Arts & Entertainment

GL Hilltop Players Perform 'The Odd Couple' - Male and Female Versions - at Governor Livingston High School

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The stage crew prepares for the dress rehearsal of The Odd Couple. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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The stage crew prepares for the dress rehearsal of The Odd Couple. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Oscar Madison and his poker buddies. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Felix Unger has arrived. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
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Director Joe Elefante watches the dress rehearsal.
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Bridget Lynn plays Florence in the all female cast version of "The Odd Couple."
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Tom Peyton plays Speed, one of the poker playing guys, in the all male version of "The Odd Couple."
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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Two different versions of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" will be performed by The GL Hilltop Players on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17, 18 and 19 -- one with the traditional male leads, the other with female leads.

The more familiar version premiered on Broadway in 1965. Twenty years later, Simon rewrote the production with women playing the lead characters, Florence Unger and Olive Madison.  Their friends played Trivial Pursuit rather than poker, and the Pigeon sisters were changed into the Costazuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus.

Elefante said, "I tried to get the show for the past two years, but it was restricted for some reason." He was successful this year and the GL Hilltop Players are licensed to put on each version of the show.     

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That's a challenge, he said' "There are completely separate scripts, with similar, but not identical dialog. There are completely separate books."

Auditions were held in September and rehearsals began the last week in September. "It's been tough. "I've been at rehearsals a lot more. Last year I was here three or four days a week, this year I've been here every day," he said.

Dress rehearsal was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Tuesday for the male version and at 6 p.m for the female version.  The set was still being decorated and painted, actors needed to get into their costumes and have hair and makeup done at 3:30. Waiting to talk to TAPinto was a member of each cast.

Bridget Lynn, a junior who plays Florence Unger, said, "I was a bit surprised when I heard from a friend that we were putting on a female version of 'The Odd Couple,' usually it's all guys. I read the scripts because I was interested to see how Neil Simon adapted the show."

She said the plots are the same, but "the biggest difference is what it is like for women who get divorced, especially the way they talk about their ex-husbands. That is different than they way the men do," in their script.  She plays a single mom who has to get a job. Since the play takes place during summer, the kids are away at summer camp.

Tom Peyton, a senior, plays Speed, one of the poker players, in the male version of the show.  This is only his second role - "Last year I was in a musical. Before then, I worked with the set design crew," he said.

Peyton said the "best part is the character is completely different than I am ... he's more sarcastic, a little crude and very quick witted. I do relate to him, though."  He's in all three scenes and "all Speed really cares about is playing poker. He's always saying, 'Why are we talking, when we can be playing poker?'"

Maya Sternberg, a senior, is the student set designer and has been for years, "The only one I didn't do was 'Almost Maine.'" She said she wants to be a professional set designer, "either on Broadway or with the Cirque du Soleil." She's going to apply to some fine arts schools to further that dream, she said. 

There was a small group in the auditorium during the rehearsal of the male version and, after the cast got comfortable, there was lots of laughter - exactly what you would expect from a comedy by Neil Simon!

The female version of the show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, and Saturday, Nov. 17 and 19; the male version will be performed at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, Nov. 18 and 2:00 p.m, on Saturday, Nov. 19.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and senior citizens. Residents are encouraged to come out and see one or both of these nostalgic, delightful productions. To reserve tickets, please use this link:  goo.gl/forms/bdQYO0LhlrK4wPq03 

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