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FELIX AND OSCAR

Heights Players kickoff with ’Odd Couple’

for The Brooklyn Paper

Entering their 48th season, the Heights Players pride themselves on being the oldest community theater in Brooklyn. And much of their success is due to a well-balanced selection of familiar comedies, dramas and musicals that please theatergoers of all ages.

The 2003-04 season includes works by such highly esteemed playwrights as Noel Coward, Neil Simon, Wendy Wasserstein and Arthur Miller, with music by the likes of George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim.

The season opens with Simon’s "The Odd Couple" (Sept. 5-21), directed by Helen Fein. Simon’s story of a slovenly bachelor named Oscar and a recently separated, meticulous stuffed shirt has inspired a Broadway hit (1965-’67), a film (1968), a long-running TV series (1970-1975), and a 1985 reprise of the play with a female cast, among others.

"Neil Simon always does well for us," Heights Players vice president Tom Tyler told GO Brooklyn. "We’ve had success with ’Come Blow Your Horn,’ ’Rumors’ and ’Barefoot in the Park.’"

"Crazy for You" (Oct. 3-19) is Ken Ludwig’s 1992 reworking of Gershwin’s 1930s musical "Girl Crazy." "Crazy for You" tells the story of Bobby Child, scion of a wealthy banking family, who is sent to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on a theater, but instead falls in love with the town’s postmistress and becomes determined to save the theater by putting on his own show.

"They took many of Gershwin’s best songs [’I Got Rhythm,’ ’Embraceable You’ and ’Someone to Watch Over Me’]," said Tyler. "And we haven’t done Gershwin in a long time." Ed Healy directs.

The upcoming production of Coward’s "Blithe Spirit" (Nov. 7-23) will be a big breakthrough for the Heights Players.

"We’ve been trying to get [’Blithe Spirit’] for years, but we couldn’t get the rights because Noel Coward’s estate is very restrictive," said Tyler. "If there’s any chance of a Noel Coward play opening in Manhattan, you can’t get the rights."

Coward’s farce is about a man plagued by current and former wives, both dead and alive. John Bourne directs.

As is customary, the Heights Players’ December production is a family show - Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Cinderella" (Dec. 5-21). Jim McNulty directs this beloved classic.

In January, the Heights Players go back to serious drama with "View From the Bridge" (Jan. 9-25), Arthur Miller’s politically charged story about a longshoreman, his wife’s illegal immigrant cousin and the niece he has raised.

This play is also a big coup for the Heights Players.

"Arthur Miller is another playwright whose plays we haven’t been able to get the rights for. This year they became available. And we feel, if plays are available, we should do them," said Tyler. "And also, there’s local appeal because it takes place in Brooklyn."

"View From the Bridge" will be directed by Robert J. Weinstein.

Wendy Wasserstein’s "The Sisters Rosensweig" (Feb. 6-22) takes the audience to London, where three sisters, Gorgeous, Pfeni and Sara, are celebrating Sara’s 54th birthday. There the feisty, middle-aged sisters find themselves talking more about hot lovers than hot flashes. Steve Velardi directs.

"Enter Laughing" (March 5-21) is Joseph Stein’s adaptation of Carl Reiner’s novel.

"This is the same Joseph Stein who did ’Fiddler [on the Roof],’" said Tyler. "The novel was also made into a movie."

Ted Thompson directs this comedy about a stage-struck young man who joins a theater company, even though his parents want him to be a druggist.

In Susan Montez, who heads FACES, a teen theatrical troupe based in Maimonides Medical Center, the Heights Players have found a fitting director for "The Diary of Anne Frank" (April 2-18), Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s play about a 13-year-old girl hiding from the Nazis with seven other Jewish people in an Amsterdam attic.

"We’re doing the original [1955] Broadway version that starred Susan Strasberg, the one they made the [1959] movie out of," said Tyler.

The last production of the season is "Follies" (May 7-23) with book by James Goldman, and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. This musical unites past, present and future when Dimitri Weismann invites his old Follies girls to a final party before his theater is torn down.

"The ages of the characters will appeal to our audience and our performers," he said.

Tyler, who helms this production, has had success with last season’s "My Fair Lady," and prior to that, "Brigadoon" and "La Cage Aux Folles."

"I really wanted to do ’Follies,’" said Tyler. "I’ve never directed Sondheim before."

The Heights Players’ rich, new season promises a lot of laughter, a few tears, adult drama and youthful fantasy.

 

The Heights Players are located at 26 Willow Place at State Street in Brooklyn Heights. The 2003-’04 season opens Sept. 5, with Neil Simon’s "The Odd Couple," directed by Helen Fein. "The Odd Couple" continues through Sept. 21. Subscriptions are $80 for nine tickets. Individual tickets to musicals are $15, and $12 all other shows. For reservations, call (718) 237-2752.

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