Without an understudy and up a creek due to the illness of the lead actress in its staging of The Spitfire Grill, the Laguna Playhouse in California put out an all points bulletin Nov. 20 to find a replacement to star in its three week-old production.
The Nov. 20 evening performance of the folky musical was canceled due to Misty Cotton's illness (she plays the lead, Percy) and New York composer James Valcq got a frantic request from California: Are any Percys from recent regional productions willing and able to jump into the production?
Valcq had the answer: New York actress Kathryn Blake, who was nominated for a South Florida Critics Association 2002 Carbonell Award for her performance as Percy Talbott in the Florida Stage (Palm Beach County) production.
"Kathryn played the role at Florida Stage all summer long," Valcq told Playbill On-Line. "Kathryn also sang the role on the original demo recordings of the first few Spitfire songs. She will perform the role [Nov. 21] night on less than 24 hours' notice!"
Blake flew to Laguna the afternoon of Nov. 21 and will step into the show Nov. 21, and perhaps beyond, until Cotton is back on her feet. "Like most of the nation's non-profit resident theatres, because of the prohibitive cost, we don’t employ understudies and our contract with Actors' Equity does not require us to do so," Laguna Playhouse executive director Richard Stein said in a statement. "As a result, we face the prospect of canceling performances when situations like this arise."
This was the first canceled performance at The Laguna Playhouse since December 1995, during the run of Under the Gaslight, Stein added.
Blake has toured with the 20th anniversary production of Evita directed by Larry Fuller; was in the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind; and played Christine in the San Francisco Company of The Phantom of the Opera.
The Laguna Playhouse's Spitfire marks the show's West Coast premiere. Drawn from the film of the same name, the musical (seen first at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse, then Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons) has music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by the late Fred Alley. The Laguna run began Oct. 29, opened Nov. 2 and runs to Dec. 1.
The Laguna Playhouse production is directed by Nick DeGruccio. The design team for The Spitfire Grill includes Raymond Kent (scenic), Dwight Richard Odle (costume), Paulie Jenkins (lighting) and David Edwards (sound).
The cast features Mark Aaron, Kevin Earley, Kim Huber, Linda Kerns, Michael Piontek and Jomarie Ward.
For ticket information, call (949) 497-ARTS or visit www.LagunaPlayhouse.com.
— By Kenneth Jones