BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players presents Mary Chase's Harvey, opening on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Gov. Livingston High School auditorium. The production is under the direction of teacher Joseph Elefante.
"It's about a guy [Elwood P. Dowd, played by senior Andrew Clark] who sees a six and a half foot rabbit that nobody else can see," said Elefante. "I won't give away whether the rabbit is real, I will let the audience come and decide on their own."
Harvey originally premiered on Broadway in 1944 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945. The role of Elwood was performed by "acting great" Jimmy Stewart in the 1950s and he later reprised the role in 1970. Most recently, Jim Parsons, from the Big Bang Theory, stepped into the role in the 2012 revival.
Elwood P. Dowd, his high-society sister, Veta, her daughter, Myrtle Mae, and all of the characters of Chumley's Rest Sanitarium are descending on Gov. Livingston auditorium. The cast includes six male and five female roles.
"The play is touching and warm, and bizarre and goofy," said Elefante, adding, "it's really, really funny. The kids are doing a phenomenal job."
When Elefante could not obtain the rights to The Odd Couple, for the second consecutive year, he set out and did some research on plays. "I came across this one and read it and knew immediately," he said of choosing Harvey.
With three days of rehearsal, Elefante is confident for a great performance.
Students led the set, light and sound design under the supervision of alumni Chris Riley, Jeff Stiefel and Gov. Livingston's Joe Voorhees. The student crew was led by Maya Sternberg -scenic design; Tom Peyton - painting; Dylan Tomchak - carpentry; Austhyn Alfaro - lighting design; and James Mezzo - audio design.
"They [student crew] do the bulk of the work, we come in and help and advise the kids," said Joe Voorhees.
"It is unique where we have kids almost doing everything and we just supervise," said Elefante.
The Hilltop Players invite the public to celebrate the renaming of the Kenneth Stiefel Theatre at a reception at 6:30 p.m. The evening performance of Harvey will follow the ceremony.
Jeff Stiefel is honored and humbled by the dedication to his dad, who passed away last fall from a long battle with cancer. "This is the best legacy of what he has done for his 20 years -- in memory of all future generations. It is a nice thing to continue what he really created a solid foundation for," said Stiefel, who remains involved with the lighting direction.