Monday, March 19, 2012

Li'l Abner

In the summer of 1974 while working with the Wilderness Road Outdoor Drama as an actor/musican, it was decided that we would do an Dark Night presentation of "Lil Abner".
Dark Night meaning that we would do it on night we were usually off. The Drama ran from Monday thru Saturday so Dark Nights were Sunday nights.
I’d never done any acting, I think we had a grade school play back at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School where I walked out on stage to sell apples in "the depression scene" and I did something in our Senior play which we wrote ourselves(We were the last graduating class at Hardin Reynolds and they had stopped senior plays a few years before but we had Miss DeHaven for english and talked her into sponsoring us for the last senior play...wasn't bad, but I would hardly call that acting.) I told them kiddingly during the Wilderness Road audition that I had been a dandelion in a third grade play but I was hired for my musical ability rather than my acting skills….

Mayor Daniel D. Dogmeat (Tony Estes) and Marryin' Sam (Doug Hutchens)

The leading actors weren’t really interested in doing another production so this gave the other Wilderness Road cast members the opportunity to be featured in more challenging roles.
I didn’t know much about Li’l Abner other that I had seen the comic strip. I began hearing rumblings that I would be a perfect “Marryin' Sam” and not knowing who he was I said sure…I‘ll do it...

Mayor Dogmeat (Tony Estes) and Marryin' Sam (Doug Hutchens)
being watched by those dispicable Scraggs (Lem, Luke and Romeo) and as
Evil-Eye Fleegle comes into town.

I had no idea that he was a central character…3rd only to Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae with the number of lines in the show…Marryin’ Sam was the preacher who Pappy and Pansy Yokum were counting on to get Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae married. He sang, he danced and many more lines that I‘d ever seen….and I was supposed to do all this??? I wasn't into theater and had no idea that Li’l Abner was a musical either…the comic strip didn't have any in it.....and also we did all the music live on stage…

A Cornpone Meeting

It featured a Sadie Hawkins Race and a Jubilation T. Cornpone Celebration and hopefully a wedding for Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae…

Pappy Yokum (John Forbes) Marryin' Sam (Doug Hutchens) with Mammy Yokum, Daisy Mae and
that World Famous Wrestler "Earthquake McGoon"
We would read lines in the afternoon before Wilderness Road and then do various scenes after the show each night. It was so hot during that part of the summer we didn’t do any practices during the daylight hours.
We practiced for two or three weeks and when show time arrived it was tense…we had never gone through the whole production from beginning to end before opening night. Nerves were drawn tight.

A typical day in DogpatchThe Matromonial Stomp

After the opening number the tension eased and as the show started rolling it seemed to flow like water. There were slip up, I made my share of them, but the cast, crew and the audience all enjoyed the production. It was a big success. We only did the show twice that summer, but I think we came away with a new sense of adventure and accomplishment.
Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae didn't get married but everyone had a good time in front of the statue of that beloved Jubilation T. Cornpone

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