CCP presents ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’

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The iconic movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” has always been a favorite of Jan Jamison.

So naturally, the Westfield resident wanted to bring the play adaptation to the stage. The 1967 movie featured Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier in the lead roles.

“Spencer Tracy died just 2 1/2 weeks after they concluded filming and they all knew he was sick,” Jamison said. “The emotions are very real, especially (Hepburn’s) face and reaction. The acting is superb. We don’t want to copy Tracy, Hepburn and Poitier. We want to have our own (portrayals).”

Carmel Community Players presents “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” Oct. 18 to 27 at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way, Carmel.

Like the movie, the play is set in 1967 when a daughter brings an older, black doctor she is dating home to meet her white parents.

“It was a bit of a shock,” Jamison said. “They are a very liberal family, so they are faced with their own convictions of non-prejudice. It’s still pertinent today.”

Natalie Weber, a 2014 Guerin Catholic High School graduate who grew up in Fishers, is playing Joanna Drayton, the daughter.

“I was getting aggravated because I couldn’t find anything for me, but I saw they were going to have a role for someone 23, which is my age right now,” Weber said. “I was excited because I thought I could do this role. It’s a drama and a comedy. In college, I did improv comedy, so I’m used to more comedic roles. But since this one is more serious it will be interesting and challenging for me.”

Weber knew the premise of the movie.

“Jan got the cast together to watch the movie, which I thought was a really great way to get that camaraderie with the cast,” Weber said.

At the time, interracial marriage was still against the law in 17 states until struck down by a Supreme Court ruling in June 1967, shortly after the movie was filmed.

Indianapolis resident Onis Dean plays Dr. John Prentice. Dean said he acts in musicals 95 percent of the time.

“My parents grew up loving Sidney Poitier, so when Jan saw me in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ (with Mud Creek Players) she said I should at least come and audition,” Dean said.

When he came in for the reading, Dean said he fell in love with the powerful script.

John D. Carver, Greenwood, is playing the role of Matt Drayton. It is his first show with CCP for the veteran community theater performer.

Carver was attracted to the role because of his admiration for Tracy.

“I’ve done ‘Inherit the Wind’ and a couple of other things that (Tracy has) done,” Carver said. “I like the man. I like his style. I like his acting technique. This has been one of my favorite movies to watch over the years, so when I saw the auditions, I jumped at the chance.”

Marie McNelis, an Indianapolis resident, portrays Christina Dayton. McNelis acted in high school and college, but only returned to acting a year ago.

“I was a speech and drama major in college,” McNelis said. “I put that on the shelf, then I retired and decided I wanted to dust that off and start up. Jan gave me my first role at Buck Creek Players in ‘37 Postcards.’”

McNelis said Jamison alerted her to the auditions for the role.

“I was in my freshman year in college when this came out, and I was just bowled over first by the subject matter and the wonderful acting done by Spencer Tracy and the under-acting that was done by Katherine Hepburn,” she said.

Westfield resident Lisa Warner plays Hillary St. George, who works with Christina Drayton at the art gallery.

Warner said it’s not a pleasant role to play because of her racism, but it’s essential to the storyline.

“I won’t even shake Dr. Prentice’s hand when he offers it,” Warner said of the racist nature of her character.

For more, visit carmelplayers.org.

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