Meet the “Arsenic and Old Lace” cast: Gil Bazil brings the laughs in his 38th CTH show

Gil Bazil as Dr. Einstein in the Community Theatre of Howell's production of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

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The Community Theatre of Howell’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” takes the stage Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3. From now until opening night, the Livingston Post is introducing you to members of the cast and production staff.

In his 25 years with the Community Theatre of Howell, Gil Bazil hasn’t just done a little of everything – he’s done a LOT of everything.

Actor, assistant director, choreographer, stage crew.

High comedy, heavy drama, Broadway musicals, and everything in between.

Bazil is back in the comedic space in CTH’s current production, “Arsenic and Old Lace.” It’s one of the best-known and best-loved stage comedies of all time, and Bazil is having a blast playing Dr. Einstein.

“It’s a classic, well-written comedy that may be enjoyed both for its clever dialogue as well as outrageous antics and physical zaniness,” Bazil said. “The cast and staff are a wonderful blend of experienced veterans and enthusiastic new people. The director, George, is a retired theater professor who makes each rehearsal a master class in the art.”

“Arsenic and Old Lace” is a black comedy that’s the tale of two spinster aunts who have taken to poisoning lonely old men with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. When their nephew, Mortimer Brewster, finds out, he’s tasked with trying to stop them, while at the same time dealing with his crazy family.

Gil Bazil

Bazil, a Hartland Township resident, is in his 38th production with CTH. All told, he’s been involved in about 60 shows with various theater groups through the years.

As for how he got started with CTH, “I was intrigued by an audition announcement in the Livingston County Press for the CTH production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in January 1994,” he said. “This had always been my favorite musical having been involved in international folklore and dance, and particularly that of Eastern Europe, since starting college in 1970.

“Soon after arriving at the audition, I was struck by the great lengths the director, Vera Cunningham, and some of the other members of the group went to make me feel comfortable. Although my previous theater experience had been only one production of Fiddler as a specialty dancer 20 years before, I did have quite a bit of stage experience with multiple dance and music ensembles over the years and I quickly knew that this varied group of artists was something special. My excellent experience throughout that rehearsal and performance schedule led me to eagerly enlist in Mrs. Cunningham’s next project, the musical ‘Kiss Me, Kate,’ and many more thereafter.”

Bazil said his first experience with CTH in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is still one of his favorites.

“Of course, my first experience with CTH in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ stands out as one of my favorites among the six productions of that musical I have been privileged to participate in, as does my portrayal of Doc Gibbs in ‘Our Town,’ which I viewed as a tribute to my father, a dedicated physician,” he said.

Bazil said it’s hard to pick just one role, though, that stands out as his favorite.

“It’s gratifying to contribute to a work that has the power of moving audience members on a deep level like ‘Miracle Worker,’ ‘Proof,’ ‘Over the River and Through the Woods,’ ‘Cabaret,’ or as Clarence in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I was gratified to be involved with the debut of two original works as choreographer for ‘Swamp Opera’ and creating the role of Peter Bailey for another production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for Encore theater Company in Dexter, with music by Kathie Lee Gifford.

“I found it fulfilling to investigate the Victorian period and use that research to prepare a detailed biography to hopefully add depth to my portrayal of Colonel Pickering in ‘My Fair Lady.’ I have always enjoyed the camaraderie of working on small ensemble cast projects such as ‘The Miracle Worker,’ ‘Inherit the Wind,’ ‘Lost in Yonkers’ and ‘Stepping Out’ when everyone gets so close, and especially when the plays have an important message to convey.”

A recently retired medical laboratory chemist, Bazil is also a 7th Degree Master Instructor in Korean Karate, and a 5th Degree Master Instructor Iaijutsu (Art of the Samurai Sword).

And he’s certainly at home at CTH. As for what he enjoys most about the theater group, “The close cooperation and mutual respect between all of the individuals with the diverse talents and skills required to bring each production to fruition, with a distinct lack of personal ego and everyone contributing as best they can to its success,” he said.

“I have had the privilege of working with and learning from amazing directors, choreographers, vocalists, and workshop presenters all dedicated to helping the performers reach the full potential in the development of their art. More experienced cast members mentor the new ones, and all support each other. Most of all, it is the feeling of family that grows as all of these highly talented people of different ages, backgrounds, and skills work together toward the common goal of creating a work of art that springs to life for a select group of people to share, and then it is gone but for a memory for those on both sides of the curtain.”

With opening night coming up on Friday, Bazil can’t wait for audiences to see what they’ve created with “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

“The audience will see a well-rehearsed, energetic cast executing a very well-crafted comedic script giving them a wonderfully entertaining evening of the best in live theater Livingston County has to offer,” he said.

The Community Theatre of Howell is presenting “Arsenic and Old Lace” at the Howell High School Freshman Campus, 1400 W. Grand River Ave., Howell. Shows are Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3, with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday each weekend.

Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students and seniors, available at Finding Roots in Howell, Maria’s School of Dance in Fowlerville, Big Acre in Brighton, and Ed Bock Feed and Seed in Pinckney. Tickets are also available by calling 517-545-1290, or online at cththeatre.org. You can buy tickets by clicking here.

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Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.