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Fred Grandy (L), Jill Whelan (C), and Ted Lange (R) have been enjoying their time rehearsing by night, and soaking up local flavor by day, including a stop at the iconic Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Photo Courtesy of Jill Whelan.

By Chuck Colby

It’s opening week of the next show at the Encore Theatre in Dexter, which created a wonderful opportunity for The Sun Times News to interview the cast of “I am not Rappaport” which is a literal “Love Boat” reunion. The cast includes sitcom shipmates “Fred Grandy (Gopher), Ted Lange (Isaac), and Jill Whelen (Vicki Stubing, the Captain’s Daughter). The show opens April 11th at The Encore Theatre in Dexter. STN sat down with the stars of the show in a recent interview, moments after the eclipse.

This is not The Encore’s maiden voyage aboard the Love Boat, Fred Grandy previously appeared on stage at the Encore in 2021 as Harry Truman in “Give em Hell Harry.” Grandy, Lange, and Whelen share how the show came together.

Grandy: “I was doing the Harry Truman thing here in Dexter. Vince Cardinal who you may know from the musical theater program at University of Michigan and the board of directors here at Encore, had directed us in “Rappaport” in Syracuse, and I said, “How about if we try and do Rappaport at the Encore” to which he said, “I love it!” I called Ted. And I said, “What do you think of this idea? What if What if Jill (Whelan) played my daughter, Clara, in the show?” And he said, “Oh, you think they’d go for that?” So we called Vincent he said, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” It took him about five minutes to sell it to Dan Cooney. And so then I called Jill and asked her here, and I think you said yes, before I even mentioned the project. Oh my gosh, I think you probably yes! So anyway, I said “okay, here are the dates. Yeah. And here’s the situation and she’s in and now she’s playing the daughter and she’s…she’s got the role for as long as she wants it. As far as I am concerned!”

STN: How fun, and I’ve got to believe that this is a really enjoyable reunion for you guys as well.

Grandy: “I mean, Ted and I just finished doing “Inherit the Wind” in Syracuse, So we work together. This is the first time the three of us have all been together in a project, absent, of course, The Love Boat cruises that we they still ex

hume us for.”

Grandy: “When we did “Give em Hell Harry”, One of the

things that I liked about this place, is that it’s obviously very well loved by the community. But it’s really a lab. It was really Encore that shaped the show. And so when we got a chance to bring THIS show to Encore, I said, “Well, this couldn’t be better.” This is one of the most supportive places for artists that I’ve worked. “It’s a great show to do. It’s not an easy show. The scenes, although they’re very funny are very complex. I mean, this is a play about family and friendship, and the tragedy and comedy of growing old, and there are a lot of elements involved here and you see it from both sides. the old people, and the people who have to take care of the old people, and that can be very funny sometimes and it can be absolutely devastating.”

Whelen: “This is my life at the moment with my parents. Right now. I just got off the phone with my mother. We were talking about it and my mother said “well, you know, I understand what it feels like to be marginalized and be irrelevant anymore.”

Grandy: “There’s a wonderful line, a little sequence right near the beginning, The character that Ted plays has been a building super for many, many, many years. But he’s just about to get canned, because the building is going co-op, and they are essentially automating, So, part of the first act is I’m impersonating a lawyer, trying to get him to change his mind about this guy. And he looks at him and says, “What do you expect me to do? The man has an easy 80”. And I look at him and say “There is NOTHING…EASY…ABOUT 80!” and knowing the people that patronize The Encore, if I don’t get applause on that line. I’m gonna be surprised!”

Whelan: “It’s, uh, it’s tough on both sides. I was saying that. We just had a conversation with my dad. That he can’t drive anymore. We told him you may not, and that, for a man especially, is taking away some independence, but what do you do? Do you let them get on the road when there’s a young family driving in another car? You can’t”

Lange and Grandy commented that they have some scenes in the show that require some physicality, note the knee pads! Photo Courtesy of Jill Whelan.

Grandy: “That’s a hard plot-line in the show. My daughter is essentially trying to keep me from hanging out in Central Park and getting mugged. Yeah, you know, we’re both playing 81 year old guys in this show”

Whelan: “But their personalities are these young anarchist men. I mean, it’s like anybody says you may be 80, but you’re not up here, (pointing at her head) right? You’re, you’re.. 80 physically, but in your mind, you’re 30-40!”

Grandy: “In my case, I do this now, to stay young. Working on these shows, is a great way to play beat the Reaper as far as I’m concerned. Yeah. You know, I live in North Carolina now and most of my friends are retired people from the corporate world or lawyers, and they play golf, four or five times, I play golf twice a week if I played four times a week, I would probably be in intensive care, right? I just, I just have to keep doing this stuff and that’s very much like these two characters. They have to keep going to the park. They have to keep re-inventing themselves, and, you know, creating an active life for them. And in many ways, they’re in the eighth or ninth decade of their life, but they’re still adolescents. And that’s the way a lot of old people are, you know, the older they get, the younger they become. And, and so that’s really my take on this and I’m hoping that this audience, which which at least based on my experience with “Give em Hell Harry” tends to be a little older. I hope they’ll respond to this. Because really it’s not just talking about them, it’s talking to them.

Whelan: “I also hope that people my age will come because I’m talking to them. So it is a wide Myriad we have.”

In addition to sharing a little bit about the production, Grandy also commented on the importance of theater in our communities.

Grandy: “It’s never been more important to keep live theater going than right now, because everything is handheld video on your phone, and AI, and video and audio. I’m saying, Don’t you realize places like this (Encore) and places like where we work have been, in many ways, if not crippled, certainly impeded by the pandemic, and if we don’t do something to try and get them up again and get people back into the seats, We’re going to lose this. A lot of people, particularly older people, don’t want to go back to the theater because they’re afraid “Oh, I might get sick or something may go wrong” and then you’ve got a lot of younger people that are just used to not going out because their attention span is so short because they’re on Tic Tok. This play is a lot of words, and we’ve got a wonderful group of people and great scenes, but you’ve got to listen! You can’t just sit there like this and wait for something to grab your attention, so for me I’ve got this purpose or a mission to keep these regional theaters going.

Lange: “What I’d like to say is come to the show. If you see the show and you like the show, tell people about it, Now if you see the show, and you don’t like the show, keep your damn mouth shut!”

Tickets for this special production of I’m Not Rappaport are now available for purchase online at theencoretheatre.org, or by contacting The Encore’s box office at 734.268.6200.

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