After I had a wonderful experience acting in a role in A CHRISTMAS CAROL for three years (2004-2006), I was eager to audition for another role at the Playhouse. I don't know what took me three years, but when CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN came up online, I jumped at the chance to participate in another Playhouse production.
It was a very spur-of-the-moment decision. I decided to audition only two or three days before the actual audition, and I didn't have time to utilize the script check-out that was made available by the Playhouse. I was nervous when the audition came, but after two call-backs, I thought I must have been doing something right. I was overjoyed when I found out that I got the part of Frank, the eldest son and narrator.
Rehearsals, from the very first script reading, have been fun through and through. I never grow tired of being down in the Dance Hall, even though we sometimes have to drill scenes again and again. I think that the main reason I enjoy myself so much is the talented group of people I get to work with. Judy Hart the director, and RaShelle Bradley, the stage manager, have been tireless in bringing in a necessary level of organization and expertise that has made this production come to life.
I remember one particularly long rehearsal, when, after more than two hours of drilling the same several scenes again and again, the cast was tired. Judy, enthusiastic as ever, stopped us and said, "This time we do the scene, I want you to do it a new, different way, instead of just reading it off the cells of your brain." During the next run of the scene, Ron Chvala, who plays Dad, said his line about silk stockings being "the last of the seven veils" with perfect inflection and timing. Everyone in the room broke down in laughter. "That's the type of family this should be," Judy told us all. "You all are a happy family. You laugh. You have fun." Since that rehearsal, every session has been bursting with joyous creativity.
The cast in this show is truly wonderful. Every person in the group brings a gifted performance to the show, no matter how big or small. Being a part of the family relationship that has developed over the course of rehearsals is a great privilege, and it's made being a part of this production very special for me. I'm completely convinced that Judy couldn't have made any better choices as far as casting goes. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is a unique production, and this cast of people (that I'm lucky enough to be a part of) has succeeded in making it as good a show as it can be.
I'm sure the joy that comes about during rehearsal will find its way onstage during the run. When you see CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, you're not seeing just any old show, you're seeing the product of tireless work from a family of people who have had a blast fitting all the pieces together. Working on CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is an experience I will always look back on with fond memories.
Frank Gilbreth, Jr.