‘Odd Couple’ Bringing Loads of Laughs to Playhouse

AMP owner Gregg Dillingham puts the finishing touches on “The Odd Couple” set with box office volunteer Beth Perkins.

By Wilma Allen

Amelia Musical Playhouse is known for its fun productions of Broadway musicals, but this month, it’s going just for the laughs with “The Odd Couple.”

This mega-award-winning comedy by Neil Simon premiered on Broadway in 1965 and won a Tony Award for best play. It became a hit movie and a popular TV sitcom and has delighted theatre audiences ever since. Top stars Walter Matthew, Jack Lemmon, Art Carney, and others played the bickering roommates — sloppy Oscar Madison and finicky, fastidious Felix Unger.

In AMP’s production, Dan Cahill plays Oscar, and Jimmy Kalista plays Felix. Both actors are frequent performers on local stages, as are their co-stars, who play a rowdy bunch of poker players and two meddling upstairs neighbors.

“Our audiences want musicals all the time, but they also love to laugh, and this show is hilarious,” says Jill Dillingham, who opened Amelia Musical Theatre with her husband, Gregg, 11 years ago. Their goal was to provide a performance space where talented volunteers could act and make music to entertain and enhance the cultural life of our community. It appears to be working as planned.

They started by buying the rundown, eight-sided former Midway Bar, familiarly called “The Octagon,” and turned it into a cozy, casual theatre. Since then, they have produced over 140 shows, 60 of them full-scale musicals with actors, singers and dancers on stage, and musicians in “the pit.” From start to finish, all productions are the work of enthusiastic, theatre-loving volunteers, including the multi-talented Dillinghams who inspire them all. Even during the COVID years, the theatre kept going with volunteers building an outdoor stage behind the building for a series of “Under the Stars” revues and musicals.

“There are a lot of moving parts to our operation. We have something going on every day and every night,” Jill says. There are sets being built and taken down, auditions for actors and musicians, rehearsals, performances, housekeeping, and routine maintenance. Jill oversees the operation, plus she sings, acts, plays piano and often directs. Gregg covers set design, building, props and storage, and everything of a mechanical or physical nature.

The Senior Theatre Project is a new endeavor organized by actor-director, Jeff Goldberg, a stand-out in our local acting community. It takes performers from the theater to entertain at assisted living and nursing homes and recently produced “Fernandina by the Sea” to celebrate the bicentennial of Fernandina Beach.

AMP, a nonprofit organization, welcomes gifts and sponsorships. “The Odd Couple” is sponsored by Karen Newman in honor of her aunt, Char Bachman. It is directed by Bill Ivins, a singer/musician and graphic artist.

“The Odd Couple” starts Thursday, May 9 and runs through Sunday May 19, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For tickets, $20 each, call the box office at 904-277-3455 or go to [email protected].

If “The Odd Couple” has you craving more, there are musicals, dramas and a lot of laughs ahead. Both AMP and Amelia Community Theatre on Cedar Street have shows throughout the summer.

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