Two men and 21 rapid-fire costume changes equate to much-needed comedic relief in Bay City this month


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Local actors and longtime friends Kurt Miller and Larry Jacobs are taking several personalities to a new level this month with six performances of “A Tuna Christmas,” a comedy starring a fictional town in East Texas and the life and attitudes of its inhabitants.

The dynamic duo are now rehearsing to bring the story to life for the fourth time, with performances December 10-12 and 17-19 at Bay City Players, 1214 Columbus Ave.

Jacobs met Miller when Miller was a judge in a one-act play competition. Jacobs was in the competition. The men have been friends for 40 years.Miller and Jacobs have a long-standing relationship through the arts, evident even after a brief discussion. The two speak in tandem and seem to anticipate what the other is about to say, ending each other’s sentences at times. Their mutual comfort probably stems from four decades of working together, although their introduction to each other has been slightly unpleasant, at least from Jacobs’ side.

“When Larry and I first met, I was actually a judge for a one-act play competition. I was working at John Glenn and Larry was in high school [at Garber]. It was in 1978 or 1979, ”says Miller.

The show takes place over Christmas and focuses on a ghost that has been wreaking havoc in the community for years.Jacobs quickly intervenes: “He was the meanest judge you would ever want to meet. He was wearing this three-piece polyester suit. He was just walking, and he looked so scary. We’d say, ‘Here’s that Miller guy!’ Jacobs recalls. “So we haven’t really met. He lashed out at me … well, he lashed out at everyone. He was very non-discriminatory.

Their official meeting on stage was in 1981 when they performed together in the play “South Pacific”.

“We’ve been doing shows together for 40 years now,” Miller remembers fondly.

“Is this the 40th year together?” God, and I’m still alive! Jacobs jokes. The two agree that their chemistry on stage is undeniable, and the pair have done a variety of shows together over the years, including “Camelot,” “The Odd Couple,” “Guys and Dolls” and, of course, the Good. -liked “Tuna” series.

Years ago Miller stumbled upon “A Tuna Christmas,” a two-act comedy by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. Miller explains that the characters in Tuna, Texas are modeled after people the writers have known in their own lives and incorporate the stereotypes and tropes the trio saw around them.

The quick costume changes make the game a fun challenge.Then he proposed Jacobs, and the rest is history.

“When Kurt found this show, he said, ‘Hey, what do you think? It’s two guys who play all of these roles. Do you want to try it? ‘ And I said, ‘Let’s try.’ Since then, it has been a blessing.

Simple minutes of conversation between Miller and Jacobs reveals just how entertaining the two will be together on stage, especially since they’re the only two actors to bring 21 characters of varying personalities and profiles to life. “We distributed them fairly evenly. Half of them are women. My youngest is a 9-year-old boy and my oldest is an 80-plus-year-old city clerk, ”Miller says.

During the play, the actors play 21 different characters.For Jacobs, these are the female characters he enjoys playing the most. “Bertha Bumiller is my favorite just because she has such a good heart. “

Miller adds: “She [Bertha] is a wonderful woman who is still in pain. I think my favorite is Vera Carp, she would be kind of a modern day Karen, if you will. She is the socialite of the city. She is rich and ignorant.

The two also take great pleasure in playing two waitresses dressed in pink uniforms at the Tasty Kreme Restaurant (Eat Here, Get Gas) at the start of the second act. In fact, those waitresses, Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd, sneak into the lobby during intermission to watch the crowd. Miller says, “Inita and Helen mix in with the audience and pick targets,” as the duo enter the audience for the start of the second act.

“A Tuna Christmas” offers families the opportunity to come together, have fun and forget about the problems of the world.In fact, it’s the frantic change from character to character that presents the most challenging and entertaining aspects of the show, no matter how many times it’s been played. Miller confesses about this fourth series of shows: “I was a little worried because the older we get, the harder it is to remember lines, but within a week, about 90% of our lines were already back. But the costume changes … “

Jacobs laughs, “It’s like a choreography. Some changes are done in 20 seconds, so it’s a challenge. This is the hardest part right now.

The pair thank their wives, Judy Miller and Kelly Jacobs, for making these rapid changes a reality. “We couldn’t do this without our lovely backstage wives who change our clothes for us and literally tell us ‘you are that guy or that girl’ as we step off the stage, because sometimes that’s not it. that I say but who am I, ”says Meunier.

Jacobs certainly agrees. “There’s no way this will happen without these two backstage. My wife Kelly will say it’s more fun to watch him backstage, to see the scene change, than on stage. Hear “Where’s my bra?” How many times does a husband say this?

‘A Tuna Christmas’ will be played from December 10 to 18.The underlying plot that connects all of the characters in ‘A Tuna Christmas’, according to Miller, is’ … the ghost of Christmas that has’ wreaked havoc in the greater Tuna area for years.’ This theme runs through the entire show and is talked about in almost every scene. “

“There is also a garden display contest in the Tuna area and so the ghost has been doing things throughout the community for years,” Jacobs says.

While the two could certainly perform just for fun, “A Tuna Christmas” will serve as a fundraiser for the Bay City Players, a place both men cherish.

Jacobs explains, “It’s important to me because that’s where I met my wife. We were together in Oklahoma and that’s where I had the courage to offer him a date. I’ve done shows with my wife, and we have three boys, and the five of us have been on stage together. The Players have always been great. We made some great friends. It is a place where friendships grow. Miller agrees, adding that he has worked with the Players since 1984.

Jacobs and Miller give their wives credit for helping them change from costume to costume quickly.The shows on December 10, 11, 17 and 18 will take place at 7:30 p.m., and the shows on December 12 and 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $ 20 and are available now at baycityplayers.org or by calling (989) 893-5555.

Miller and Jacobs, self-proclaimed “poor man’s Harvey Korman and Tom Conway,” both look forward to next week and the opportunity to raise funds for the players and the spirits of community members. They are the first to admit that things don’t always go as planned on stage, but there is a lot of fun in having fun through improvisation and rhythm.

The characters range from a 9-year-old boy to an 80-year-old secretary.“I hope the joy we have on stage translates into the joy the audience has to watch. I hope they are having as much fun as we are,” Jacobs said.

Miller encourages everyone to go out with friends or family to see the show for a dose of laughter. “The more I read the news, the more I need this stuff. For a few hours, people can just put all this stuff on hold and laugh at the silliness.

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