The year is 1929, and the setting is New York, when the curtain goes up on The Ritz Teen Thespian Guild's production of "Auntie Mame." Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
The youthful cast is drawn from local schools, including Columbian High School, Tiffin Middle School, Bridges Academy, Noble Elementary, Seneca East, Mohawk and Hopewell-Loudon. The students take on multiple roles to tell the story of a New York socialite who throws lively parties for a menagerie of personalities. Mame's big heart expands even more when her young nephew, Patrick Dennis, is orphaned by the death of his wealthy father.
Her optimistic, never-say-die attitude helps her to survive the stock market crash, marry a man who owns plantation in Georgia, and guide Patrick into open-minded, responsible adulthood.
PHOTO BY ROB LEDWEDGE
With drink in hand, Mame (Gabrielle Mitchell) ponders how to respond tactfully to the bigotry of Claude Upson (John Spahr III) in a scene from “Auntie Mame.”
PHOTO BY ROB LEDWEDGE
Patrick (Joshua Fanning) takes notice of conversations and writes down unfamiliar words as he gets acquainted with Auntie Mame.
Gabrielle Mitchell is cast as the unstoppable Mame. The role comes with numerous costume changes and a presence in nearly every scene.
Portraying young Patrick is Joshua Fanning, whose rumpled hair adds an endearing touch.
Syndey Schmucker plays the glamorous Vera, who borrows Mame's designer gowns and regularly camps out in her guest room to sleep off a hangover.
Roland Scaife takes on two important roles, first as Babcock, the trustee of Patrick's estate, and later as Beauregard Burnside, Mame's Southern suitor and husband.
Several students do double duty in supporting roles.
Trent Dundore, who played Peter in "Diary of Anne Frank," shows his versatility as a party guest - in a dress - early in the show, and returns as the lazy but cunning O'Bannion in Act II.
Anthony Currier has the roles of M. Lindsey Woolsey and the rustic Cousin Jeff.
Blake Borer-Miller plays Ito and the veterinarian.
John Spahr III is Waldo the paper hanger and wealthy Claude Upson.
Marissa Smith portrays the feisty Mother Burnside and the snobby Doris Upson.
Other actors of note include Samantha Gaietto as Mrs. Muldoon, Sagan Kahler as Sally Cato, Myka Scott as Pegeen, Cheyane Thacker as Gloria and Jillian Ledwedge is the comic Agnes Gooch. Brendon Allomong appears as the grown-up Patrick.
Rounding out the cast are Trenton Heishman, Gabrielle Schmucker, Damien Shaull, Holly Donaldson, Kassidy Heil, Eline Widman, Haley Carter, Evyn Stevens, Dinah Adams, Hannah Schoen, Dominique Herrera, Sharette Bauman, and Joe Schoen as Patrick's young son, Michael.
Director Dianne Pytel calls the show, chosen by the students, "an ambitious choice."
The story moves through the 1930s and '40s with numerous sound effects, set changes and props keeping the stage crew busy.
Stage manager Dinah Adams and assistant Erin Sallee also helped paint the set. Emily Bishop, Sarah Guzowski, Sarah Semer, Rebecca Long-Hurt and Brandon Prenzlin comprised the crew. Olivia Woods took care of costumes, Michaela Theis was in charge of props and Dominique
Herrera provided special artwork.
In their fifth year as a part of The Ritz Theatre, the Ritz Teen Thespian Guild is a group of young performers from area high schools. They are dedicated to exploring theater beyond the high school musical.
Membership is open to teens from any area school district.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. For tickets and information, stop at the box office, 30 S. Washington St., visit www.ritztheatre.org or call (419) 448-8544.