Burbank actors Daniel Roebuck and Jim Roope will have to age 20 years through the magic of makeup for their roles as 70-year-old former vaudevillian performers reuniting for one last TV appearance in Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys”.
The show opens its two-weekend run on Friday and is a fundraiser for St. Francis Xavier Church and School in Burbank.
Roebuck, a TV veteran best known for his role as Clifford Lewis on “Matlock,” has honed his own version of the character Willy Clark by studying his favorite comedians who were still around in the 1970s — Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, George Burns and Bud Abbott.
“Those were the guys I spent the time watching, so I set my sights on doing this play for a long time,” he said.
Roebuck, who’s not yet 50, now feels he’s finally close enough in age to give it a shot.
“We’ll have the miracle of John Goodwin doing our makeup,” Roebuck said. “He’s also playing the director.”
Goodwin, a Glendale resident who is not a member of the parish, is helping out his buddies. He’s got the experience. He won an Emmy in 2002 and received several Emmy nominations for his work on the TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
“The challenge is the make-up has to be durable and convincing because, unlike television where you get an opportunity during takes to do touch-ups, you only have a short time during intermission, but usually don’t get another opportunity to do something other than initially,” he said.
For Roebuck, Goodwin will be adding a bald cap to take his hairline back. Then he’ll be employing a “stretch and stipple” effect to produce wrinkles, he said.
“Both actors have faces where it’s really not effective — they both have good bone structure, so there’s not a lot of stretch in the skin, except around the eyes,” Goodwin said. “I’ll do some highlights and shadows on their faces.”
Roope has been preparing for his role as Al Lewis by watching old clips of vaudeville on YouTube and listening to performances by actors like Walter Matthau, he said. But Roebuck encourages his fellow performers to make the role their own, Roope said.
“Dan says don’t become the people you are watching,” Roope said. “Watch Matthau and George Burns, but make it as much of you as possible. I’m Irish Catholic, so it’s a little hard. If he sees me slip into George Burns, he lets me know about it.”
The wonderful thing about the play is that all the money goes to support the church community, said Rita Recker, parish administrator. Proceeds over the last four years helped purchase a sound system that was added just before the students’ holiday production this year.
“The children used to put on a play, and you were never able to hear the kids sing,” Recker said.
Roope can’t believe how full the sound is, he said.
“You can hear all the way to the back and with a full house it’s going to be like you have a speaker at your chair,” Roope said.
What: St. Francis Stage Company presents Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional performances are a matinee featuring a discount ticket of $10 for seniors at 2 p.m. Jan. 14; and 8 p.m. Jan. 14 and 15.
Where: St. Francis Xavier Holy Cross Hall, 3801 Scott Road, Burbank
Contact: (818) 504-4400