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George Street Playhouse returns to live theater with the romantic comedy "Ken Ludwig's Dear Jack, Dear Louise"

GSP Production of Dear Jack, Dear Louise.jpg
George Street Playhouse's production of Ken Ludwig's "Dear Jack, Dear Louise"

George Street Playhouse has returned to the stage with a touching romantic comedy Ken Ludwig's Dear Jack, Dear Louise by Ken Ludwig. David Saint, Artistic Director of GSP, will direct the performance that runs through November 21 at the Arthur Laurents Theater at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center.

The cast includes Bill Army from the Broadway smash-hit The Band's Visit, and Amelia Pedlow who performed the role of Louise in the original company of Ken Ludwig's Dear Jack, Dear Louise at Arena Stage.

Saint, Army and Pedlow joined WBGO News Director Doug Doyle to talk about returning to live theater and why the play is so special to all of them.

Doug Doyle/Zoom
WBGO's Doug Doyle (top right) chats with director David Saint (bottom) and actors Amelia Pedlow and Bill Army about Ken Ludwig's Dear Jack, Dear Louis

Set during World War II, this charming love story chronicles a long distance romance between a young soldier and his sweetheart, a young actress on Broadway. Tony award winner Ken Ludwig, who also wrote the comedies Lend Me A Tenor, Crazy For You, and Fox on the Fairway. based Dear Jack, Dear Louise on his own personal valentine to his parents and their war-time courtship, It premiered at Arena Stage in 2019 to great acclaim and audience adoration.

Amelia Pedlow fondly remembers her role in the original production.

"It was wonderful then in 2019 because it's a great play. It's so heartfelt and honest and he's created characters that are both equally very different and the ways in which they fall in love with each other and change throughout the play are very satisfying. But that was 2019. I will say coming out the other side of the last year and a half has made things, especially in the second act when they're in the middle of the crisis of World War II, that is a completely different and deeper and more honest experience for me right now as an actor. I have to say that's the gift about this time around doing it. Definitely when I did it at Arena, I would say things like why are they talking about things in their everyday lives when there's such a big horror happening around them. And now, having been through the last year and a half, I understand why sometimes my favorite phone calls to my favorite people, talking about our day to day lives, our little mishaps and what we cooked for dinner that night was the best and healthiest thing to do. So when that happens in the play now I get it."

Dear Jack Dear Louise.jpg
Ken Ludwig's Dear Jack, Dear Louise is running at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center through November 21

For Bill Army who plays soldier Jack Ludwig, going through the pandemic, has also prepared him differently for the role.

"My wife is a doctor and Jack is a doctor and I'm an actor and Louise is an actor, so that kind of actor-doctor pairing, which isn't sort of a pairing that I encountered too often in life, is sort of being brought to life in this way in this play. I think all the things that you (Amelia Pedlow) were talking about sort of being there to lift up somebody who is facing the global conflict in a way that is so direct, I think is 100 percent accurate. Being there for somebody seeing so many terrible things, that's a very real thing, and has been a real thing in our life over the last year. My wife was an emergency doctor who was at the center of the crisis in Queens. There were a lot of things that she saw and experienced. I always thought it was the job of me and my family to sort of lift her up so that she could go out and continue to be on the front lines. I think Louise does that so beautifully in the play."

For director David Saint, the story of Jack and Louise, reminds him of what his parents had to go through during wartime.

"For me, it's really a testament to my dad who was also a captain in the Army, highly decorated with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star and he was over there and fought right in the front of lines of the battles that they talk about in the script. He wrote letters home to his family and my mom which we still have, those letters. So it has a familial resonance for me, just with my dad and my uncle who was also over there. Having my dad's letters home and rereading them in light of this play has been very moving to me."

Saint says he's extremely excited about live theater returning to George Street Playhouse after getting creative with several virtual performances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

George Street Playhouse is in New Brunswick, NJ

"We are in this magnificent new building which we just opened, which is a state-of-the-art theater with two performance spaces, incredible rehearsal rooms and gorgeous lobby and all of that, we did three shows and had to shut down, so it was sort of anticlimactic. I'm so thrilled to be back and to be welcoming everyone to this magnificent new facility. The great thing also about it, dealing with COVID and the safety of all of our audiences is that it's a brand new state-of-the art air circulation, an HVAC system in this building so it's the best you can buy. Secondly, we are going to have a mandate for vaccinations, so people will have to show their proof of being vaccinated just like on Broadway and people wearing face masks during the show. I've been dying to get back to the theater and I hope our audiences are as well."

You can see the entire interview with David Saint, Bill Army and Amelia Pedlow here.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.