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Making the Most of their Art work

Anson Williams, Don Most, Henry Winkler and Ron Howard in Happy Days. [Courtesy of THE FILMTV COMPANY AF Archive]

These are indeed Happy Days at Drayton Entertainment, which has recruited Don Most to star in the upcoming production at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.

Most, best known for his role as jokester Ralph Malph on the classic sitcom Happy Days, has been in the theatre company’s production of ‘Art’.

“Not all actors on film and TV and stage go from one to the other – Don does. He’s a very versatile guy,” said director Max Reimer of Most’s casting. “You have to find that special celebrity that’s just as comfortable onstage, and that he is.

“It was recommendations of other celebrities that we’ve known and looking at his versatility and his interest … so we reached out and asked if he’d be interested in coming and doing this with us.”

Happy Days was a popular sitcom that aired from 1974 to 1984, spanning 11 seasons. Its popularity resulted in several spinoff series, eight books, a musical and variety of merchandise, along with ongoing syndication.

The hit show chronicled the escapades of Milwaukee teenagers in the 1950s, including the lovable wise-cracking Ralph Malph (Most). He started out as a guest star and was upgraded to a series regular in the second season, as a testament to his acting ability. Now, Most will play Serge in ‘Art’.

The play revolves around three friends – Serge, Marc and Yvan – who find their solid, longstanding friendship on shaky ground after Serge buys a large, expensive painting. It is abstract piece depicts a white canvas with fine diagonal white streaks – essentially what Reimer describes as a “blank canvas.”

Marc, played by Broadway performer Lee MacDougall, aggressively questions this decision, which ignites a fierce debate about the value of art and tests the boundaries of three friendships.

“It feels like a situational comedy. The art is just a trigger for this relationship. It messes up these guys impressions of each other. It brings out conversations about “What is art?” said Reimer.

“It’s wry humour, there’s physical comedy in it … these guys get into it; they actually end up in a fight at one point.”

Accomplished actor Jeffrey Wetsch was originally set to play Yvan, the level-headed friend that often gets caught in the middle of these heated disputes. Unfortunately, Wetsch had to step down due to a knee injury, from which he is expected to recover but not in the timeframe. The new cast member will be announced soon.

“The fun of the show is we hear the men talk like men do. That’s the thing about the play: it’s raw. We hear the guys say out loud things that guys actually say out loud. That’s the refreshing part of it,” said Reimer. “This is how guys talk, and this is what they talk about. At times there’s no filter… they just say what they think.”

Originally written in French by playwright Yasmina Reza, the play premiered in 1994. The production caught the eye of Micheline Roquebrune, the wife of Hollywood icon Sean Connery. The James Bond star quickly snapped up the rights, became a leader producer and facilitated its translation into English.

Most is not the first major casting featuring television stars that Drayton Entertainment has pulled off. George Wendt of the sitcom Cheers starred in their 2017 production, Death of a Salesman, and Cindy Williams from sitcom Laverne and Shirley appeared in the play Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Drayton Entertainment’s artistic director, Alex Mustakas, expects Most’s appearance will spark similar interest.

“Donny Most remains one of Hollywood’s most cherished television actors. In addition to his memorable role as funny-guy Ralph Malph on Happy Days, he’s appeared as a guest star on countless other TV shows, and built an equally impressive career as a stage performer,” he said in a release. “Based on the incredible response when George Wendt was in St. Jacobs in 2017, I recommend that patrons buy tickets as soon as possible.”

‘Art’ runs from October 2 to October 20 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are $48 for adults and $29 for youth under 20 years of age, available at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, online or by calling the box office at (519) 747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

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