.”
Featured in the cast are: Walt Willey, Mary Morgan, Kelly Johnson, Erica Quirk, Joe Baima, William Gillespie, Chance Willey, Devon Ford, Lloyd Chapman, Karly Swords, Deb Torri, Marissa Hettel, Luis Aguilar, Japheth Villarin, Leighton Williams, Tony Epperson, Darlene Halm, Christopher Harkins, Brandon Miller, Carol McConville, Sean Frey, Michael Meatheringham, Brian Rehor, Cassidy Murphy, Cheyenne MacBean and Wyatt Hettel.
“We have assembled incredibly talented actors from the rosters of community theatres in Ottawa, Morris, Mendota, LaSalle, Streator — all familiar and popular faces to local theatregoers. For many, it’s their first time working with this company. It’s very exciting,” said Mary Morgan, WWCP’s community adviser.
“We are so proud to have so many local actors on stage this year, as well as some from as far away as Minooka and Joliet and Bloomington. I think everybody will know somebody on stage,” quipped Morgan.
“This has been one of my favorite films for years and the play follows it very closely,” said Willey.
The play is based on the film 'My Favorite Year,' which was released in 1982 and starred Peter O’Toole, Joseph Bologna, Lainie Kazan and Jessica Harper, and introduced Mark Linn-Baker. Mel Brooks was the executive producer of the film. It’s a real pleasure to produce this stage version with this high-caliber cast.”
Willey again will be working onstage with his son Chance, who appeared in WWCP’s productions of "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Deathtrap" and "Auntie Mame," and his daughter, Merit. Merit is a theatre major at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and joining her father onstage for the first time.
“Obviously, it’s a dream come true, to have both my children follow me into the theater arts,” observed Willey.
“It’s ironic, because the kids were purposely kept away from this crazy business when they were growing up. I guess it’s a genetic flaw,” Willey joked.
"When Chance told me he wanted to move here and be a partner in all we’re doing here, I was elated. And now to have Merit join us is just beyond wonderful.” Merit will be playing the daughter of her father’s character in the production. An added joy,” said Willey.
"My Favorite Year" will run 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, as well as 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 26, in the Ottawa Township High School auditorium, 211 E. Main St.
Tickets, at $25 in advance and $30 at the door, will go on sale Wednesday, June 17 through the Ottawa Visitors Center at 815-434-2737 and online at pickusottawail.com.
Jane Mills and Maureen Wolfe again join Willey for their fifth year as co-directors, and Jan Hartman will once again will be in charge of props. Ford and Halm will be co-stage managers and Judy Brenzing continues as WWCP promotions manager.
This production marks WilleyWorld Community Productions’ seventh annual summer play on the Ottawa stage after 2009’s "The Odd Couple," 2010’s "Arsenic and Old Lace," 2011’s "Plaza Suite" 2012’s "Harvey," 2013’s "Deathtrap" and last year’s "Auntie Mame."
Willey serves as Starved Rock Country’s community arts adviser.
“Starved Rock Country celebrates the many local cultures, histories and personalities that make up our wonderful region, and the development and support of the arts are an important part of that. Given what Mr. Willey and his organization do in and for this area, we feel that this partnership is a tremendous asset,” said Newby, founder of Starved Rock Country and publisher of The Times.
“Developing entertainment and arts possibilities for this area has been the purpose of WWCP from the beginning seven years ago, so it is particularly exciting to have Starved Rock Country as a partner in this mission, especially as we expand our season and services this year,” said Willey.
Willey founded the Starved Rock Country Children’s Learning Theatre last fall.
They presented their first play in December and their spring play, "The Monsters Under the Bed," premiering 3 p.m. Saturday, June 20 at the 807 Building Performance Space, 807 La Salle St., Ottawa. The first show of WWCP’s expanded season, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," played there in April.
Also credited for WWCP’s successful run were many Ottawa area merchants.
"We have sponsors that have been there for us since the very beginning,” Willey added. "Their generous support has allowed us to expand our season and develop the children’s theatre. It would be difficult to do what we do without the tremendous support these local businesses have given us.”