Now the West Michigan actor, singer and musician who just happens to own Clock Funeral Home is helping Muskegon Civic Theatre (MCT) combine the two.
March 22 and 23, MCT will present its special fundraising production of the interactive comedy “Flanagan’s Wake” in the funeral home, 1469 Peck in Muskegon.
The idea came up last May, when Clock was performing in MCT’s production of the musical spoof “Spamalot.” He said he and MCT artistic director Kirk Wahamaki were talking “over adult beverages after some rehearsal … And whether he suggested doing it at the funeral home or I did, I don’t quite recall. Either way we both thought it would be fun to do it here. I thought it was a great idea. It would add an interesting twist to the whole production.”
Played for laughs, “Flanagan’s Wake,” as might be surmised from its title, is about a wake for a recently deceased Irishman named Flanagan. A tippler if ever there was one, the corpse of honor was stiff long before he died.
In the fictional Irish town of Grapplin, mourners In attendance include Flanagan’s mother, his grieving fiancee, a Catholic priest who’s not above promoting his product, a couple storytellers with no aversion to alcohol, the mayor who also owns a pub (which might sound a tad familiar in Muskegon), and a piano player.
The action is heavily improvised, and audience members who think they’ll be spared getting pulled into the fray by actors affecting whatever Irish brogues they can muster are pretty much dreaming.
Some patrons, willing or not, become impromptu performers. Onlookers are even asked to contribute elements of Flanagan’s story, after which the performers must run with the new information. Celtic yarn spinning is at a premium. Points are stretched until they snap. Liquid courage is available at the cash bar.
Although Clock is not performing in “Flanagan’s Wake,” he’s no stranger to live theatre. He began performing 40 years ago, when he attended Muskegon High School. He’s played in rock bands and performed with the West Michigan Symphony. Beyond “Spamalot,” his credits with MCT include “Forever Plaid,” “Plaid Tidings,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Peter Pan.”
“Music and theater are a reflection of who we are as human beings,” he said. “They are way for us to tell the stories of our lives: the good and the bad, the sad and the funny, and the feelings that we have for one another.
“‘Flanagan’s Wake’ will be doing just that, in a really fun way. In my line of work I help people celebrate lives everyday. Doing ‘Flanagan’s Wake’ at the funeral home is just a natural extension of that. I looking forward to a fun time for all.”
“Flanagan’s Wake,” which also includes music, premiered in 1994 in Chicago, where it went on to become one of the longest-running shows in The Windy City’s history.
MCT first and last performed the piece in 2016. That production was staged on the top-floor auditorium of the historic, downtown Hackley Administration Building. Clock didn’t see the show, but he’s been enjoying the current rehearsals which also are being held at his funeral home. And the setting works.
“We have a large permanent chapel setting with pews, so it really isn’t much different than a theater or a church,” he said. “We will need to set up some curtains so we can have somewhat of a backstage area for certain aspects of the show. But overall we have plenty of room for the socializing before the actual show, and seats for nearly 250 people.”
MCT’s “Flanagan’s Wake” is again being directed by Penelope Notter who three years helmed the company’s initial production. Notter recently directed MCT’s acclaimed production of “The Women of Lockerbie,” and last season directed Clock in “Spamalot.”
The “Flanagan’s Wake” cast includes Sheila Wahamaki, Brian Reeds, Kevin Prince, Tom Harryman, Ray Brazaski, Tiffanie Miller, Andy Schneider and Janie Glerum.
Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 in advance, and will be $30 at the door. There will be a silent auction. Reserved tables for four are going for $150, a price that includes tabletop snacks and the first round of drinks.
To purchase tickets, visit the MCT website, www.muskegoncivictheatre.org.
Submitted by Bill Iddings for The Fishbowl