'Heaven Can Wait' - Whose body is this?

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Prize fighter/commercial pilot/saxophonist Joe Pendleton (Justin Moore) is prematurely whisked from the mortal coil by over-eager celestial messenger (Claire Edwards). She and her boss, Mr. Jordan (Justin Spaeth), spend the rest of "Heaven Can Wait" trying to find a body the picky Pendleton is willing to inhabit.

A more whimsical premise for a play is hard to imagine. Yet a movie starring Warren Beatty and a touring musical attest to the story's charm.

That appeal comes through in a new production mounted by the St. Vincent de Paul youth group. The play opens tonight and continues through Saturday at St. Vincent De Paul Parish Center in Cape Girardeau.

"Heaven Can Wait" goes beyond the question of whether we would want to know when we're going to die. "If you knew it one would not be able to contemplate the working of the universe," the dour Mr. Jordan explains. "Life would be rather dull."

Choosing life situation

The play enables the main character to choose his life situation. If Pendleton can't believe the fix he's in, it's primarily because he's sure he was in line to win the heavyweight championship. His primary goal is finding an athletic body. Moore makes him not particularly smart, but someone who stands up for what he thinks is right.

Pendleton is not even interested in the body of billionaire Jonathan Farnsworth until he finds out that Farnsworth's niece (Katie Jenkins) is plotting against sweet, pretty Bette Logan (Rachel Roggow).

Spaeth gives Mr. Jordan an all-business attitude. Edwards is winning as the earnest messenger who was only trying to save Pendleton from the agony of crashing in a plane. Andrew Strohmeyer is funny as Pendleton's manager, Max Levene, who made the mistake of having the body quickly cremated.

Jenkins makes niece Julia Farnsworth as unlikable and untrustworthy as Josh Essner makes her lover, Tony Abbott. Joelle Trower is strong as police inspector Williams. Danielle Schumer is the mystified housekeeper, Mrs. Ames.

Portraying smaller roles in the production are Rita Joe Dirnberger as the nurse, Chrissy Renick and Chelsea Spaeth as maids, Hailey Brown and Jessie Popp as heavenly escorts, Cole Jenkins as a workman, Ben Essner as Lefty and Sara Shafer as a doctor.

Extras include: Adam Reinagel, Lauren Essner, Zach Rice, Jessica Klipfel, Emily Meystedt, Theresa Yoffie, Layne Strattman, Mark Unterreiner, Matthew Long, Jonathan Long, Emily Bira, Katie Essner and Jessica Anderson.

A storm turned out the lights just before Monday night's rehearsal, but the actors soldiered on without sets at the St. Mary Cathedral School gym. Director Gerry Strohmeyer's cast excelled.

As Mr. Jordan says, "There is a design in everything."

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182


Want to go?

What: "Heaven Can Wait"

When: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday

Where: St. Vincent de Paul Parish Center, 742 Forest Ave., Cape Girardeau

Admission: $6. Seating is reserved. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the parish offices at 1913 Ritter. The remaining tickets will be sold at the door.

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