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Paradise Playhouse delivers music and laughs for Industry Night

Excelsior Spring’s Paradise Playhouse presents the comedy, “Whose Under Where?” running through June 7.
Excelsior Spring’s Paradise Playhouse presents the comedy, “Whose Under Where?” running through June 7.
Sarah Dickerson and Courtesy of the Paradise Playhouse

"Who's Under Where?"


Industry Night at Paradise Playhouse in Excelsior Springs, Mo. allowed the troupe of talented actors to perform for their peers on Thursday, June 5 with a different format for the evening, an hour concert prior to the performance.

Paradise Playhouse in Excelsior Springs began making changes with its last production, “Unnecessary Farce,” and continues making bigger changes as it opens its doors to new talent as it steps more boldly into the Kansas City theater scene with the latest production, “Who’s Under Where?” marking the directorial debut of new Artistic Director, Andy Tyhurst.

Tyhurst announced, on June 2, that the second ever Industry Night for the Paradise Playhouse, on June 5 not only features an hour pre-show concert by Rudy C. Amato, a noted area performer, but also a change from the full dinner/theater combination traditionally associated with the Paradise Playhouse.

“So not only will there be a show, I am also having a northland legend Rudy C. Amato perform an hour long set before we start “Who’s Under Where?” Tyhurst said. ‘‘Rudy performs all over the country and sings mostly Rat Pack era and classic rock songs. He is a funny guy, great performer who has comedic elements in his act as well. So it’s going to be both live music and live theatre in one night.”

The idea of industry night marks a new chapter at Paradise Playhouse. Tyhurst noted that theater alone can get expensive for a family. Although Paradise’s normal dinner-included tickets are reasonably priced, Tyhurst wanted to offer an even cheaper alternative for locals and further encourage the Kansas City theater crowd to consider Paradise Playhouse as one of their options.

The other purpose (and why it is called industry night) is to invite other starving artists, theatre groups, casts from other shows and provide them with a fun night where they can watch other artists perform. Tyhurst said he wants talent from all over the Kansas City Metro area to see a show at Paradise Playhouse in hopes they will consider bringing their talents to the Paradise stage in the future.

“We have a great venue here and we need to show it off. We can and will attract talented actors and directors as we move forward. That’s out plan,” Tyhurst said.

With “Who’s Under Where?” all actors make their stage debut at Paradise Playhouse. After the theater’s first open auditions, the actors earned their parts and are having a blast working here, Tyhurst said. But he said, it was not planned that way, it just happened that way, and the remaining two plays of the season will feature more alumni, with three of the four characters in the next show “Weekend Comedy” all having performed at the Paradise Playhouse previously.

“I think our customers have thoroughly enjoyed seeing new people on our stage, but, at the same time, they miss some familiar faces. We will strive to achieve a nice blend of new and familiar actors as we continue moving forward.”

For the current play “Who’s Under Where,” actors have come from places far and near to work at the Paradise Playhouse, Tyhurst said. Matt Wright (Bruno) & Jeremy Edwards (Sebastian) reside in St. Joseph, Mo. Ann Lauderdale (Sybil) is from Tulsa, Okla., but recently moved to Blue Springs, Mo. The rest oft of the cast reside in nearby Excelsior Springs or Liberty, Mo.

“I think there is a misconception that Excelsior Springs is way out in the boonies, but it really isn’t. You can get here from downtown in about 30 minutes. You can get here in 45 minutes from Johnson County, Kan. It’s mostly highway with a few twists and turns near the end. It’s a pleasant drive with little traffic and not far off the interstate,” Tyhurst said.

“Who’s Under Where?” begins at 8 p.m., and the show runs two hours, so guests are ready to leave by 10 p.m. The show is a farce so timing is important as are entrances and extis.

“I told the actors from day one, this is a hard show to pull off. It will be both demanding physically and mentally. They have accepted the challenge and are so highly focused. You should see them post show-- the green room is more like a NFL locker room because they are so exhausted,” Tyhurst said.

Tyhurst gives a special nod to his stage manager, Jenny Knecht who, he said, has created wonderful costumes that bring the house down in laughter.

Industry Night excites Tyhurst. He said he wants to start a new tradition at the Paradise Playhouse to welcome and encourage artists to experience Excelsior Springs and their venue for future projects. Tyhurst said he wants the city and venue to grow, to include more performances and opportunities throughout the year.

“We theatre people are all friends and want to support each other but it can be difficult both financially and time wise because we are concurrently involved in shows ourselves. And actors love performing in front of their friends and colleagues, so I guarantee there will be an electric atmosphere on industry night,” Tyhurst said.

“Who’s Under Where?” comes from the pen of Marci Kash and Douglas E. Hughes and follows young entrepreneurs Sybil and Jane who are on the brink of the deal of their lives. Italian Fashion Designer Bruno Frufruelli is meeting with them at a ritzy hotel suite to sign up ‘Passion Fashion Wear’ to a five million dollar contracts. But of course everything goes wrong including jealous husbands, mannequins a lecherous security guard in this giddy farce.

The cast includes: Randy Campbell as George, Matt Wright as Bruno, Jeremy Edwards as Sebastian, Ryan Drew as Paul, Landis Merrill as Jane, Ann Lauderdale as Sybil, and John Fairlamb as Roger. The creative team includes: Andy Tyhurst, artistic director, director; Sean Bailey, technical director and designer; Bria Sweany, key grip; Leah Johnson, stage manager; Jenny Knecht, assistant stage manager; Leah Johnson, house manager.

Give lots of credit to this cast in their first performances at Paradise Playhouse. They all performed solidly as an ensemble and gave nuances to each of their characters. The show, being a farce, requires sharp timing and crist entrances/exits. The comedy in this piece comes from both dialogue and physical comedy from the actors. Men in drag always elicits laughter. Men in drag and in women’s lingerie brings a new level to the frivolity of this piece.

Campbell and Drew provide a lot of laughs as the two husbands who just don’t get it. Drew’s and Campbell’s characters are convinced that their wives are having illicit sex in a hotel room and from there the comedy develops. The wives, played by Merrill and Lauderdale, only want to surprise their husbands if they can pull off a $5 million contract with an Italian lingerie entrepreneur, Bruno, as played by Matt Wright.

The four main actors in this piece, Campbell, Drew. Merrill, and Lauderdale fit perfectly into this play. They work well. They anticipate reaction. They played the comedy as serious, making it more fun for the audience to find the humor in each line and situation. Comedy is best when played seriously, giving the audience the chance to find and react to the humor unfolding before them.

The supporting cast of Wright, Edwards, and Fairlamb, also provide a strong stage presence and fit well into this ensemble cast. All three of these gentlemen perform as professionals and should be pleased with their performance and the audience’s reaction to their performances.

“Who’s Under Where?” creates good time or the audience. The show closes this weekend, but count on seeing these actors on stage at the Paradise Playhouse in upcoming productions. All are worth your time, your money, and your enjoyment.

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