Hired actress Susie Legere (Barbara Anthony, standing on the couch) doesn’t want anything to do with housekeeper Agnes’ (Midge Mamatas) pet rat, as the butler Clifton (Rick Bronson) looks on. Other characters are, standing from left, Inspector Davis (Christian Maier) and Renee LaFleur (Tracy Borgatti); and, seated, Constance Olden (Lynne Locher) and attorney Roy Vance (Bill Henricks) in Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”
Mirrored columns at the back and twinkling white lights provided plenty of sparkle as Ed Fletcher’s Early Bird Dinner Theatre welcomed guests to a preview performance of their season opener, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”
After more than 15 years on Clearwater’s west side, EBDT has moved to Clearwater’s east side at the Italian-American Club building on McMullen Booth Road.
“One of our members, Lucille Santa Maria, regularly attends the dinner theatre; she found out that Ed Fletcher was looking for a new place,” said Ben Mercadante, president of the IAC. “(EBDT) did so much for our club – rebuilt the stage, put in lights and sound.”
After welcoming remarks, guests helped themselves to a full salad bar, four different entrees, and assorted side dishes and rolls catered by Banquet Masters. Mark Atcher, an EBDT veteran, provided dinner music ranging from Elvis’s “All Shook Up” to a lovely, instrumental version of “As Time Goes By.”
Once plates were cleared, coffee poured, and strawberry shortcake served, it was house lights down and stage lights up for what has become EBDT’s signature offering – a Michael Parker farce. This time it’s “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” which revolves around the estate of the late Mr. William Olden.
Constance Olden (Lynne Locher), arrives with her lawyer, Roy Vance (Bill Henricks), to find out why daddy’s yacht, art collection, and antique cars have been left to three sultry sirens (Tracy Borgatti). Constance wants to buy them out or contest the will; but the assets have vanished, sold to the mysterious Bimbo Corporation. The butler Clifton (Rick Bronson), stuck in a web of his own weaving, hires actress Susie Legere (Barbara Anthony) to portray his wife. Add to the mix an elderly, deaf housekeeper (Midge Mamatas) with a pet rat named Oscar and a bumbling detective (Christian Maier), and the possibilities for misunderstanding and innuendo multiply.
British-born Parker, who has lived in Florida, has created a niche for himself by Americanizing British bedroom farces, sometimes basing them on American politicians or headlines.
Ironically, artistic director Robin New has added a continental twist to Parker’s work. The detective, written as an American, becomes French complete with Inspector Clousseau-ish accent and antics. The housekeeper is Cockney, the butler a proper Brit, the lawyer German, the daughter drips “Southuhn,” and each femme fatale has her own accent.
And it works.
Mamatas is funny as the slightly daffy housekeeper Agnes, and Maier’s work is a tribute to the late Peter Sellers’ classic character. Bronson and Anthony have the rapport and timing that comes from working together over several productions. Henricks and Locher are solid in their supporting roles. It is Borgatti, however, who shines in this production as she quick-changes wigs, costumes and accents (her Valley girl is, like, to die for).
“Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” runs Thursdays through Sunday through Oct. 29. Ed Fletcher’s Early Bird Dinner Theatre is at 200 S. McMullen Booth Road. Call 446-5898 for reservations; go to www.earlybirddinnertheatre.com for a map and directions. Cash only.