Romantic comedy ‘Same Time Next Year’ at UCP

MORRISBURG – Same Time Next Year first opened on Broadway, in 1975, to very little fanfare.

All that soon changed.

Bernard Slade’s Same Time Next Year won numerous critical and theatrical awards, and went on to be translated into over 40 languages. This romantic comedy remains one of the funniest and most popular love stories of all time, continuing to be performed world-wide.

On September 5th, Same Time Next Year is coming to the stage of Upper Canada Playhouse in a joint Playhouse and Orillia Opera House production.

The story revolves around Doris and George, who, though married to other people, have a romantic rendezvous in the same room at the same hotel every year. Their first tryst occurs in 1951, the era of Big Bands and fedoras, then follows them through the decades of Elvis, the Beatles, Viet Nam, JFK, civil rights, the moon landing, Hippies and Women’s Lib. Audiences share with George and Doris how these changing times, changing trends, and changing music affect their personal lives.

Starring in this joint production are the noted actors Vivana Zarrillo and Nigel Hamer, fresh from a very successful run at the Orillia Opera House.

I had the opportunity to talk with Orillia Opera House artistic director, Jesse Collins, who also directs this production of Same Time Next Year.
Jesse Collins is a well-known television and screen actor, an Emmy nominated director and playwright, who has staged several outstanding shows at Upper Canada Playhouse including Where You Are, the popular 2019 season opener. He is also the author/director of the smash hit Dean and Jerry – What Might Have Been.

“Donnie (Bowes, artistic director of UCP) and I short listed a number of shows for our joint productions between Orillia and Morrisburg,” Collins explained. “Same Time Next Year just kept coming up in our conversations. We’d had a wonderful experience with our production of Plaza Suite. Donnie really wanted to do this play, and, well, it seemed like the right time. And we wanted to use those two great actors, Nigel and Viviana, in another script.”Collins re-read Bernard Slade’s script and was impressed with the crisp writing, and the fascinating roles he created in Doris and George. He also liked the fact that Slade’s script allows audiences to follow two people’s lives over a long arc of time, to see them change and evolve as the world around them changes and evolves.

“This is a very clever script,” Collins said. “It is extremely thoughtful and poignant, but also very literate. It is fascinating how Bernard Slade uses language. And of course, part of the reason why this show continues to be so popular is because it really is an extremely good play.”

He feels that audiences, even those born well after the eras explored in the show, will easily connect with the play. Music and fashion in the staging give a context to the audience.

“There are also touch points for modern audiences in the show. Doris and George see each other every year, but we, the audience, check in with them every five years.” Collins explained.

“Gradually we connect with them as old friends, friends whose lives change over the years as society changes, and we share with them. Yes, it’s an unorthodox relationship, but we relate to them, and their challenges and maybe we feel a little less alone.”

He is delighted that Viviana Zarrillo and Nigel Hamer are playing Doris and George, laughing that he and Donnie Bowes started the season by actually looking for a piece that would suit them.

“Nigel and Viviana are friends of 35 years, and on the stage they already have a working ‘shorthand’ which allowed us, right from first rehearsals, to more deeply mine Slade’s script,” Collins said. “We are kind of seeing an abridged version of Doris and George’s lives in this play, their relationships with the other people and each other as they age over 24 years. The lines in this script are clever and comic. It’s just a great play.”

“Of course,” director Jesse Collins added, “it’s wonderful just to work with Nigel and Viviana, the dream team.”

Same Time Next Year wraps up a highly successful summer season at Upper Canada Playhouse.

“We’ve waited a long time to produce Same Time Next Year,” said UCP artistic director Donnie Bowes.

“We’re going to enjoy doing it as much as our audiences will enjoy seeing it.” Same Time Next Year runs September 5-29.

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