Grudges resurface as legends take centre stage

Michael Gondelle as Johnny, Leila Millson as Sandra and Mackenzie Gilmore as Alfie in rehearsal for Stephen Lowes Touched.

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Kings of comedy, Willie Clark and Al Lewis, aka The Sunshine Boys, haven’t spoken to each other in years.

When TV network CBS calls for the vaudevillian greats to be re-united for a nostalgic History of Comedy, past grudges resurface as they take centre stage once more.

Tony Doye (l) and Tony Dart as The Sunshine Boys with Zoe Fisher as Nurse Mackintosh

Tony Doye (l) and Tony Dart as The Sunshine Boys with Zoe Fisher as Nurse Mackintosh

Ageing ailments aside, can this legendary double-act overcome their differences for one last show?

Old rivalry and vintage hilarity abound in Neil Simon’s classic comedy of showbiz and friendship performed by CCADS theatre company at The Menuhin Theatre, Portsmouth Central Library, from Thursday to Saturday next week.

The play was recently given a highly acclaimed West End revival featuring Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths, but it marks CCADS first foray into the works of Neil Simon, one of the most successful playwrights of all time and author of other beloved comedies such as The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park.

Simon drew on his own personal experience of writing for vaudevillians and TV comics such as Sid Caesar to create Lewis, Clark and the trademark quick-fire routines and banter that make this one of the most enduring comedies ever seen on stage and screen.

CCADS artistic director John-Paul McCrohon has long wanted to bring this sparkling play, first seen in 1972, to Portsmouth audiences.

‘It really is one of the greatest comedies ever crafted’, he says. ‘It features some of the most quotable comic dialogue ever written.’

The title roles have been most indelibly associated with the stars of the classic film version – Walter Matthau and George Burns, who, at 80, was then the oldest actor to win an Academy Award for his role.

In 2012, the play would turn out to be Richard Griffiths’ last stage role prior to his death earlier this year and John-Paul says the CCADS production is dedicated to the tremendously talented actor.

Playing the title roles and following in the footsteps of these legendary duos are Tony Dart and Tony Doye, who were recently award-nominated for their performances in the musical comedy, Radio Times.

‘It was a few years ago that I first realised that the two Tonys were simply made for these roles’, says John-Paul. ‘I have waited until the right moment to combine their unique talents. It really has been worth the wait as the chemistry and comic timing that they have brought to the rehearsal room leads me to believe that audiences are in for a treat!’

Tickets: £10 from The New Theatre Royal box office on (023) 9264 9000 or at newtheatreroyal.com.

Tickets are also available at The Menuhin Theatre at the library in Guildhall Square for cash transactions on performance days an hour prior to the show start time (7.30pm nightly plus Saturday matinee at 2.30pm).

n See a video of CCADS rehearsing for the show at portsmouth.co.uk/video.

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