As many of you heard in our premiere episode of the On-Air On-Soaps Podcast that All My Children’s Jacob Young, along with his producing and directing partner, Mark Rozzano, have launched the new Soap Star Mystery Theatre in Los Angeles, which features lesser known, yet wildly entertaining works of legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie. I attended last night’s opening at the Writers Guild of America in Beverly Hills, where several of Young’s AMC cast mates and other soap and primetime notables headlined the reading of The Unexpected Guest. Jacob had a huge hand in casting the roles of unusual suspects for the play. So I had to ask when he looked at AMC’s Vince Irizarry (David) for the play, did he cast him against type, or can we expect to see his evil ways? Young responded, “He is playing his type.” (Laughs) Ah, my first hint that Vincent was going to end up being the murderer! Adam Mayfield (Scott) plays a servant/nurse who seems to be on the shady side, too! Then I had to ask, who else from Pine Valley would he love to see participate in a future reading. Young replied, “I was speaking to David Canary (Adam) and hopefully we can use him down the road.” Next, Jacob with pride and a bit of sadness also gave his views on Canary’s upcoming retirement from soaps. “He is at a point now where his home is in Connecticut. He has been stationary out here in LA for a while and it was always the plan for David to come out to LA with the move of All My Children for just a few months. Regardless, if he were on the east coast or here in LA, he would have probably retired at the same time. He has had such a wonderful run and is a talented man and a workaholic. He deserves a break. Maybe he will get restless, and knowing David as I do, he might. And I certainly do hope he comes back. Working with David has been such a thrill for me and he is such a giving actor. And I think his wrap-up story is going to be great. When I heard it, I thought it was fantastic.”
The actors only had a full rehearsal and run through and that was about it for the Mystery Theatre reading. It was sort of fly by the seat of your pants, which many daytimers are used to. The star of the reading, Stephanie Powers (best known from television’s Hart to Hart) shared with me her utmost respect for the soap genre… something that is nice to hear for a change from someone on the outside of daytime television. Powers stated, “It’s wonderful to work with all these daytime people. They are fabulous. They are absolutely ready to improvise and absolutely ready to keep it going. If you don’t have the dexterity to change on a dime it can be tough, and the daytime stars are amazing. What they do on a daily basis is phenomenal!” So then I asked if Powers would be interested in stopping by Pine Valley and doing some scene work with Susan Lucci? “Yes, but I don’t know if I could cut it. They work very fast.”
Vince Irizarry filled me in on how he has been so busy at AMC that he was on overload prior to the performances. “To be honest with you a week and half ago I was dreading tonight, because I am working so much right now on All My Children. I did eight shows last week and six the week before, and another six this week. I have been doing it the last month and half. However, I am happy I did this tonight, and we pulled it together.” Vince let me know that having Constance Towers (Helena, GH) up on stage with him as one of the suspects was a delight. And what soap fan would not want to see a smackdown between two of daytime’s biggest all-time troublemakers? And speaking of Constance Towers, she is one of my very favorite people in the world! She stopped by to speak with me about Helena’s… Lucky Spencers! “Jacob Young was my Lucky. I adored him and the first time I saw him, I remember Helena had him in a limousine. I was taking him to revisit all the places he had been with his parents by torturing him and thus torturing Luke and Laura, because I was playing with his mind. We are in the limousine and I looked into that face and those beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. And the thing about Jacob is his innocence, and he was so dear to work with. And I saw him grow as an actor and he won an Emmy! And now to be on stage with him is fun.” Then we talked about Constance’s current 2010 Lucky, Jonathan Jackson. “He too is one of the nicest human beings you could ever hope to meet. He is a great father and he is clean cut, and an intense actor. You get into a scene with him and he is wonderful. I just expect him to win another Emmy.”
Robert Newman (Ex-Josh, GL) played the inspector in the piece and was supported in the audience by Kim Zimmer (Ex-Reva, GL) who told me she is hard at work on her book that should be a doozy! When I spoke to Robert, it was the first time I had seen him since the Daytime Emmys and several months since Guiding Light went off the air. I asked Robert if he has finally moved past the mourning process. “Honestly, I think I got a wave of it and then my play Sessions closed in early January, and the next couple weeks it hit me hard. I hit a wall. My body gave up on me for a couple weeks and that came and went. I have been keeping busy. I just shot a Law and Order SVU!” So, I had to ask will Newman plays a creepy guy, like many of the guest stars on the crime drama? “I may play a freak, and it’s a fun group over there.” (Laughs)
Robert and I went on to speak about the last episode of GL. He stands by his opinion, that the ending was the way it was supposed to be. “I think Guiding Light ended the way it was supposed to end. I think it had to be Reva and Josh. I am not sure why the kid was there? (Laughs) Kim and I joke about it all the time. I think it had to be the last line of “Always” and panning up to a lighthouse. ”
Newman also looked back on how the powers-that-be handled the ending of the series with the cast and crew, and the balancing act that had to be done to finish the series long run. “In the end, I feel like we all handled it quite well and I think they gave us a lot of notice. I have corporate friends who in that world, if they lose their jobs are told to clean their desk that day. They gave us four months or so. I think we just rose to the occasion. I remember the day they told us about it and there was a lot of emotional stuff that went on. And then we went to shoot and that phrase, “We got work to do,” constantly carried us through right till the last day of taping.”
Along with Kim Zimmer there were a few other notables in attendance. First, one of my favorite couples, Juliet Mills (Ex-Tabitha, Passions) and her husband, Maxwell Caufield. Catching up on old times, the three of us couldn’t help but discuss the hard times the US soaps are having as compared to the British ones, especially in lieu of Caufield’s run on the hit UK soap, Emmerdale.
Caufield expressed, “British soaps are in primetime and they are only a half-hour long so they move a lot quicker. They are able to hold on to their audience, and it’s a different vibe. They air between seven and eight o’clock at night. So they have a huge captive audience. Peyton Place was one of the great American soap operas at night. And I can’t believe the American Broadcasters and networks have not thought about re-tooling these shows to air in primetime. I am just getting over being shot in the shoulder blades by my wife, who didn’t take kindly to having a bigamist husband. (Laughs) It was on Emmerdale. It was shot in Yorkshire and in a beautiful part of the country. There is nothing like consistent work, and that is why everyone wants to jump on these soaps. All the more reason for the networks to cherry- pick some of the vintage actors that are out there. So it’s not all about 20 year olds who are stripping down to the waist!” On a side note, Juliet and Max did just celebrate Valentine’s Day where they tell me it’s always a special day in their relationship! “We actually went out and bought a bed,” laughs Mills!
Hollywood legends Jerry Lewis and Cloris Leachman came to see Jacob’s creation and were very impressed! (See pic to right) So how was the play you ask? Well I have to say; Jacob Young showed another side of his award winning acting, as the mentally challenged Jan Warwick. He stole the show, and that is hard to do with the likes of the talented performers on the stage. Next month, The Soap Star Mystery Theatre will continue with an all-new Agatha Christie play and some more of your favorites from daytime. If Young and company can get more LA soap actors to get in on this concept (that is their plan), and have them rotate through the proposed eight different Agatha Christie mysteries, it will be a very fun series of shows and evenings for soap fans that could be better than a good old television soap opera murder mystery!