Springfield theater cast expects tears amid laughs when play ends

Lonnee Jensen, left, Nancy Mahoney and Krystal Phillips rehearse for Springfield Civic Theatre’s upcoming production of Last Round-up of the Guacamole Queens, to be performed at the John Legend Theater, April 13-14. Contributed photo

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Lonnee Jensen, left, Nancy Mahoney and Krystal Phillips rehearse for Springfield Civic Theatre’s upcoming production of Last Round-up of the Guacamole Queens, to be performed at the John Legend Theater, April 13-14. Contributed photo

An upcoming Springfield Civic Theatre play will be more than a typical performance to its cast — it will be the breaking up of a family.

After three year years of transforming themselves into characters named Peaches, Gaynelle, Jimmie Wyvette, Bitsy and Uncle Aubrey, Springfield Civic Theatre performers will have tears among the laughs when “Last Round-up of the Guacamole Queens” bows at the John Legend Theater, April 13-14.

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“Guacamole Queens” is the final chapter in a trilogy of Southern comedies they company has done. The plays also include “Red Velvet Cake War” and “Rex’s Exes” are set in Sweetgum, Texas, and follow the misadventures of the Verdeen cousins as they try to plan a high school reunion with 70 years of graduates.

Each spring since 2016, the actors have looked forward to adopting Southern accents, wearing silly clothes, hats and wigs and letting creativity bond with camaraderie.

“They’ve become a family, so it’s very sweet,” said Kathleen Day, who has directed the trilogy.

She’s seen the actors become more comfortable in their roles and welcome newbies into the fold.

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Annette Black has gained a “reputation” with her character, Peaches. A teacher at Springfield High, she gets teased by fellow staff as the reputation girl and has fun with it.

Black will put on her Southern voice in class for the students, and staff members look forward to coming to the shows.

“I’m going to miss this whole family and the way we feed off each other,” she said.

For Krystal Phillips it means no longer donning pantsuits for Sweetgum’s version of Oprah Winfrey, CeeCee Windham.

“I’m surely going to miss those,” she said with a chuckle.

With her character Bitsy finished in the previous play, Nancy Mahoney gets to do a cameo in a beehive wig and graduation gown to transform into televangelist Sister Dixie Davenport in the final story.

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If there’s a scene-stealer it’s Uncle Aubrey, the oldest living graduate of Sweetgum High, who pops in and out of scenes. Despite carrying around an oxygen tank, he’s one of the hardest characters to keep track of, chasing down two sisters to romance among his moves.

“It’s been great working with these guys,” said Mike Hanson, who portrays Aubrey.

The old saying goes actors always want to direct. In between acting stints as Gaynelle, Connie Strait has directed her first two plays, but says she prefers acting, especially in shows like this.

Though this chapter in the Civic Theatre family saga is closing, the next may be on the horizon.

“This is the end of this cycle,” Day said. “Now we’re looking for the next.”


HOW TO GO

What: “Last Round-up of the Guacamole Queens”

Where: John Legend Theater at The Dome, 700 S. Limestone St., Springfield

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14; 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14

Admission: $10 to $12

More info: http://springfieldcivictheatre.org/events/list/

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