Pioneer Playhouse of Danville wraps up its regular 2021 season of plays with Jeeves in Bloom, a lively British comedy adapted by Margaret Raether from the short stories of PG Wodehouse about an imperturbable butler named Jeeves who must always come to the rescue of his irrepressible employer, Bertie Wooster.
Jeeves in Bloom (July 27 through August 7) opens with Bertie and Jeeves traveling to the English countryside to pay a visit to Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia. What starts as a relaxing getaway from London quickly slides into delightfully silly mayhem as Bertie tries to play matchmaker to a tongue-tied friend and help his aunt solve her cash flow problems through midnight burglary, while inadvertently getting on the wrong side of a knife-wielding French chef who goes ballistic over suspected stolen recipes.
“My mom is a big fan of the original short stories by PG Wodehouse,” says Heather Henson, Managing Director of Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, and daughter of founder Eben C. Henson and his wife, Charlotte Henson, who has continued the role of producer after her husband’s death in 2004.
“The stories were very popular in the 1940s and ’50s, and are considered British classics today. There was a super successful mini-series on PBS in the 1990s about Bertie and Jeeves, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. So, when Mom saw that some of the same stories had been newly adapted for the stage, she immediately ordered them.”
“Mom, Heather, and I each take turns reading the plays we’re considering and then we talk them through,” says Robby Henson, brother to Heather and artistic director of the 72-year-old landmark theatre. “Jeeves in Bloom is a comedy of manners in the vein of The Importance of Being Earnest, but it’s lighter, sillier. We think our audiences will really like the dynamic between the impulsive Bertie character and his completely unflappable confidante and fix-it man who also happens to be his butler.”
“Our company is so strong this year,” adds Heather. “The play is directed by long-time Playhouse favorite Daniel Hall Kuhn, who has directed some of our most successful shows, like Not Now, Darling. And it stars Patricia Hammond, Silas Waugh, Jessa DeLuca, Adian Chapman, and Erika Lee Sengstack, who have all wowed audiences with their chameleon-like performances this entire season.”
Besides a play, Pioneer Playhouse offers a home-cooked BBQ dinner (pulled pork or pulled chicken) at 7:00 pm before the 8:30 show. Patrons dine in a shaded, outdoor courtyard where Charlotte Henson still plays guitar and sings during dinner. The play is performed outdoors in a large, open amphitheater built entirely from reclaimed materials by the late founder.
“We are still playing it safe this year, not moving inside,” notes Heather. “If there’s light rain, we keep the show going, and folks can pull out their umbrellas and raincoats. If the weather worsens, we cancel and give a rain-check or refund.”