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Mayor playing a different role

Crystal River's Curtis Rich will star as the grumpy Norman Thayer in a production of On Golden Pond.

By JORGE SANCHEZ and BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2000


Former president Ronald Reagan was an actor-turned-politician.

Longtime Crystal River Mayor Curtis Rich is going the other way: politician-turned-actor.

Rich and his wife, Vangie, are leads in the current production of the comedy-drama On Golden Pond at their hometown community theater, Playhouse 19.

"I got talked into it," Rich said with a hearty laugh. "Vangie and I talked about it -- she's been very involved in Playhouse 19 for some time now -- and I said I would try out. I had been in acting classes, thought it would help me handle a better council meeting, and to my surprise, we got picked."

The popular and personable mayor plays the grumpy Norman Thayer, an aging man facing his own mortality. Mrs. Rich plays Ethel, Norman's supportive and understanding wife.

In the play, the two are spending time at their New England retreat, a cabin on the beautiful Golden Pond. They're visited by their divorced daughter, Chelsea (Renee Sheldon), and her fiance, Charlie (David Easter). Charlie's son, Billy Ray (played alternately by David Bobola and Greg Wilker), is dropped off to spend time with the Thayers while the younger couple take a trip to Europe. After a rough start together, young and old learn from each other.

The play was made into a movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, who both won Oscars for their roles.

"It's been a lot of hard work, but I am thoroughly enjoying it," Rich said. "It's very rewarding. We've gotten five standing ovations so far. Everybody seems to like it."

Playhouse 19 is in a rented 103-seat theater, but will soon move into a 500-seat performing arts center being built on nine acres near Rock Crusher Canyon donated by developer Stan Olsen.

On Golden Pond has seven more performances, including a special 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.

At a glance

  • WHAT: On Golden Pond

  • WHERE: Playhouse 19, 865 U.S. 19, Crystal River

  • WHEN: Thursdays and weekends through May 7. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Special matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday.

  • TICKETS: $10, reserved seating. Call (352) 795-1333 for availability

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