Roles for women in their early 60s don't come along every day, but Melissa Putterman Hoffman seems to be keeping pretty busy these days.
A Rotterdam native, Mohonasen grad and Schenectady Light Opera Company veteran, Hoffman is in the SLOC production of "Curtains," opening Friday and running through March 18. It is the 2007 Kander and Ebb musical, with a book by Rupert Holmes, that centers around a local theater company coping with a murder on opening night. Hoffman plays Carmen Bernstein, the lead female role.
"It's got some wonderful humor in it, and some of what you might call old fashion comedy," said Hoffman. "There's plenty of comic timing, some real physical gags in the humor, and the music is bombastic. I have to say, being 61, there aren't a lot of parts jumping out at me and landing on my lap. But when I looked into this one I knew I was going to audition. It's a great show."
Hoffman is coming off a gig in the recent SLOC production of "Cabaret" last fall, and has also performed within the last year in "Into the Woods" at SLOC, "Angels in America" with the Local Actors Guild of Saratoga, and "Fiddler on the Roof" with the Not-So-Common Players of Clifton Park.
"I've had a wonderful run the last year and a half," said Hoffman, whose husband, Gary Hoffman, is also in the cast of "Curtains." "At first I wasn't sure if I was going to audition, but when my husband decided to I took another look at the musical. It's a Kander and Ebb musical, and those guys did a variety of different musicals. They did some you wouldn't think that they did so I told my husband, 'even if you don't audition, I'm going to.' Carmen Bernstein is such a wonderful character to play. I'm having so much fun."
A social worker in the Berlin School District, Hoffman met her husband when he played John Adams in a SLOC production of "1776," back in 1989.
"I was working on the set of that show," remembered Hoffman. "I first performed at SLOC in 1980 in 'Half a Sixpence.' We've kind of took turns while we were raising a family, so we didn't have the opportunity to work together on a show that often. I do love doing shows with him so we're having a lot of fun."
Sharing the spotlight with Hoffman as the male lead is Steve Maggio as Lt. Frank Cioffi, the role originated on Broadway by Saratoga Springs native David Hyde Pierce. Joining them in the large ensemble cast are Heather-Liz Copps and Alex Perone.
CTG's 'Of Mice and Men" opens tonight
For John Birchler, there's no big mystery as to why John Steinbeck was such a successful author, and why his work always transitioned very well to the stage.
"He produced quality literature, whether it was as a novel or a play," said Birchler, who is directing the Classic Theater Guild production of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," opening tonight at 7:30 at the Congregation Beth Israel on Eastern Parkway in Schenectady. "He had this compassion for the human spirit, the working stiff. So much of his good writing came in the early 1930s, and it dealt with people who were down and out."
The stage version of "Of Mice and Men" had its Broadway premiere in 1937, pre-dating the Tony Awards, and instead winning the Drama Desk Award for Best Play. It was in a three-part series by Steinbeck referred to as his "Dustbowl Trilogy," following "In Dubious Battle" in 1936 and before "The Grapes of Wrath" in 1939.
The story centers around two ranch hands working their way across the country during The Great Depression, trying to raise enough money to buy their own ranch or farm. George, played by Joseph Bruton in the CTG production, is an intelligent and affable individual - the brains of the outfit - and Lennie, played by Dan Martin, is a large but pleasant man, simple-minded and somewhat helpless without George's direction.
Birchler is very familiar with Steinbeck's work, having taught a class at Guilderland High School about "The Grapes of Wrath."
"I haven't seen a stage production of 'Of Mice and Men,' but I taught 'The Grapes of Wrath' at Guilderland, and I was in the play at the Ghent Playhouse in 2014," said Birchler. "They are both very good plays. 'Of Mice and Men' has many really good roles so it's a great show to do. The roles, however, are mostly for men, so we actually changed one of the characters to a female to get another woman in the show."
'Of Mice and Men'
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild, at the Congregation Beth Israel, 2195 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Thursday and runs through March 18; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $22-$18
MORE INFO: www.ClassicTheaterGuild.com
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through March 18; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28-$22
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org