A story about ineptitude, professional jealousy to the point of insanity and world destruction may not seem like a comedy, but fans of the Pink Panther series know that in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” it certainly is.
Newtown Arts Company's stage adaptation of Blake Edwards’ 1976 film, “The Pink Panther Strikes Again," opens Thursday at . "The Pink Panther Stirkes Again" is the fifth in the series of beloved 1970s films.
Director Edwards brought the bungling Parisian detective alive in the form of Peter Sellers. With both of those talented men gone, it’s hard to re-imagine Pink Panther – although Steve Martin did try in the early 2000s.
Newtown Arts Company has found the groove. Cue Henry Mancini’s theme song.
“Once I found my Clouseau, we were set,” said director Wendy Force McBride. Her Inspector Jacques Clouseau is portrayed by Stuart Myles of Newtown.
“We had a lot of actors audition,” she added. “And so many had perfect comic timing, so it’s been fun to cast them.”
McBride cast C.T. Troilo of Yardley as Chief Inspector Paul Dreyfus, driven insane by Clouseau’s unwarranted success. Joining him in his evil crusade to rid the world of Clouseau is Margaret DeAngelis of New Hope as a Russian spy who kidnaps physicist Dr. Fassbender, portrayed by Elliot Simmons of Philadelphia, and the physicist’s daughter, played by Newtown’s Taylor Kantner.
“The best thing about working with this cast is that by the second or third rehearsal, 90 percent of them were off script,” said McBride. "That let us get right into the physical comedy."
And if anyone remembers the Pink Panther films, physical comedy rules. The silliness that elicits belly laughs and guffaws, is what Pink Panther is all about. If you can’t remember back to the ‘70s, think of the over-the-top comic genius of Jim Carrey in his “Ace Ventura” personal, or the slapstick fight scenes of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the “Rush Hour” series. The fun is in the physical.
So when McBride had extra time to fine tune the choreography, she was pleased.
“That was a huge plus and really unexpected. So I was thrilled with that,” she added. “They embraced whatever we gave them and we were able to take it to the next level.”
McBride, who is new to working with Newtown Arts Company, brought in professional fight choreographers to make the most of Clouseau’s comic clumsiness. Yardley resident J. David Brimmer – just completing work on Broadway’s “Wit” – and Joe McCurnin staged the fight scenes.
“We have a lot of fight fun,” said McBride, noting that the program is family-friendly and even a six-year-old would enjoy the pratfalls.
The older family members may be expecting to see the Clouseau of film, and McBride is fine with that.
“It’s going to be exactly what they expect from Pink Panther,” she said, although admitted that, coming from a theatrical background, she might otherwise hate to voice such blasphemy. But, when it comes to a comic icon, people want their bumbling fool. “They will see the Clouseau they know and love.”
Curtain times for “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” are Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 10 and Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 12 at 3 p.m.; Tuesday, Feb. 14 and Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 and $19.
For tickets, visit www.newtownartscompany.com, the Newtown Theatre Box Office during theater hours or call 800-838-3006. For information, call 215-860-7058.