Amarillo Little Theatre director Andrew Lewis has been patiently waiting ever since he was a college undergraduate for an opportunity to bring to life Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”
And now that time has come.
“Brighton Beach Memoirs is one of Neil Simon’s most popular plays and it’s a real crowd favorite,” Lewis said about the play he’s “been in love with” all this time.
“It’s a wonderful comedy that has a lot of heart. It talks about what family is, and what you should do for your family … even through hard times.”
The play is a semi- autobiographical story by Simon and is referred to as the first chapter in Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy,” preceding “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound.”
Set in 1937 in Brooklyn during the Great Depressions, it’s a coming-of-age comedy about Eugene Morris Jerome, a Polish Jewish-American teenager as he tries to deal with his parents, brothers and sisters.
“This particular production ... is a fun one to be working with because of the four ALT Academy actors in the show who are 14 to 18 years old,” Lewis said.
“It’s really exciting to be bringing them to the stage along with three adult actors from the community. To see these young actors working, they really carry the show,” Lewis said.
“They’ve done some Academy shows before and now they’re really great to work with. They have a ton of energy and are excited to get into it.”
Lewis said the bulk of the production’s workload is shouldered by Simon’s lead character, Eugene, played by Ethan Worsham.
“This show is carried by a 14-year-old who is onstage most of the time, and he’s doing great. It’s a lot to do.
“He has the bulk of the line load and on top of that, he’s from Amarillo, Texas, and he has to use a Brooklyn dialect and communicate most of the narration, the comedy, plus a lot of the drama.”
What has drawn Lewis to the particular Simon play, he said, is the interaction of the human relationships.
“It’s touching and heartwarming, and that’s the angle that I’m coming from for this play. Instead of just these stock 1930s New Yorkers, we’re working on trying to show who these people are under the surface.”
Lewis has been on the faculty of the West Texas A&M University Department of Art, Theatre &Dance since he joined in 2014 as an assistant professor of musical theater.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in musical theater from Weber State University and a Master of Fine Arts in musical theater from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.
Before coming to WT, he served as director of musical theater and was an assistant professor of theater at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.
He encourages the community to come see the show.
“There’s something — or someone — in this play that connects to us all. It will remind us of the years we spent in our own parents’ home,” Lewis said.
“And while the characters are living in a time that’s different than how we live now, in reality it’s not so different because we all have the same concerns and fears about making ends meet. It’s very relatable,” he said.
In addition to Worsham the other actors in the production are:
- Jayme McBride, playing Kate Jerome
- Patrick Burns, playing Jack Jerome
- Brooklyn Hall, playing Laurie Morton
- Harrison Stringer, playing Stanley Jerome
- Rebecca Hartman, playing Nora Morton
- And Sydney Berg, playing Blanche Morton.