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Watertown Lyric Theater veteran turning pro with “Four Play, The Musical” role

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A veteran of local community theater is about to add some drama to his life as he tackles a new venture.

It involves taking a chance, said Barry Pratt, who last fall wowed local audiences with his role as Fagin in the musical “Oliver!” staged by Watertown Lyric Theater.

“Watching Mr. Pratt must have been instructive for all participants who aspire for a leading role,” an editorial in the Watertown Daily Time said a few days after “Oliver!” closed.

Mr. Pratt, Watertown, resigned Feb. 14 from his job as theater manager of the Clayton Opera House to co-star in a new comedy/drama. He will play Vinnie in “Four Play, The Musical,” which has been described as the male answer to “Menopause, The Musical.”

“It’s putting yourself on the line,” Mr. Pratt said of his new gig. “It’s onward into the fog.”

“Four Play, The Musical” opens April 3 in Glens Falls and then moves to Clayton, Lake Placid and Loudonville, Albany County, for performances. Other communities could be added to the schedule.

Rehearsals begin Tuesday in Glens Falls.

There are four men and a woman in the show, all members of the Actors Equity Association, the labor union that represents more than 49,000 professional actors and stage managers in the United States. Union benefits include minimum salaries, health and pension benefits and Equity-only auditions via casting call.

Mr. Pratt, a strong vocalist, has more than 40 years of experience on and off the stage. He attended the University of South Alabama and honed his acting skills at the Entertainer Dinner Theater in Mobile, Ala. He has been manager of the Clayton Opera House the past 12 years.

Mr. Pratt said he had previously considered turning professional.

“But I’ve always done something else because it was always knocking at the door,” he said.

But once he read the script to “Four Play,” Mr. Pratt said he realized he couldn’t pass it up.

“Sometimes, things just fall together and are kind of meant to be,” he said.

Kevin R. Kitto has directed Mr. Pratt in several Watertown Lyric Theater productions and he was the producer and set designer for “Oliver!”

He said Mr. Pratt has many attributes as an actor, but two qualities stand out.

“Barry is so convincing in a role that he can hold an audience captive and make them feel as if there is nothing but the story at hand,” Mr. Kitto said.

He added that Mr. Pratt has “keen insight” into human behavior and deeply researches his roles to develop more convincing attributes of the character.

“Barry shows tremendous respect to the craft, script, writers, directors and all other key personnel involved in a production,” Mr. Kitto said.

‘the male response’

“Four Play” was written by Glens Falls resident Rick Wilson, who is co-producing it with his wife, Nancy.

Mrs. Wilson said her husband was inspired to write “Four Play, The Musical” five years ago after they saw “Menopause, The Musical” in the Albany area. That show is described as “a humorous celebration of women and ‘the change.’”

Mrs. Wilson said her husband was one of six men in the audience, who were “mocked and ridiculed” during the show.

“My husband came out of there with a grin ear to ear and said, ‘I’m going to write the male response,’” Mrs. Wilson said.

“Four Play, The Musical” is about four friends who meet in college in the 1970s. They make a pact to get together each year to play golf.

“As they grow older, they have things to talk about,” Mrs. Wilson said. “It deals with a number of things in a very funny way. Some are serious, and yet there’s frivolity and a lot of fun getting the message across. The bottom line is men’s health.”

Unlike “Menopause, The Musical,” Mrs. Wilson said “Four Play, The Musical” is something both men and women can enjoy.

“This show has no foul language and no group or religious affiliations that are being made fun of,” Mrs. Wilson said. “It’s definitely an adult theme, but it’s a sweet story of friendship and it’s grounded in reality.”

“Four Play, The Musical” is the first show Mr. Wilson has written. The Wilsons have been in the third party mortgage origination business for nearly 30 years and have owned their own company in that field since 1992.

The overwhelming positive response to staged readings of the script for “Four Play, The Musical” inspired the couple to take it on the road with actors.

“We know what we’ve got and we believe in it,” Mrs. Wilson said. “When we saw what Equity actors are able to do and interpret this script, it really blew us away. They said, ‘I can’t wait to get started. It’s going to be so much fun.’”

The music in the show is arranged in four-part harmonies.

“It will challenge even the best of singers,” she said. “It’s Broadway-caliber type of music.”

chance meeting in clayton

Mr. and Mrs. Wilson came to know Mr. Pratt when the couple vacationed in the Thousand Islands in September. It was their first time in the region.

While visiting Home Again Farms in Theresa, they asked farm owners Daryl and Gail Marsh about attractions to visit and the couple recommended they check out the village of Clayton.

So the Wilsons stopped into the Clayton Opera House, where they met Mr. Pratt. They told him about their show.

“As we were dealing with Barry about getting up to Clayton for our show, one thing led to another,” Mrs. Wilson said. “I said, ‘We’re having such a hard time finding actors aged 45 to 60.’”

The show piqued the interest of Mr. Pratt, who later called the couple for an audition.

“He just blew us away,” Mrs. Wilson said. “He was just absolutely the perfect character for our Italian, patriotic character called Vinnie. We loved what we saw.”

Mr. Pratt is joining a cast that has combined experience, ranging from work on Broadway and the New York City Opera Workshop to television and various touring productions.

In addition to Mr. Pratt, the cast of “Four Play, The Musical”: Bill Carmichael as Bob; Richard Koons as Rick; Chuck Muckle as Ed and Melissa Bayernas as the pinup girl. Ethan Paulini is the understudy. All are from New York City, except for Mr. Carmichael, who lives in Vermont.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: “Four Play, The Musical”
WHEN: Clayton is the second of four stops for the touring production. It will be presented as dinner/theater at the Clayton Opera House, 405 Riverside Drive. There also is a show-only option at the opera house.
Dinner/theaters: 6 p.m. Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, with the shows beginning at 8. Dinner at noon on Sunday, April 13, with that show beginning at 2. Those who don’t wish to have dinner may arrive at show time.
TICKETS: $40 for the dinner/theater and $25 for the show only. For more information or to order tickets, call the box office at the opera house at 686-2200 or visit its website at www.claytonoperahouse.com
OF NOTE: “Four Play, The Musical” will be performed from April 3 to 6 at the Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen St., Glens Falls; May 2 and 3 at Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Drive; and May 23 and 30 at Siena College’s Foy Hall, 515 Loudonville Road, Loudonville.
ON THE NET: www.fourplaythe musical.com
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