OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Show goes on, despite actor Wendt's departure from 'Odd Couple'

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-11-10T00:05:00Z OFFBEAT: Show goes on, despite actor Wendt's departure from 'Odd Couple'Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Last night was the press opening for "The Odd Couple," the much anticipated new production at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Ill.

I was excited to attend, and my show review will appear in Wednesday's editions.

Even though the show's run first started with previews Nov. 2, much had already been written about it, even before any audiences have seen the curtain rise.

On Oct. 30, the theater's management announced that actor George Wendt, one of the two headlining stars for the run, was leaving the cast "for medical reasons." Wendt is best known to his television fans as playing the character "Norm" on NBC's comedy "Cheers."

"Saturday Night Live" veteran Tim Kazurinsky, 62, is playing the role of fussy Felix Unger.

"George checked into the hospital Sunday evening [Oct. 28] with chest pains, and is getting medical attention and will eventually make a full recovery. All of us at Northlight wish George all the best for a speedy recuperation," said Executive Director Timothy Evans.

Chicago actor and Broadway veteran Marc Grapey is stepping in to the role of Oscar Madison. Originally, Grapey was playing the role of Murray the Cop in the Northlight production and was previously in the Broadway production that had starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The production will run, as planned through Dec. 9 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd, in Skokie.

"George is family to us at Northlight and we wish him well for a complete and speedy recovery," said BJ Jones, director/artistic director.

"He was part of an ensemble cast of Chicago comic actors that appreciate each other's talents, support each other's work and lift each other up. He will be missed in the rehearsal room and on stage. We are so fortunate to have the brilliant Chicago actor Marc Grapey on our team, who was in the Broadway company of 'The Odd Couple,' covering for both Nathan Lane and going on for Matthew Broderick. Marc will step in to the role and we couldn't be more pleased to have his talent and energy in the cast."

As for Wendt, who turned 64 last month, the actor successfully underwent bypass surgery for a blocked artery on Nov. 1 and was on the mend at an Chicago hospital, according to his manager Geoff Cheddy. Both Wendt and Kazurinsky are famed names from Chicago's Second City.

As for this run of "The Odd Couple," this latest incarnation of the classic comedy by Neil Simon originally unveiled on Broadway in 1965, the familiar story plot remains the same.

When recently failed marriages lead famously mismatched roommates Oscar and Felix into sharing an apartment, Felix's finicky habits and Oscar's slovenly ways make for a disastrous yet side-splittingly funny combination.

The rest of the Chicago cast includes Bruce Jarchow as Roy, William Dick as Vinnie, Molly Glynn as Cecily, Katherine Keberlein as Gwen and Phil Ridarelli as Speed.

The role of Murray the Cop, previously to be played by Grapey, is being played by actor Peter DeFaria.

Kazurinsky is making his Northlight debut with this show.

The box office is at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., in Skokie. Box Office hours are 10 a.m. 5 p.m. weekdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The box office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.

Tickets are from $25 to $72 with student tickets at $15 for any performance (subject to availability). Call (847) 673-6300 or contact northlight.org. for information.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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