Beckwith Theatre production of Broadway classic debuts Friday

Actors with the Beckwith Theatre Company’s upcoming production of classic Broadway comedy “Harvey” held their first dress rehearsal at the theater Tuesday night. Elwood Dowd (Jack Gannon) introduces Mrs. Chauvenet (Mary Ann Bengtsson) to his invisible 6-foot rabbit friend, Harvey. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Actors with the Beckwith Theatre Company’s upcoming production of classic Broadway comedy “Harvey” held their first dress rehearsal at the theater Tuesday night. Elwood Dowd (Jack Gannon) introduces Mrs. Chauvenet (Mary Ann Bengtsson) to his invisible 6-foot rabbit friend, Harvey. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

While the focus on the story on stage focuses on a man and his imaginary best friend, the cast of the Beckwith Theatre Company’s first play of the season is looking to generate some real laughter from audiences beginning this Friday.

The community theater opens the 2016 season this weekend with the premiere of its production of classic Broadway comedy “Harvey.” The show runs through the next two weekends, April 1-3 and April 8-10, with show times at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The screwball comedy, written by American playwright Mary Chase, focuses on the exploits of Elwood P. Dowd, an affable yet somewhat eccentric man who is followed everywhere by his best friend Harvey — an imaginary 6-foot rabbit. Fed up with his habit of introducing everyone he meets to his invisible friend, Elwood’s sister, Veta, attempts to have him committed to the sanitarium — an attempt that doesn’t go exactly as planned.

Originally premiering on Broadway in 1944, the Pulitzer-award winning play was adapted into a motion picture in 1958, starring James Stewart as Elwood. The movie went on to become a beloved classic among many film fans, said Jack Gannon, director of the Beckwith production

“The play is written in a very amusing and light hearted way,” Gannon said. “But it also gets audiences thinking about what is important in life, and how they want to live their own lives.”

Gannon, who also plays Elwood onstage, leads an 11-person cast comprised mainly of Beckwith mainstays, many of who have worked with Gannon on previous productions, including several Agatha Christie murder mysteries, the director said.

While he has directed several comedic shows in the past, this particular script stands out to Gannon due to a stronger focus on the interplay between characters, he said.

“It depends more on how strongly the actors have developed their characters, and how relatable they are to audiences,” Gannon said.

Being the first production of the season, the production ran into several weather related set backs over the past 10 weeks, along with some casting changes along the way, Gannon said.

Joining the familiar faces on stage is Beckwith newcomer Jennifer Shoemaker, who plays Nurse Kelly, one of the workers at the sanitarium. The Niles woman, who has acted in plays in Elkhart and in the Chicago area, has changed roles three times throughout the production cycle due to casting changes, she said.

“It’s been a challenge, but it’s also been a lot of fun,” Shoemaker said, adding she wants to continue participating in future Beckwith shows.

Tickets for the show cost $10; people can place reservations by calling 269-782-7653.

The theater will also be offering free glasses of wine, courtesy of 12 Corners Winery, on opening night Friday.

Business

Marijuana grow, processing company granted provisional approval by Niles City Council

Dowagiac

Dowagiac City Council takes action on blighted property

Dowagiac

UPDATE: Wayne Township house fire, death investigation ongoing

Berrien County

Michigan Works! to host Friend of the Court Amnesty Day, Expungement and Resource Fair

Business

Working artisans to bring their crafts to Under the Harvest Moon

Cass County

Dowagiac man dies in house fire

Berrien County

Blossomtime Festival to return

Cassopolis

PHOTO STORY: Cassopolis organization hosts inaugural Walk of Hope

Cass County

Dave Young to host revival conference at Volinia Baptist Church

News

Paddle auction to be hosted at Niles church Sept. 30

Berrien County

Local league to register voters on National Voter Registration Day

Dowagiac

DAR to host rededication

News

Niles Housing Commission moves to make improvements, stabilize funding into the future

Dowagiac

Dowagiac police investigating Saturday night shooting

Cass County

Van Buren/Cass District Health Department confirms COVID-19 associated death of a student in Van Buren County

Cass County

Cassopolis man gets probation for drunk driving

Cass County

South Bend man resentenced in 1997 Union murder case

Dowagiac

Army veteran talks his experience in Afghanistan

Business

Local farm markets ready for fall season

Business

Mason’s Pumpkins preparing for second-annual Harvest Festival

Dowagiac

DUS, teachers continue contract talks

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Area History Museum fundraiser raises $40,000

Giving

Wolverine Pipeline, area organizations partner to lend veteran a helping hand

Business

Cassopolis woman opens vintage, antique store downtown