STORY WRITTEN BY M. ENGLISH
For Digital First Media
The 1960s Broadway hit “Cactus Flower” is scheduled to run March 20 through April 4 at DCP Theatre in Salford Township, and as director Suki Wilkie puts it, “What better show to perform when spring is around the corner than a play about blossoming … especially when it comes to love?”
The male lead in the Abe Burrows farce — based on “Fleur de Cactus,” a French play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy — is Dr. Julian Winston (John Weber), a philandering, very much single dentist who keeps his numerous dalliances at arm’s length by claiming to be married with children. When girlfriend Toni Simmons (Tiffany Moskow) demands to meet the good doctor’s non-existent wife, he persuades less than warm-fuzzy nurse-assistant Stephanie Dickinson (Kat Valleley) to pose as the fictitious Mrs. Winston.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Not surprisingly, lots. But in a good way, Wilkie promises.
“Each cast member brought their own spice to the auditions, creating a wonderful mix of characters who have come together for this ridiculous romp,” the “Cactus Flower” director says. “The leads have taken the script, and they’ve grown within the story as their characters — from prickly Miss Dickinson, who finds herself and blooms (to) playboy dentist Dr. Winston, who tries desperately to cover up one lie with another, idealistic Toni Simmons, whose desire to make sure others are taken care of is the catalyst to this show (and) sweet, sensitive Igor Sullivan (Drew Seltzer)…”
Wilkie says the play’s supporting cast members “offer a colorful addition to an already bright group.”
“There is the incorrigible Harvey Greenfield (Scott Grande), his vapid ‘lady friend,’ nicknamed ‘Boticelli’s Springtime’ (Caris Baliles) and flirtatious patients Mrs. Dixon Durant (Letitia Grande) and Senor Arturo Sanchez (Chris McBreen),” she notes.
The cast also includes extras Amy Peart, Becca Grande, Jacqualyn Eberlin-Hillegass and Gloria Imperial.
“Cactus Flower” opened at New York’s Royale Theatre on Dec. 8, 1965 with Lauren Bacall as Stephanie, Barry Nelson as Julian, Brenda Vaccaro as Toni and Burt Brinckerhoff as Igor. The following year, Vaccaro and Brinckerhoff were nominated for Tony Awards — Best Performance by a Featured Actress/Actor in a Play – for their portrayals, although the awards went to Zoe Caldwell for her Polly in “Slapstick Tragedy” and Patrick Magee for his Marquis de Sade in “Marat/Sade.”
The play concluded its Royale run on Sept. 7, 1968 before opening at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre two days later. By its final curtain on Nov. 23, 1968, “Cactus Flower” had logged 1,234 performances.
In 1969, film director Gene Saks guided Burrows’ Manhattan-based comedy to hit status with movie-goers. Then-newcomer Goldie Hawn (who played Toni but, at the time, was best known for her work on TV’s “Laugh-In”) subsequently won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Fellow cast members were Ingrid Bergman (Stephanie), Walter Matthau (Julian) and Rick Lenz (Igor).
The critics were far less enthusiastic about another cinematic remake — 2011’s “Just Go With It,” starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker and Nicole Kidman — but the Sandler production performed respectably at the box office, grossing nearly $215 million worldwide.
Despite its past success with audiences, some critics have called “Cactus Flower” outdated for today’s audiences.
Not so, Wilkie believes.
“Between the jokes, jive and jealousy, this is a show that will amuse those of us who enjoy romantic comedies, people getting themselves in too deep, good oral hygiene and 60s-style music,” she says.
IF YOU GO
What: “Cactus Flower”
When: Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays (March 20-29) and 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (April 2-4).
Where: DCP Theatre is located at 795 Ridge Road, Salford Township.
Admission: Tickets are $15 ($13 for seniors and children). Additional information and tickets are available at www.dcptheatre.com and (215) 234-0966.
Upcoming DCP productions include: “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” “Miracle on South Division Street,” “Working,” “Rumors,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Witness for the Prosecution” and “The Christmas Gazebo.”