John Beasley (Horace Vandergelder: opposite E. Faye Butler, Hello, Dolly!: Drury Lane Dinner Theater, Chicago, 1992)
|Cedric, "The Entertainer" and John Beasley, Soul Man (Photo TV Land)|
John Beasley is an actor known for his role as Irv Harper on the TV series Everwood and recurring roles on CSI, Millennium and The Pretender. He also portrayed General Lasseter in The Sum of All Fears and Rev. C. Charles Blackwell in The Apostle. In 1992 he played Jesse Hall's dad in the movie The Mighty Ducks. He co-starred opposite The Rock in the 2004 remake of Walking Tall. Currently, he can be seen as Cedric "The Entertainer"'s father on the TV Land hit series, Soul Man.
|E. Faye Butler and Jacques C. Smith
(Photo © Michael Brosilow)
However, for one summer in Chicago, in 1992, he was Horace Vandergelder, opposite E. Faye Butler in an audience pleasing and critically acclaimed production ofHello, Dolly! This was at the Drury Lane Dinner Theater. That property is now a Wall-Mart.
John lives in Omaha, but was working out of Chicago at that time. His agency asked him if he would be interested in doing Dolly. Musical Theater was not something that John was doing a lot of. He does sing and he has done some musical theater. He went in for an audition. E. Faye Butler, who was already cast as Dolly, was looking for a very specific type to play opposite her.
John fit the bill and got the job.
John approached Horace like he approaches any character he has played, whether it be film or stage. He approached it from a place of his own reality.
Looking back, he doesn’t feel that he would have done anything differently from what he did.
Horace Vandergelder was right for him.
John never saw the original production of Dolly. He has, as most people, seen Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau’s film adaptation. He thought she was very good. He also had Matthau in mind when he approached Vandergelder.
|Grumpier Old Men (1995)
with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau
John worked with Matthau in Grumpier Old Men. They filmed in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in this business, John’s scenes were cut.
It had nothing to do with John.
There was a rush to get the film out for Thanksgiving/Christmas audiences.
Some scenes got turned into collages of what was filmed.
That ended up in a lot of lost footage. It happens. John remembers going to the movie with friends. It was a little embarrassing to John to find out that he had ended up on the cutting room floor.
He also saw Pearl Bailey. He thought she was excellent.
- Faye Butler is a Chicago legend. It was a great experience. At the time, John was going through some things in his personal life.
|E. Faye Butler|
She is a great diva in the greatest sense of the word and that greatly impacted upon those audiences who saw the show.
John feels that he brought a strong presence to the production. He feels that he represented Horace very well. The chemistry between E. Faye and John was great.
John fell in love with Dolly. It was a wonderful show. E. Faye Butler is a great stage actress. She’s extremely gifted. Musical theater is her forte. She is excellent on stage.
He doesn’t know how it could have been any better than what they did.
- Faye has a tremendous voice and both see and the score served each other very well. John considers Dolly one of the best musical scores he has ever heard.
The first time John heard the score was when he saw the movie. Of course, getting cast as Horace brings his appreciation to a whole different level. John felt that the music for Horace was actually a little low for his range. He was still able to bring something to it. The music is outstanding. He did think it was perfectly suited for Walter Matthau in that role.
|John Beasley in HBO mini-series "Laurel Avenue"|
John said he continued to tweak his performance after the show opened as he always does with every character he plays. Every night for him is new. The audiences loved this performance of Dolly. See my interview with E, Faye Butler.
Dolly is among the few musicals that he was part of. He has also done Guys and Dolls and an original musical called River View. His forte, however, is straight theater. He has done August Wilson, John’s favorite playwright, and Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire among others. These shows have substance…not that Dolly doesn’t!
|E. Faye Butler|
He knew this was going to be a great Dolly as soon as he got on stage with E. Faye Butler. Also in the cast was Felicia Fields as Irene Molloy. She, too, would eventually play Dolly in another production. She would also go on to star in The Color Purple on Broadway. She was outstanding in John’s production. Not only is she an outstanding actress, she is a great person.
She also really made the show for John.
It is an incredible moment in the theater when Dolly comes down those stairs.
As an actor in the show, you feel it.
John does say it is probably one of the best productions he has ever done in terms of staging.
John’s experience with the management of the Drury Lane Dinner theater was very interesting. It is now a Wall-Mart. It does not surprise him that the theater no longer exists. It was a great place , BUT the manager was into cocaine and other things.
When John goes into a production, he is pretty well-prepared. The first thing he does is commit his lines to memory. That makes it a lot easier, without script in hand to find and develop the character. Every night he looks for something new.
If the opportunity ever came his way again, John would absolutely love to do another production of Hello, Dolly!
Hello, Dolly means a lot to John Beasley. He started his professional career at the age of forty-five. One of the things that he decided he had to do if he was going to make a living at this was to do everything, and that included musicals. The first musical he tried out for, he got. It was at the Firehouse Dinner Theater in Omaha. It was Guys and Dolls. He played Big Julie in that. When he did land Hello, Dolly, it meant a lot to John. He felt that he had arrived as far as theater was concerned in Chicago. He was playing in this big house with the Grande Dame of Chicago. Chicago is a great theater town. After that, he was able to do a lot of other things.
Thank you John Beasley for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!