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 April 12, 2013

The Actor Who Won the Recent Reality Show Search

Things are coming along nicely for the Broadway revival of the 1975 musical Good Time Charley. And as you've certainly heard, for the last few weeks the production's powers-that-be have been searching for a talented unknown to play the lead through a new reality show Looking for Mr. Good Time.

I was invited on the set of the six-week marathon, and was given carte blanche to tell you about the winner. Now that he's been selected, I'm simply going to let him speak for himself. Here's the bio he wrote for the program for his most recent engagement, in which he had the Tony Randall role in a revival of U.T.B.U. in Dingwall, Scotland.

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Walter Plinge, truly a renaissance man of the theater, has seen his name printed in Playbill, Stagebill and countless community theater programs. All these are the result of his achievements as an actor-director-producer-writer-designer-cum-Boy Friday for this most ephemeral of art forms. He is also an accomplished bassoonist who has not only developed his own one-man music piece Ravel Unraveled (available on WP Records), but has also subbed at two Broadway shows. Listen hard and hear his bassoonability on the soundtrack album of Wicked.

Looking back, Mr. Plinge was destined to enter the theater, for he was born into theatrical royalty (which of course means he was born in London). His grandfather, C. Leonard Plinge, was a critic for his high school newspaper, and gets credit for introducing the term "Mama Rose" into the theatrical lexicon. Not only that: Mr. Plinge’s father was cast in the singing chorus of I Picked a Daisy while his mother was chosen for the dancing chorus of A Pray by Blecht. They influenced Little Walter to get an early start in theater. My Fair Lady, Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, Carousel and 42nd Street were only some of the mammoth smash hits that he attended.

Before Young Walter left his teens, he’d already made his mark on the theater. He was – and is still -- the only person to be associated with the longest-running production in West End history (The Mousetrap) as well as the longest in Broadway history (The Phantom of the Opera), having worked his way up from substitute usher to head usher at both.

After emigrating to America – and working at his day job of tending bar during executive rush hour (and entertaining mightily on Open Mike nights) -- Mr. Plinge was discovered by the Natrona (Wyoming) Friends of the Drama’s artistic director Dick Green, who decided to groom him for stardom. However, Mr. Plinge asked for no favors (which is more than he can say for Mr. Green) and insisted on working his way through the ranks. Talent will out: Mr. Plinge’s ensemble work in The Fantastics, For Me and My Girl, The Bells Are Ringing and Mama Mia! almost always resulted in his being rewarded with the first curtain call of anyone in the cast.

Mr. Plinge was then selected as a back-up singer in the short-lived but fondly remembered An Evening with Burnside Gooch. Next he was The Voice of Harper Lee in Dewey Defeats Truman, the musical that told of Mr. Capote’s flunking out of library school. The third jewel of the triple crown was his playing Fourth Husband's Corpse in the world premiere of the cult musical classic The Fleury D'Antonakis Story.

After that, Mr. Plinge graduated to leads. Favorite Fringe roles include The CEO in The Committee to Give Krazy Glue a More Respectable Name and Pesto in The Other Marx Brother (in which he introduced the novelty hit, “If You Thought Groucho Was Annoying, You Should Meet Pesto”). His performance as Juror Number One (the foreman, mind you, and not just another juror) in 12 Angry LBGT Men and Women resulted not only in his being acclaimed as "the country's most exciting new actor" by frequent theatergoer Maude Plinge but also in his winning the coveted Dramo Award -- Natrona's highest theatrical honor – which proved that he was ready for New York.

Mr. Plinge can now list Tevye, Captain Von Trapp, Henry Higgins, Cervantes/Quixote, Edna Turnblad and “Old Dry as Dust” Egerman among the many roles for which he's auditioned. What's more, he received numerous callbacks for the vast majority of them. But Mr. Plinge, not one to waste an opportunity, traded his suddenly (and unexpectedly) unneeded scripts for Fiddler, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Hairspray and A Little Night Music for a subscription to the Barter Theater in Virginia. Throughout the season, as a tribute to his favorite movie Star Wars, he alternated between seats R2 and D2.

