The spring show from Triumvirate North Theatre needed a bit of dumb luck to get hatched, but is set to deliver the goods this weekend and next.
“Sabrina Fair” is the latest Triumvirate production, with two-night showings on consecutive weekends at the theater located just north of Kenai on the Spur Highway. The play will feature the debut of Joe Spady as director as he tackles the witty romantic comedy with producer Hannah Tauriainen.
While Spady and Tauriainen are expecting a successful showing, Sabrina Fair wasn’t the original pick for Triumvirate’s spring play. The company was gearing up to put on “School of Rock” for its May show, but the licensing company that owns “School of Rock” had a change of heart.
The play company that owns the rights switched the “School of Rock” script to a junior production only, which meant Triumvirate could no longer put on the show.
But just days after scrapping the “School of Rock” plan in January, Tauriainen came through with a rather serendipitous moment.
“I was just scrolling through Amazon Prime, and I saw “Sabrina”,” she recounted. “I was like, ‘Man, I haven’t seen this movie in a long time’ … I watched it again and thought, ‘This is so cute! I wonder if it’s a play?’”
Tauriainen found the script to “Sabrina Fair” the next day and brought it up with Spady while at a friend’s house, and Spady took the lead.
“We just went on this journey, like let’s do it,” Tauriainen said. “Let’s start the ball rolling.”
The play follows the original script, written in 1953 by Samuel A. Taylor and subsequently released twice on film in 1954 and then again in 1995. As the daughter of a chauffeur of a wealthy family living on the north shore of Long Island, Sabrina Fairchild returns from several years spent living in Paris to the home she essentially grew up in, the Larrabee mansion, and presents herself as a young woman looking to take in every enjoyable moment from the world. Fairchild eventually becomes romantically involved with Linus Larrabee, the son of the Larrabee patriarch.
The scrapping of “School of Rock” didn’t allow much time for “Sabrina” auditions, so Triumvirate started work on it right away, hand-picking much of the cast. Spady said the show presented him the perfect opportunity to challenge himself for the first time as director of a play, rather than acting in one.
“I’ve been talking about directing for a while,” Spady said. “It’s very different from the films.”
Spady grew up in Soldotna and worked in the theater business with the Kenai Performers before moving out to live in California and then Manhattan.
Now back on the peninsula, Spady said he has rapidly built up a base of acting peers and friends that has allowed him to take on the director’s role. Spady said “Sabrina Fair” brings out a particularly clever style of humor and emotion that suits his own methods.
“It’s just really, really smart humor,” Spady said. “It’s not just silly slapstick. We definitely do a lot of silliness, but it’s just very clever. The lines have so much wit, and there’s so much depth to all the humor as well.”
Tauriainen stars in the titular role, and as a veteran of the stage said the role presents a very heavy script to others she’s handled in the past.
“It’s a lot of lines,” Tauriainen said. “This is my first time doing a play that is only dialogue heavy … I’ve never done a play where I’m just talking for basically half the time.”
Tauriainen said working with a fellow peer and friend in Joe Spady is another angle that she’s not accustomed to. Having acted under former teachers and mentors in Joe Rizzo, Phil Morin and Bob Bird, Tauriainen is now producing a show in tandem with someone more her own age.
“That’s been so cool to take direction from him, but also partner with him as a producer does with a director,” Tauriainen said. “It’s been fun.”
One of the lovable quirks of the show is the set, which is mostly comprised of a background painted image of a backyard patio and garden area, and the props, almost all of which are flat, two-dimensional pieces. The furniture and a few glasses are the only pieces not painted on — even a birdcage and bouquet of flowers are two-dimensional.
Spady praised the work of set designer Stacy Tronnier, who he said constructed the majority of the set.
Following the lead role of Sabrina Fairchild (Tauriainen) is Sabrina’s father, Mr. Fairchild (played by Chris Jenness), the Larrabee parents Maude (Donna Shirnberg) and Linus, Sr. (Dan Kasaa), Linus Larrabee, Jr. (Spencer McAuliffe), David Larrabee (Aaron Gordon), maid Margaret (Jody McAuliffe), Sabrina’s French suitor Paul D’Argenson (Richard Vollertsen) and Julia Ward McKinlock (Terry Zopf-Schoessler).
Tauriainen said the cast around her brings a lot more to the play than what she expected just three months ago.
“The way we envisioned the characters is not necessarily what’s happened,” Tauriainen said. “But all these people have made it so much more than what we were thinking of.”
“Sabrina Fair” runs May 17, 18, 24 and 25, with 7 p.m. showings. Tickets are variable depending on seating, and can be purchased online on Triumvirate North’s website.