Jules Verne’s 1872 adventure novel Around the World In Eighty Days has been adapted numerous times in all different formats; stage, screen, written word, and in language after language (it was originally written in French, after all).
There are, of course, the movies and TV adaptations in more recent history—including the 1989 miniseries starring Pierce Brosnan and Eric Idle and the 2004 film starring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan.
Now, add Savannah Repertory Theatre to the list of adaptations of this unique story. The show, opening on Fri., Dec. 13, will star 5 actors in a staggering 39 roles. That’s something to behold in itself, but the actors involved will no doubt bring the show to life in a new and refreshing way.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Around the World in Eighty Days follows Phileas Fogg as he travels the globe in—you guessed it—eighty days. The trek risks his entire fortune, so he’s enlisted his servant Passepartout to assist him on the journey.
“I think what’s different about [our version] is that doing it in one place with just five actors, and creating all of these locations and 39 characters, means that we have to create our own adventure,” Victoria Mack, who plays both Passepartout and John Sullivan, tells Connect.
“Part of what’s fun about the play is all of that invention that you’re seeing.”
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte plays Detective Fix, mainly, but also takes on numerous other characters—so many that both he and Mack weren’t exactly sure of a number.
“It’s lovely playing Detective Fix, because I get this freedom in that the piece is very playful. He seems himself as very important, and has a lot of pride in what he does,” Guilarte says. “He’s chasing this man around the world. It’s really fun to switch in and out of that role and into others. It’s one of the attractions of it!”
As it turns out, Mack and Guilarte, who are married, were initially supposed to play each other’s roles in the show.
“After reading the script, I was like, ‘It might be fun if they let us switch it.’ They were very accommodating and interested to see what would happen. It’s such a clown piece, in a sense. It’s been very fun,” Guilarte says.
“Nick Corley, the director, and Jenn Bishop who runs Savannah Rep, they were actually at our wedding,” Mack adds. “We know each other, so there’s a lot of trust.”
Mariana Taitano plays Aouda primarily, as well as other characters, and has a long history with both of her co-stars. Mack and Guilarte both taught her at SCAD.
“Aouda is kind of just thrown into this entire story,” Taitano says. “She’s an Indian princess who’s about to be burned to death. She comes in and accepts what comes to her through this entire show. It actually goes along with the entire playful nature of the show and the process. We’ve had to do that the entire rehearsal process—doing what comes to us and just rolling with it. It’s been really fun.”
Mack says that the rehearsal time for the show is only two weeks, which adds to the excitement of the process—especially given how many characters each actor is playing.
“I just directed Mariana in a play at school, and we had seven weeks of rehearsal. This is just two weeks,” she explains.
“We’re moving at breakneck speed,” Guilarte adds with a laugh.
“Before we started, I was in a panic. There are a lot of words in this play, so it was like, ‘How are we even going to memorize it?’ But once we got on our feet, we just hit the ground running. And then it starts sticking and everything starts making sense. My comfort zone is jumping in and out of things, and that’s when it’s most exciting. I love the challenge of making those transformations.”
The show, which also features cast members Chris Soucy and Britt Michael Gordon (both incredibly seasoned and notable actors with extensive histories), opens on Dec. 13 with a performance that will partially benefit the Savannah Council on World Affairs. 40 percent of ticket sales from the opening performance will help the organization in their mission to “broaden community interest in and promote the study of international issues.”
Savannah Rep is Savannah’s only equity theater and is a 501(c)(3) organization. The theater’s artistic director is Sandra Karas, and Jenn Bishop serves as managing director.