‘Philadelphia Story’ stars TV, film veteran Grace Andrews

‘Philadelphia Story’ stars TV, film veteran Grace Andrews

A couple of personal journeys come full circle in the Fort Smith Little Theatre production of “A Philadelphia Story,” opening Sept. 22.

For director Tina Dale, it’s her main stage directorial debut but also hearkens back to her childhood, when she watched classic movies with her dad.

“I can vividly remember sitting beside him watching ‘The Philadelphia Story’ with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart,” she reminisces. “I had seen Jimmy Stewart in a few movies by then and had a huge crush on him. I think I had seen Cary Grant, too. But it was the first time I saw Katherine Hepburn, and I was in awe. Because of my personal attachment to the film, I was thrilled when I was chosen to direct ‘The Philadelphia Story’ for FSLT’s 75th season. I just wish my dad, who has now passed away, was here to see it.”

For Grace Andrews, playing the leading role of society divorcee Tracy Lord, it’s a return to the theater where she played her first “big girl” roles.

“I acted in FSLT productions when I was younger — middle school and a little in high school. I grew up in the Young Actors Guild and to me, the FSLT felt like Broadway when I was little because you got to act with adults,” she says. Having recently moved back to Fort Smith after a career in TV and film, “I really wanted to do a play, to put it plainly,” she says. “It’s been an adjustment for sure, but it’s been a fun challenge!”

The play opens upon a flurry of wedding plans for Tracy Lord’s marriage to up-and-coming politician George Kittredge (Ian Miller). Scandal is brewing because the family patriarch Seth Lord (Charles Belt) has left his wife Margaret (Jill Ledbetter) to take up with a glamorous dancer and, as FSLT publicist Audra Sargent puts it, “the media smells blood in the water.”

To prevent a tabloid from publishing a story about the affair, brother Sandy Lord (Brandon Bolin) offers full wedding access to a journalist, McCauley “Mike” Conner (Eric Wells) and his photographer/girlfriend Liz Imbrie (Jamie Lambdin-Bolin). Complicating matters further is the arrival of Tracy’s charming and still devoted ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Christian Meurer), Tracy’s younger sister Dinah (Isabella Ree), who is determined to get Tracy back with Dexter, and Uncle Willie (Brett Short) whose relentless skirt chasing creates complications aplenty.

“This is a really fun show,” Dale says. “The females are strong and sassy. The male characters are great. Though it was written in 1939, there is something timeless about it. Don’t misunderstand; the story is not one that could be set in today’s world, but the emotions and actions are something people can always understand. I know our audiences will be entertained.”

“Comedy always wins,” agrees Andrews. “Not to mention it’s a beloved classic, so I think that’ll provide some nostalgia.”

Andrews left Fort Smith for Los Angeles right after high school for an internship with casting director Elizabeth Barnes and ended up staying for five years.

“Things just fell into place,” she says. “I enrolled in an acting conservatory program, worked on TV/film sets, auditioned, and had some pretty cool opportunities such as having speaking roles on Netflix’s ‘GLOW’ and ABC’s ‘American Crime.’”

In 2017, she moved to Atlanta to get involved in “the bustling film industry” there and “worked at Catapult Acting Studios where I filmed and coached actors for their audition tapes while still auditioning and pursuing acting myself. I was in Atlanta for 4 1/2 years and recently moved back to Fort Smith a few months ago.

“I’m so happy to be back in the area and to get involved with FSLT that helped start this whole journey for me!”



‘The Philadelphia Story’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22-24; 2 p.m. Sept. 25; again Sept. 28-Oct. 1

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St.

COST — $20 opening night; $12 other performances

INFO — fslt.org or 783-2966

Categories: Theater