Bryon Schmidt takes the stage in ECP’s upcoming madcap comedy.

Locals Bring Comedy Classic to Life

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Thursday April 26, 2018

A pompous celebrity, Sheridan Whiteside, famous for his acerbic wit, larger-than-life appetites, and hordes of Hollywood friends, slips on the ice and unexpectedly becomes an imperious long-term houseguest of a small-town Ohio family. Such is the plot of the Essex Community Players (ECP) production of “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” a classic 1939 comedy which comes to life May 3 through 13 at Essex Memorial Hall in Essex. Taking part in the classic romp, which is directed by Adam Cunningham, are South Burlington residents Bryon Schmidt, Kevin Calhoun, and Jana Beagley.

“The Man Who Came to Dinner” is one of this country’s greatest stage comedies. Featuring a parade of eccentric characters, the play has received numerous New York and London revivals over the years due to its charming appeal and screwball hilarity. Now, ECP brings it to life in Vermont for 8 performances.

Schmidt is cast in the role of Bert Jefferson, the local newspaper editor, who is the play’s love interest. A resident of South Burlington since 2010, he says the role is a delight to play. “Like all comedies, this one is extremely complex, which is what makes it so funny. Characters come out of the woodwork, each one funnier than the last, and here I am, balancing all that craziness with sheer normalcy.”

Calhoun plays John, the butler, and appears in almost every scene. The 17-year-old notes that he was drawn to audition for the play for the chance to work again with director Cunningham. In addition, he says, “This large cast, 32 people, offers the opportunity to interact with many wonderful performers, and their strengths as performers make for much hilarity and fun.”

Jana Beagley, who portrays Nurse Preen, is well known to local audiences as the driving force behind the annual “Nightmare Vermont.” Regarding her role in this ECP production, Beagley says, “Nurse Preen endures a variety of woes from Whiteside’s insults to getting bitten by a penguin! It’s been great fun to bring her to life.”

For the director, the play has been a labor of love. Cunningham remarks, “Where else would a director have the opportunity to meld a huge cast that includes both veteran performers and newcomers into a vibrant and very funny theatre piece? Bryon, Kevin, and Jana have each brought wonderful skills to this effort. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”

For more information about show dates and tickets, visit