Joel Bramer says he’s not nearly as zany as Steve Martin, but the opportunity to play that type for the Schenectady Light Opera Company’s production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was just too good to pass up.
“I was much more familiar with the Steve Martin and Michael Caine movie than I was with the musical, but once I read the script, the character Freddy, the one Martin played, seemed pretty much the same in the musical,” said Bramer.
“Freddy is kind of unhinged and unrefined, and just as crude and silly as he is in the movie. I’ve never really had a chance to go that route, so this seemed like a good time to do it.”
The musical version, based on the 1988 movie with Martin and Caine, opens Friday at the Schenectady Opera House at 427 Franklin St. and will run through Feb. 17. Bramer plays Freddy Benson, Steve Leifer is his partner in high jinks, Lawrence Jameson, and Heather-Liz Copps is the object of their desire, Janet Colgate. Michael Gatzendorfer is directing.
The staged musical made its Broadway debut in January of 2005 and earned 11 Tony Award nominations, winning just one for Best Male lead, which went to Norbert Leo Butz for his portrayal of Freddy. Bramer hasn’t seen a live staged production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” but he’s watched nearly all of the show on YouTube.
‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’
WHERE: Schenectady Opera House, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Feb. 14-16, 2 p.m. Feb. 17
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org
A Schoharie native, he has been on a number of area stages lately, but hasn’t performed at SLOC since he played Huck Finn in “Big River” 12 years ago.
“I am really honored to be on the stage again with SLOC,” he said. “We have a great crew to work with and the cast has been a lot of fun. I hadn’t worked with Steve before, but I guess they saw some chemistry between us.”
This is also Bramer’s first time working with Gatzendorfer as director, and while he claims not to be a “wild and crazy guy,” you wouldn’t know it by Gatzendorfer.
“I never had the pleasure of working with Joel before, but he’s one of the funniest comedic actors I’ve ever worked with,” said Gatzendorfer. “He fits the role of Freddy marvelously. It’s been a lot of fun watching him during rehearsals. He is very funny.”
Bramer is a relative latecomer to the theater, not having taken the stage until he was 18.
“I never knew if I was going to be brave enough to actually get on the stage,” he remembered. “Prior to my first show — I played Jud Fry in ‘Oklahoma!’ — all I ever did was paint a few stages for high-school musicals. Now, 17 years later, I’m doing both whenever I get the chance.”
He studied graphic art at Sage College and The College of Saint Rose, but after getting his degree did very little with his artistic talent.
“I ended up doing nothing related to art for 10 years,” said Bramer, who worked for various non-profit groups and is currently helping to manage The Apple Barrel country store in Schoharie.
“Now, I’m really enjoying my experience in theater, but with a wife and two young kids, it’s not easy being out five or six times a week at rehearsals. I suppose there are roles that jump out at you, and no matter how tired you are from the last role, the next play and part really speaks to you so you go after it. That’s how I felt about ‘Scoundrels.’ ”
Bramer, who learned much of his trade with the Timothy Murphy Players in Schoharie, earned a Theater Association of New York State (TANYS) Award in 2012 for his work in “Man of La Mancha,” for the Not-So-Common Players of Clifton Park. He played the Governor in “La Mancha,” while his cast mate in “Scoundrels,” Copps, also earned a TANYS for her portrayal of Antonia in the same production.
Leifer is a familiar face to area theatergoers, performing at other venues such as Curtain Call, Albany Civic and the Colonial Little Theater in Johnstown. He and Gatzendorfer were both on stage in the SLOC production of “Assassins” in 2009.
“I was very lucky to have both Joel and Steve come out for auditions,” said Gatzendorfer. “They play off of each other very well.”
It was Gatzendorfer, who also directs at the BARC (Ballston Area Recreation Commission) Youth Theater, who submitted “Scoundrels” to the committee that determined SLOC’s 2012-2013 season.
“I saw it a couple of years ago on Broadway, and I thought it was a hilarious show,” he said. “I love the comedy and the humor in it. After doing ‘Hairspray’ last spring at SLOC, I wanted to direct more of a comedic farce, and this was it.”
‘The 39 Steps’
WHERE: Spa Little Theater, Saratoga State Park
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 24
HOW MUCH: $26-$23
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
Other shows opening this weekend include Moises Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project” at Albany Civic Theater, and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” a Home Made Theater production.
‘The Laramie Project’
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 24
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 462-1297, www.albanycivictheater.org
“The Laramie Project,” directed by Adam Coons, tells the story of Matthew Shepard’s brutal beating and death in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998. Shepard, just 21, was the victim of an assault because he was gay. Much of the play deals with the aftermath of Shepard’s death, as members of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York City made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half and conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town.
Diane O’Neill-Filer is directing Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” at the Spa Little Theater. Conrad Browne Lorcher is playing Hannay, while also in the cast are Alan Edstrom as Clown 1, Ben Katagiri as Clown 2, and Molly McGrath as Annabella/Pamela/Margaret.