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'Jimmy Dean' kicks off at The Ritz

John Benson • Apr 28, 2011 at 2:03 PM

Want to go?

• WHAT: “Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”

• WHEN: 7:30 p.m. April 30, May 1 and 6; 2 p.m. May 7

• WHERE: The Ritz Theatre, 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin

• COST: $11/adult, $7/student

• INFO: 419-448-8544 or ritztheatre.org

Ritz Theatre Education Director Dianne Pytel admits at the very least she’s perseverant. For the past decade, The Ritz Players’ volunteer has been lobbying the award-winning community theater organization to tackle the play “Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” which made its debut in Columbus in the ‘70s and eventually landed on Broadway.

“This is a play I really like,” said Pytel, a Tiffin resident and Amherst native. “I like the idea (that) we’re looking at two time periods, 1955 and 1975, and we have two different women playing the same character as a teenager and then 20 years later. You have these two stories going on, and at first they’re separate — you only see the girls when they’re teens and then when they’re older. Then as the play progresses, they begin to appear on stage together. You have both versions and the story happening at the same time. So just from a theater point of view, it’s unusual and interesting.”

It sounds similar to the unconventional aspects of independent film “American Splendor,” where the cast could often be seen mingling with the real life people the story was based on. So how exactly did Pytel get the Ritz Players to agree on producing the show?

“I have no idea,” Pytel laughed. “I guess I just wore then down. I think the problem is (that) it’s very complicated to read. So when the play reading committee was reading it, they were having a hard time seeing it. So you get a different committee, different people and they say, ‘Oh yeah, this is really interesting.’ It just fell into place for this year. We’ll give nice director’s notes in the program so that the audience can kind of follow what’s going on.”

In a nutshell, the plot revolves around these young girls and a young man who are members of their own James Dean fan club. However, these kids have a special connection to the teen idol movie star, considering they live in McCarthy, Texas, which is just down the road from where Dean filmed his famous movie “Giant.” Also, the group’s first meeting takes place on Sept. 30 1955, which is the day James Dean died.

Adding more intrigue is the fact the girl who is president of the fan club was an extra in the movie and may or may not have had relations with the Hollywood hunk.


“Everybody would enjoy the show looking back to the past,” Pytel said. “Although it’s hard to think about 1975 as a period piece, having lived through it, but we are looking back and especially in the 1955 part to a simpler time.”


Finally, considering the TMZ world we live in with faux celebrities Paris Hilton and The Kardashians dominating tabloid headlines, there’s a relevancy found in “Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” that still rings true today.


“Exactly, people get their 15 minutes of fame,” Pytel said. “Then there’s another glitch. In the 1955 gang, there’s a boy member of the group but when everybody comes back in 1975, a very striking lady comes and it turns out she’s this young man who has had a change. There are funny parts to it and there are parts with conflict. They reveal things about each other. It goes back and forth between being comedy and drama, but they’re real characters. That was the other thing that attracted them to me. These are real women. They all have real essences to them. These women weren’t hippies. They went out and got married and had families in a pretty small town. They’re not caricatures. They are characters.”


The Ritz Players present “Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” taking place at 7:30 p.m. April 30, May 1 and 6 and 2 p.m. May 7 at The Ritz Theatre, 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin. Tickets are $11 adults and $7 students. For more information, call 419-448-8544 or visit ritztheatre.org.

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