Actor Stephen Bogardus has the usual theatrical credits and impressive ones at that. He’s appeared on Broadway in “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story,” “M Butterfly, “Show Boat” and “City of Angels.” Pretty nice credentials as to his talents one might conclude. How many actors, however, can boost that they’ve played a leper and a first class leper, to boot?
Back in 1986 Stephen Bogardus, known to his friends as “Bogie,” appeared at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre in a play called “Progress” starring Tony Shalub who would go on to become the obsessive/compulsive detective “Monk.” At the time, he promised his co-stars, a trio that included Bogie, that he would give them each a guest appearance on “Monk” and he was true to his word. But a leper? Bogardus says it was a great experience.
Bogie is used to playing “despicable people,” perps, psychotic killers, cocaine addicts, all bad guys.” He’s always “the guy they’re coming after.” The exception is the gig he is currently involved in at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester when he plays the “good, old dad” in “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown opening Thursday, August 4 and continuing until Sunday, August 28. For tickets ($45.50, students $20), call 860-873-8668. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Inquire about the dinner packages ($49) and Girls Night Out ($39).
Bogardus has been involved since the musical’s first workshop years ago on the West Coast. He deems today’s version, a ninety minute one act show, “structurally the same but with more clarity, stronger relationships, but 90% the same as the original piece.” Here at Goodspeed, the play “ is allows to incubate gently, to be fine tuned, sharper, smarter, to be shephereded to stage and flourish.” While challenging, “the pay off is incredible.”
Bogardus plays Samantha’s dad, and one of his favorite parts is the duet they sing “My Dad Is a Statistician” that travels from the real to the make-believe as he teaches her how to drive. We view the “cool, calm side” morph into the “psychotic statistician,” a transition her compares to “gallows humor.”
Another Kleenex moment is the song mom and dad sing to Sam, “I Wouldn’t Change Anything,” as the parents look back eighteen years to reflect on all that has happened as they prepare to let her go on her journey.
If in real estate, it’s location, location, location, with Sam, a high school senior, it’s decisions, decisions, decisions. She is on her own journey to discover her own voice and make her own choices. The play is a moment in time, a freeze frame, that flashes back to all that has happened in her senior year so she can reexamine it in her mind. When she realizes her life has been dictated by other people and events, Sam begins to grow up and choose her won life’s path.
Bogardus calls his role as dad “ a cog in the wheel” as “I don’t have the ability to effect her part of the story.” Yet Sam’s hopes and dreams, as well as her parents’, are told in a “witty and quirky way” that will resonate on a fun and emotional level with the audience. As Samantha learns to trust herself and acknowledge that her voice is a valid one, Bogardus feels the audience will be on a journey of their own, discovering the pain and courage it takes to let go of what’s safe and easy. Robert Frost’s “The path less taken” comes to mind.
“The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown” was written by the team of Brian Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan who describe their show as a “cross between ‘The Fantasticks’ and ;High School Musical,’ “ based on Brian’s first semester at Harvard when he suddenly wondered “how did I get here?”
Daniel Goldstein will direct Meghann Fahy as Sam, with Melissa Benoist as her friend Kelly, Andrew Durand as her friend Adam and Catherine Porter as her mom.
Take a leap of faith with Samantha Brown as she takes an unconventional left turn to find out who she really is.