The story that marks Tyler Civic Theatre’s triumphant return to live audiences begins on a dark and stormy night, with soft rumbles of thunder and the sounds of pattering rain, as actor Ryan Ordmandy shakes off his umbrella and steps into the bar for a quick visit with an old friend.
With strategically placed spotlights, the soft twinkle of music and an extensive array of props, thus begins the whirlwind tale of the captivating Miss Holiday Golightly, who transforms Manhattan’s Upper East Side with her mysterious antics, wild parties and vague past.
Based on Truman Capote’s classic novella, performances of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” are slated to begin this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and will run weekends through Oct. 18 at the Braithwaite Theatre, 400 Rose Park Drive.
Though preparations for the latest production have been unconventional, DeAnna Hargrove, managing director for the theater, said she is beyond thrilled to be welcoming audiences back to Tyler Civic Theatre in this way.
“Typically our season ends in May, and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ was scheduled to be our last show,” Hargrove said. “When COVID-19 happened, we had to make a quick decision and ended up canceling two shows.”
But the theater decided to go ahead and hold auditions for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” anyway – only this time, via Zoom.
“We informed the cast members that we didn’t know when the show would happen or how it would happen, but that if they were willing to be flexible we would love to move through this together,” Hargrove said. “That was seven months ago.”
The cast began with a read-through of the play, and then commenced weekly rehearsals online, meeting in person for the first time not until early summer, outside one of the cast members’ homes.
But rehearsals came to a halt once again when the summer musicals were canceled, out of respect and sadness, Hargrove explained.
“And so we are just so excited to actually be doing the play,” she said.
“Without a doubt, I’m so excited as far as the cast and crew for Tiffany’s,” Hargrove said. “Holly Golightly has been cast with Olivia Bodiford, and she brings the class and the quirkiness and just the sheer elegance that Audrey Hepburn brought to the role, but she truly made it her own, which I really love. She’s quite different and just lovely.”
Ordmandy is opposite Bodiford in the lead, and Hargrove says he has a personality ideal for the role of Fred, the Southern-born struggling writer who falls head-over-heels for Holly almost as soon as they meet.
“He’s intelligent, he’s handsome, he’s quirky in his own way,” Hargrove said. “He has a great sense of humor as a person, and he brings that to the character in such a sweet way.”
Hargrove had something positive to say about every other cast member, as well, from Brad Echols who is “just a strong, strong talent” to Ashten Ordmandy and Samantha Friedrich, who are “both just fabulous – the same but different – in their portrayal” of Mag Wildwood.
Calvin Sheffield, Carly Boaz, Alan Oliver, Allison Cambre, Dave Dickson, Kaylee Parker and John Baggett also make appearances throughout, and some of them “in surprising ways,” Hargrove said.
As the theater looks ahead to another season, they are “reimagining how to thrive” without the ticket sales that had sustained the program in the past. While the theater will continue to be creative as they move forward, offering certain features online, “the support of the community will be very important.”
“We need hope, we need a retreat, and while we are adjusting to so many new things, we need to keep looking forward to the things that bring us joy,” she said. “‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ … will put a smile on your face, a spring in your step and a glimmer in your eye.”
Showtimes run weekends, Oct. 1 through Oct. 18, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Seats are limited to half capacity, and masks are required. To order tickets, visit tylercivictheatre.com or call the box office at (903) 592-0561. Costs are $15 for students and $18 for adults.