Northwest Missouri State University's upcoming student production of "Barefoot in the Park" will take audiences on a romantic romp through the 1960s — it will also feature a series of cameo appearances by well-known local residents, including Northwest President John Jasinski and state Rep. Mike Thomson.
A hit Broadway comedy by Neil Simon, the play tells the story of a couple of newlyweds living in Manhattan. Evening performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 2. A matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3. All shows will take place in the Studio Theater at the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts.
The plot follows Paul Bratter, a serious young lawyer, and Corie, his free-spirited bride. Their tiny top-of-the-building-with-no-elevator apartment is perfect for keeping a meddlesome mother-in-law at arm's length but also comes with bad plumbing, a closet for a bedroom and a leaky skylight.
"Barefoot in the Park" premiered on Broadway in 1963 and starred Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. In 1967 it was adapted for the big screen with Redford reprising his role as Paul and Jane Fonda playing the part of Corie.
"'Barefoot in the Park' is probably familiar to a lot of people," said Professor Theophil Ross, who is directing the production. "Neil Simon is one of the most produced playwrights, and ‘Barefoot in the Park’ is a perennial favorite. It’s one of those love stories that never leaves us unentertained."
Each performance will feature a local "celebrity" in the role of the Delivery Man. Those slated to perform include: Matt Baker Northwest vice president of student affairs (Feb. 26 dress rehearsal); businessman and philanthropist Ron Houston (Feb. 27); John Jasinski (Feb. 28); Mike Thomson (March 1); Northwest Police Chief Clarence Green (March 2); and local resident Fred Mares (March 3).
The production stars Megan Friend, a sophomore speech and theatre education major from Omaha, Neb., as Corie and Matt Sweeten, a senior theatre performance major from Lee’s Summit, as Paul.
Lindsay Masin, a senior theatre performance major from Lincoln, Neb., plays the mother-in-law, Mrs. Banks, and Tanner Marchisello, a senior theater performance major from Kansas City, plays quirky neighbor Victor Velasco.
Featuring a guest performer in a stage production is not a new idea, although it is rare to cast multiple walk-ons in a role over a single run. However, little cajoling was needed, Ross said, and all six "actors" agreed immediately when invited to participate.
"I thought this would be a good opportunity for our audiences and our students to see people who have an impact on their lives in a different light," Ross said. "If we can think of Clarence Green and Mike Thomson and John Jasinski not just as the campus police chief, or a state representative, or the president of the university, we can relate to them better, work with them better, communicate better. And these folks are given a chance to step out of their usual routine and have a little fun."
Page 2 of 2 - Tickets for the Northwest production of "Barefoot in the Park" cost $8 and can be purchased between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Student Services Center on the first floor of the Administration Building. Buy tickets over the phone by calling (660) 562-1212 or at the door beginning one-hour before curtain.