Hollywood actor returns for Waterworks production

Published 5:27 am Thursday, February 18, 2016

By Edward Kinman

Longwood University

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Waterworks Players is pleased to welcome back Hollywood actor Happy Mahaney after a 20-year hiatus in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“I remember it well,” Waterworks’ Artistic Director Dudley Sauvé said, “it was our first production in our current home after we lost our previous venue (Farmville’s State Theatre on Main Street) when the roof collapsed from the weight of snow.”

While the spring production was set, who would play the role of Matt was unknown.

“We needed someone who could play a romantic adolescent and be able to sing baritone,” Sauvé said, “when I spotted Mahaney at a high school theatre competition. He was doing a great job in a challenging role, but could he sing? I asked him to audition, and the rest is history.”

Mahaney’s foray into musical theatre went well. “He listened carefully and did what I told him to do,” chuckles Sauvé.

Other cast members in the 1996 production of “The Fantasticks” also took note of young Mahaney. Ed Baker, who played Matt’s onstage father, said Mahaney had great talent, while actor Stevie Journey remarked, “If this is your first theatre adventure, then we should all watch out. You did great!”

“My mother also remembers the show,” Mahaney said, “as she would drive me from Blackstone to Farmville for every practice.” Thinking back on that experience, Mahaney remembers the smell of fresh paint and the packed audiences sitting around tables at the newly built facility.

From Waterworks Players, Mahaney studied Theater Arts at Virginia Tech. Over the years he built a resume that includes a traveling stint in the second national “MAMMA MIA!” tour, roles in several television shows on the WB Television Network, and parts in movie productions “Boo,” “Hollywood Kills” and “I Hate Musicals.” In addition, Mahaney has been filmed in numerous commercials and has taught at the Young Actors Project.

Comparing his various career roles Mahaney said, “My part in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ is challenging. In fact, this is one of the hardest plays I’ve ever done.” He notes that, “unlike television or a movie set where scenes are shot out of sequence, the stage requires actors to understand a story’s sequence and mistakes can’t be cut like they can on film.” On the other hand, the actors thrive on the energy from a live audience.

“The length, language and complex characters scares most directors from ever staging this show,” Mahaney said, “give Dudley Sauvé credit for tackling such an important literary work.” After 20 years being away from Virginia, Mahaney is looking forward to reuniting with a mentor who played an important part during his formative years.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” continues its run this weekend. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets can be purchased for $12 by going to the Waterworks’ web site: waterworksplayers.org or calling the theatre at (434) 392-3452.