Walt Willey stars in 'Plaza Suite' at Ottawa High School

July 22, 2011 9:41:14 AM PDT
''All My Children's'' Walt Willey is headlining an all-star cast in the classic Neil Simon play, 'Plaza Suite,' at Ottawa High School Auditorium.

It's the third annual Willey World Community production. "Plaza Suite" is a play composed of three acts, each involving different characters but all set in Suite 719 of New York's Plaza Hotel. The Broadway production was later adapted for film and a TV movie.

"Plaza Suite"
Ottawa High School Auditorium
211 E. Main Street
Ottawa, Illinois
July 29, 30, 31
Tickets: 815-434-2737

(release) WilleyWorld Community Productions announces Neil Simon's Plaza Suite as third annual summer production, with special guest stars

Walt Willey (All My Children's "Jackson Montgomery") and Kim "Howard" Johnson (ImprovOlympic) will be presenting Neil Simon's Plaza Suite at the Ottawa High School auditorium July 29, 30, and 31. "We picked this play for many reasons. You can't go wrong with Neil Simon, and the way the play is structured, it's actually like three one-act plays", says Johnson. "This gave us some much needed flexibility because with Walt's schedule on All My Children we knew he wouldn't be able to be here as early or as often as last year. It also allows us to team up a professional and a local amateur in each of the vignettes. That's right; besides Walt, we have two guest artists this year, not just one!"

In the role of Norma Hubley is All My Children alumnus Taylor Miller. Taylor originated the role of "Nina Cortlandt" in 1979 and wowed audiences as one half of Daytime's most popular couples - "Cliff and Nina" - until 1989. "With the imminent demise of All My Children, I thought it would be especially exciting to bring in some one from the "classic" years, and Taylor leapt to mind", explains Willey. "She's an incredibly talented actress and we were thrilled when she said 'yes.'" Taylor lives in Chicago where she is busy in the theatre community and works as a health coach.

The role of "Sam Nash" will be played by Kale Browne, who was One Life to Live's "Sam Rappaport." "I've known Kale for years and years," says Willey. "We were on Another World at roughly the same time, and he joined One Life to Live in 1998. In 1993 he was with us on All My Children, playing my girlfriend-at-the-time, 'Laurel Banning's' ex-husband. She killed him and we rolled him up in a rug and dragged him out of there!" Willey laughs. "I guess I owe him!" Kale has also been seen on Dynasty, Knots Landing, Dallas, and Days of Our Lives, and was married to actress Karen Allen from 1988 to 1998.

Ottawa's own Mary Fennessey Morgan will be featured opposite Kale as she portrays "Karen Nash." "Mary is the unseen hero of our productions, both acting and backstage," notes Johnson. "We would not - and could not - attempt any of these productions without our shepherdess. In fact, if not for a chance encounter with her two-and-a-half years ago, we never would have started producing shows in Ottawa."

Returning to the stage in Plaza Suite are local actors Randy Oltman of Streator - who many will remember as "Murray" in The Odd Couple" and "Teddy" in Arsenic and Old Lace - and Morris' Deb Torri, who played the role of "Elaine" in Arsenic and Old Lace." Erica Quirk of Minooka will also be returning...sort of. "Erica was our stand-in for Julia Barr last year until Julia came in for rehearsals a couple weeks before the show", Willey explains. "She was fabulous in the role of 'Abby Brewster' and we desperately wanted to get her on stage with us actually performing in the run of the play."

Newcomers to WilleyWorld Community Productions include Ottawa's Rachel Hettrick and Morgan Johnson, and David Zallis of LaSalle-Peru. Marquette High School's Maureen Wolfe will be directing.

"More and more, we are drawing talent from the Illinois Valley area, not just Ottawa," notes Johnson. "We are becoming a regional theatre of sorts, and we are thrilled to have Maureen representing Marquette High School this year." Plaza Suite marks WilleyWorld Community Productions' third annual effort in developing a self-sustaining theatre for the Ottawa community as well as a mentorship program for youths in the Ottawa area.

WilleyWorld Community Productions is proud to again be joining with the City of Ottawa, Illinois to launch Ottawa's newly extended City of Ottawa Riverfest, which opens with Plaza Suite and continues Wednesday, August 3, and runs through August 7, 2011.

Mr. Willey and Mr. Johnson, along with local advisor and coordinator, Ms. Morgan, are pleased to continue bringing theatre to Ottawa. "The community support for and the success of our two previous productions made it clear that there is a place for this kind of theatre in Ottawa," commented Willey. "The fusion of community and professional talents and resources made for a truly exciting experience and we can't wait to do it again!"

Join Walt and the cast on July 23rd from 10:30am - Noon at the Reddick Mansion to get your ticket AUTOGRAPHED!!! Tickets can be picked up or purchased that day at the Ottawa Visitors Center, 100 West Lafayette Street Ottawa, IL 61350, and walk across the garden to the Reddick Mansion to meet the cast get your autograph! For More information contact the Ottawa Visitors Center at 815-434-2737

A cast party with actors from the WilleyWorld production of "Plaza Suite" will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at JJ's Sports Pub and Grill, 104 W. Main St., Ottawa.

Cast members to be in attendance will include Walt Willey of "All My Children," Taylor Miller of "All My Children," Kale Browne of "One Life To Live" and Kim "Howard" Johnson of iO, in memory of B.J. Keene.

Tickets are $20 and will include draft beer, soft drinks and appetizers, autographs and auction items, including celebrity items. Cast party tickets will be available at all "Plaza Suite" performances: 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 31. Tickets also will be available at the door.

All cast party proceeds will benefit Ottawa Friendship House.

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