Bob Frame has wanted to be part of another production of "Li'l Abner" for almost 50 years.
Frame, who heads the theater department at Cayuga Community College, is directing the Auburn Players Community Theatre's production of the musical based on Al Capp's long-running comic strip this weekend at the college. One reason Frame has waited so long to do the show again after performing it in middle school, he said, is the difficulty of finding suitable actors for the title role.
But in Shane Heidecker, a performer in the Merry-Go-Round Youth Theatre program, Frame found the "strong, good lookin' guy who can sing" to be his Abner.
With book by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, music by Gene De Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the musical takes place in the strip's hillbilly-spoofing setting of Dogpatch. Daisy Mae (Jessica Alexander) tries to catch Abner's eye, but he'd rather catch fish — until Dogpatch is selected to become a nuclear test site. The town's quest to prove it's worth saving leads Abner, and the tonic that gives him strength, to Washington. But General Bullmoose (Kristina Abbott) plots to steal the formula, while wrestler Earthquake McGoon (McCuin Gould) plots to steal Daisy Mae's hand in marriage.
The end result of what the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival does is art. It's subjectiv…
Though based on a humble comic strip, the musical is big, Frame said. He directs more than 40 performers on stage, who sing and dance in front of scenery made by Syracuse designer Navroz Dabu, and under lighting designed by Michael Broughton, formerly of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. Their colorful costumes, meanwhile, come with plenty of patches, to be sure.
"The world they've created for the actors to live in has been so wonderful," Frame said.
Though the show's secondary plots involve Republicans and Democrats who hate each other, as well as capitalists trying to seize control of a product, "Li'l Abner" doesn't point its finger in any particular directions, Frame said. And its characters are broad sketches, he continued, so not knowing anything about the comic strip won't stop audiences from having a good time.
"It's the old-style musical where you walk in, you sit down, you toe-tap and you enjoy the story happening in front of you," he said. "And you come out feeling good."