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On Theater: Gary Saderup takes on yet another character, this time Winston Churchill

Every so often I hear from my old friend Gary Saderup, with whom I worked on several local stage productions back in the 1970s when we both were involved with the Irvine Community Theater.

Saderup was, and is, both a terrific actor and a spot-on charcoal sketch artist, whose renderings of John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe hang on my bedroom wall. He's also the master of the one-man show, having turned out videos of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Abraham Lincoln in years past.

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This time he's taken on the persona of Sir Winston Churchill, recounting the former British prime minister's historic leadership in the early days of World War II, in a new film. I say "early days" because Steve Rivera's script ends in 1940, over a year before America got into the thick of it.

Nevertheless, half a loaf is better than none, as they say, and Saderup gives this first portion of Churchill's wartime career a sterling portrayal. He even captures the prime minister's slight lisping speech pattern when pronouncing the letter "S."

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As the video's publicist notes, "We see Churchill's repeated warnings, his speeches to Parliament, his reaction to the events and people leading up to World War II, and finally we see Churchill lifting Great Britain from its deepest despair to its greatest victory — stopping the Nazi war machine."

Well, we may not witness that latter event, but what Saderup presents from those early days makes for compelling viewing.

That Saderup is a chameleon of an actor who can channel MacArthur and Lincoln with equal tenacity is well known by those who viewed those first two videos. In "Churchill," he delves into the bulldog-like determination of the prime minister with a richly powerful interpretation on both a vocal and dramatic scale.

"I think this film shows the most dramatic and important part of Churchill's life," Saderup commented in a recent conversation from his home in Camarillo. "To me, the events in this period are the essence of Churchill."

Perhaps, but I still felt disappointed when the video ended in 1940, before the U.S. involvement and before Sir Winston's final triumph. Hopefully, there's an Act II somewhere in the future.

"Churchill" will be available this summer from KULUR International Films online and from Barnes and Noble, Walmart and other retailers. For local theatergoers who remember Saderup from the 1970s, it's must-viewing.

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TOM TITUS reviews local theater.

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