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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008 09:38 pm

It’s no Secret. These guys can act!

Play about the Pentagon Papers features stellar cast

Untitled Document This year has already brought exciting theater offerings — including the Springfield Theatre Centre’s Dreamgirls, which warmed things up during two bitterly cold weekends — to the capital city, and more is on the way, beginning with Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, which opens at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1. The production stars stage and screen stars John Heard, John Vickery, Shannon Cochran, and Gregory Harrison. Written by Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons and performed by the L.A. Theatre Works, the play is on tour before opening in Los Angeles in March. The theater company is known for riveting live performances of radio dramas that feature leading actors.
Top Secret takes an inside look at the decision made in 1971 by the Washington Post to publish what became known as the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret document about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
It is rare for a tour with such well-known actors to stop here. All of the stars are seen frequently on television and in film. They also have high-profile stage experience: I saw John Heard on Broadway in a production of The Glass Menagerie starring Jessica Tandy. Gregory Harrison played Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway and on tour. John Vickery played Scar in The Lion King on Broadway. Shannon Cochran has performed at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre (Man from Nebraska) and won acclaim in New York for her performance in the hit play Bug. Tonight (Jan. 31) one of the cast members will be part of an “Inside Acting Panel” for aspiring actors and interested theatergoers at 7:30 p.m. in the University of Illinois at Springfield Studio Theatre.  
For ticket and show information, call the box office at 217-206-6160 or go to www.sangamonauditorium.org. Looking forward: • Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes (“Doug” and “Julie” from Days of Our Lives) will be in Springfield for two performances of A.R. Gurney’s play Love Letters: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 — at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. I have to fess up: I was an apprentice onstage with Bill Hayes in 1776 at the Little Theatre on the Square in 1972. I saw them both last summer in Follies, and seeing them perform Love Letters (a play that spans more than 50 years) will be a lesson in acting. Also coming up at the Hoogland Center for the Arts is Steve Williams’ production of The Nerd, a hilarious comedy by Larry Shue that was a hit off-Broadway and ran for years. It plays Feb. 8-10 and 15-17. For tickets to Love Letters and The Nerd, call 217-523-2787. Finally, the Jacksonville Theatre Guild is staging the courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men at the Sophie Leschin Theatre Feb. 8-10 and 15-17. For tickets, call 217-245-1402.
Director/writer/actor Phil Funkenbusch is a regular contributor.
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