AP NEWS

League City actors star in Depression romance

March 7, 2019

League City actors play a charming drifter and the spinster who doubts his promise to end a West Texas drought — for a price — in “The Rainmaker,” a romance by N. Richard Nash that plays March 8-31 at Bay Area Harbour Playhouse in Dickinson.

“This has been one of my dream roles,” said Brandi Kiekel, who first encountered the part of Lizzie Curry when she performed a scene from the play at Clear Creek High School, where she graduated in 2002.

Meanwhile, Edward Waddell, who plays Bill Starbuck, steps into a role that director Mike Fabian played at Harbour in 2005.

“He is a fine talent and fits the part,” said Fabian, who is an attorney in Friendswood. “I think he can do just as good if not better than I did it. It’s a good character part, one an actor can really ‘sink his teeth’ into.”

The show is set around 1930, during the Great Depression on a ranch where the cattle are dying of thirst.

Starbuck convinces Lizzie’s father that if he pays him $100, Starbuck will make it rain.

“The drought is not only in the weather, but also in the lives of the characters,” Fabian said.

Starbuck encourages Lizzie to unleash her dreams and ambitions.

“Dream you’re somebody — be somebody!” he tells her.

“How all this works together toward the ending is, to me, fascinating,” said Fabian. “It’s always been one of my favorite shows. The author is a poet.”

“The Rainmaker” debuted on Broadway in 1954.

Its 1956 film version starred Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn.

In both the Broadway and movie versions, the story was in a small town in Kansas.

“We are setting it in West Texas,” said Kiekel, a Kansas native who moved to Texas when she was in second grade.

After high school, she returned to “The Sunflower State” for college, graduating with a bachelor of arts in theater from Kansas State University.

“I was married for a while and had two children,” she said, before returning to Texas as a single mother.

Kiekel earned a teaching certificate at the University of St. Thomas and teaches theater at Austin Middle School in Galveston.

She said her students have noted that she is “always experimenting with new stuff.”

For example, Kiekel recently sang and danced in four performances of “Banned Broadway,” a revue of risqué tunes from edgy musicals, at Upstage Arts in Webster.

“The Rainmaker” is more appropriate for a family audience, said Kiekel.

“I am doing this (role) for my kids,” she said, referring to her students at school. “Especially the eighth-graders. They started when I started teaching. They were fifth-graders, and now they are eighth-graders.”

Fabian also acts in the play, portraying the sheriff.

“The sheriff and Starbuck don’t meet in the script. However, Starbuck is wanted by the law,” the director said. “I’ve played cops, sheriffs and authority figures a lot in my time, so I know this character.”

Rounding out the cast are Sam Kee, C.T. Gomez, Jon Barajas and Daniel Partida.

“They are some of our ‘old hands’ around Harbour, with lots of experience,” Fabian said. “I think the audiences are in for a real treat with this caliber of a cast.”

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net.