Next came his controversial performance in Snoopy -- not the musical about the dog in Peanuts, but the children’s musical about the C.I.A.'s first child spy. Appearing in it is proof positive of how Mr. Plinge has been careful not to neglect our next generation of theatergoers. He has also performed in TYA productions of The Selfish Shellfish, The Antelope Who Loved Cantaloupe and Caballio (that’s Latin for “pony”) in the children's musical version of Equus.

Despite not being cast in the adult dog-oriented Snoopy, Mr. Plinge has had ample opportunity to show his affinity for the animal kingdom. He insists that his sensitivity to dumb animals (and the many dog-years he spent with his pet collie Anyanka) were directly responsible for his acclaimed reimagining of Nana in Peter Pan as a bitch named Nanette. Mr. Plinge was soon graduated into playing musical horses, starting as the back end of the title character of My Lover Flicka before moving to the more exalted front position when portraying Annie Oakley's horse in the murder mystery musical The Frank Butler Did It.

After those, however, Mr. Plinge made a concerted effort to become a classical actor, and received a degree in Serious Acting from the on-line branch of the University of Phoenix. His many Shakespearean appearances started with Third Musician in Romeo and Juliet before he advanced to Second Gaoler in Cymbeline and then catapulted to First Commoner in Julius Caesar, all for the Halsingborg Arts Council Amateur Theatre Group's Second Stage. This all led to his realizing every classical actor's dream – portraying Hamlet on the main stage -- in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Mr. Plinge then took on the greatest challenge by playing a Shakespearean role most diametrically opposed to his personality. For although his Bottom has often graced A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he has been a lifelong Top. (Ask anyone!)

His Hamlet, however, was the watershed that forced Mr. Plinge to ask himself, “To be or not to be more than an actor?” That spurred him to write Benjamin Barker, his own one-man prequel to Sweeney Todd, in which he also starred as well as directed, produced, designed the set, the costume for the curtain call and the lighting for Act Two. (Keep an eye on Kickstarter for the next incarnation.)

He then devised 110 in the Cole, a revue of over nine dozen Cole Porter songs, which inspired esteemed Pennysaver critic Cuthbert Rune to rave, "What an idea: to start a Cole Porter revue with 'Another Op'nin', Another Show' and to end it with 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.'" For Guys and Dolls 2, Mr. Plinge’s jukebox musical that was much-acclaimed before a certain estate closed it down (you know who you are!), he sang Stephen Sondheim's "I Remember Sky."

Mr. Plinge has also spent time on the other side of the footlights. At the Pago Pago Mask & Wig Club, he directed the first modern dress production of The School for Scandal. That led to his founding The Fool Me Once Improvisational Theatre Company, which specializes in having actors dress up gaily, tote video recorders and balloons, ring doorbells and tell the residents who answer that they've won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. (Aw, come on -- can't you take a joke?)

During the occasional down time between legitimate productions, Mr. Plinge starred in the longest-running commercial ever for both Ex-Lax and, conversely and ironically, Kaopectate. His many industrials include Royal Typewriters, Betamax and Metrecal. He also recorded some political endorsements for Cora Hoover Hooper’s re-election campaign.

Mr. Plinge is almost no stranger to Broadway, for he was cast in the ensemble of Rebecca. Since its postponement, he’s taken over in the enviable role of its lead producer. Also in his producing plans is the Yeston-Kopit Kwamina. But he won’t abandon trodding the boards, for the five letters he’s received from Stephen Sondheim have assured him an audition in the next reincarnation of the show formerly known as Wise Guys, Strike It Rich, Gold, Bounce and Road Show.

In conclusion, Mr. Plinge gives his profound thanks to the women who have most influenced him: Annie, Annie 2, Anya, Carrie, Christine, Coco, Fanny, Gigi, Irene, Jennie, Juno, Lorelei, Mame and Molly as well as his pal Joey. He dedicates this performance to his children Tony, Oscar and Emmy as well as to his beloved old Grammy. But to all his other relatives who ostracized him after he came up with a few wrong answers on Family Feud, Mr. Plinge says “Look at me now!”

However, given that Mr. Plinge knows deep in his bones that he is Sophocles reincarnated, he thus reserves his greatest thanks and appreciation to Zeus. Go Cubs! and

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So there you have it. I could make a few snarky comments. Instead, I'm going to take my cue from Good Time Charley himself, who sang "Why can't we all be nice?” – even to reality show stars.

         — Peter Filichia


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