“The 39 Steps” opening at Pioneer Playhouse Friday

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Pioneer Playhouse of Danville will open for its 75th season on Friday, June 7 with the play “The 39 Steps.”

Running from June 7 to June 29, the show is a zany comedy murder mystery based on the classic Hitchcock movie of the same name. It has spies chasing spies, mistaken identity, and good old-fashioned romance.

Robby Henson, son of playhouse founder Eben Henson, and artistic director of Pioneer Playhouse, is directing this first play.

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“As we look for special plays to pick, we look for comedies that engage our audience, and sometimes we look to very popular plays from years ago,” Robby said.

The playhouse presented “The 39 Steps” 12 years ago; Robby said it’s one of their favorite plays, and audiences loved it. He describes the play as a “Monty Python” version of the Alfred Hitchcock movie.

“It’s so well-written,” Robby said. “It’s a perfect show for our audiences. Lots of running around, lots of big laughs. Very high energy.”

“The 39 Steps” movie by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s was originally adapted from a book by John Buchan. It follows the plight of an ordinary man who suddenly gets mistaken for a British spy, and must go to extreme lengths to prove his innocence. Playwright Patrick Barlow made the story into a play in 2005 with a comic twist to the story.

The show was written to have four actors play 40 parts. However, Robby said that with so little rehearsal time, those logistics were too difficult. So the playhouse has eight actors playing 40 parts, and rehearsals are in full swing.

Robby said they have more new actors this year than in other years, as three-quarters of the actors are there for the first time.

“They’re all very exciting to work with and they’re all very talented,” he said.

Robby said audiences will love the fast-paced comedy, solving a crime mystery, and the love story.

“The 39 Steps” runs nightly from Tuesdays through Saturdays. There will also be a special ASL-Interpreted production for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The show begins at 8:30 p.m., and an optional dinner is served before the show.

“Our original BBQ Pulled Pork or Pulled Chicken is back by popular demand,” said Heather Henson, managing director of the playhouse. “It’s only $40 for a homemade dinner and a play by professional actors. We keep our prices low because we want folks to come out and be able to see a live show.”

In celebration of such a special year, Pioneer Playhouse is hosting a 75th Anniversary Gala on June 15 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

“No show that night, just a big glam and glitzy party,” said Robby. “Comedian Joe Deuce will be our MC, and Michael Fly and the Sounds will provide the dance music. We’ll have awards and alumni sharing memories of their time at the playhouse. It’s going to be a blast.”

The gala is sponsored by Farmers National Bank. There will be dinner, drinks and a bar serving alcohol to those 21 years and older. The cost is $75 per person and may be purchased online or through the box office.

Pioneer Playhouse is located at 840 Stanford Road in Danville. Reservations are required in advance for the 7:30 dinner; suggested for the 8:30 show. Tickets may be purchased online at pioneerplayhouse.com or by calling the box office at 859-236-2747.