About The Play

About The Novel

“A flavorful, diverse score that

touches on arcana but more often
touches the heart.”


“This winning new musical overflows
with wonderment. Take a load off your
feet and settle back to let the good times roll. And will they ever!”


“The themes about family and aging
are universal. This could be a funny
and heartfelt hit, worthy of its’
creators’ estimable talents.”


“Among the delights here are the smart dialogue, the pointed satire of the nursing home industry, and most of all, the chorus of idiosyncratic, opinionated characters who’ve got more life left in them than anyone quite expects.”


“A deceptively simple tale that brims with compassion and wisdom, weaving laugh-out-loud set pieces with infinitely tender observations about the human condition…Once again, Edgerton has crafted a little treasure of a novel – funny, wistful, packed with truth and humanity.”


“It’s about people who aren’t waiting
to die, but continuing to live to the very end. It is a play of small movements,
but of big ideals and heart.”


“A vivid and affecting portrait of the way many of us struggle – and, when possible, take comfort – in the real world.”


“Some of the most meaningful and
well-written songs I’ve heard in a
musical in a long time.”


“A zany tale about old folks and those
of us who love them… Honor and
respect abide in this gentle tale of the twilight time.”


Lunch at the Piccadilly: Sweet but also something to chew on






If we took the title Lunch at the Piccadilly literally, what kind of meal would this musical be?


Gently sauteed butter beans that go down easy and leave you full. Cornbread with a little mayonnaise put in to sweeten it. A few tart fried pickles. Slow-cooked greens with – let’s be honest – a little ham added for flavoring. And a tall  glass of unsweetened tea to brace you and send you away refreshed.


The play, with its book by Clyde Edgerton and songs by Mike Craver, begins with the older characters onstage in chairs and ends with each of them on his or her feet. By that point they have made us laugh frequently, wince occasionally at the cruelties of old age and admire various kinds of stubborn individuality, while realizing these old folks won’t be able to exercise it for many more years.




Photo by Donna Bise

Let’s have Lunch at the Piccadilly





Within two hours I had gone thru a roller coaster of emotions. From laughter to tears. The show truly didn’t disappoint. Aside from the funny jokes about aging and trying to stay ‘with the times’ ….Lunch at the Piccadilly had a clear message. Don’t forget about the elderly. They have lived full lives. They have seen times change. They have had ups and downs. Good and bad times. No one is under any illusion. When the word ‘Nursing Home’ comes into a conversation…the immediate thought is that they’ll be left there to die. It’s the last stop on their journey. They begin becoming more dependent vs independent. And that can be difficult. Very difficult. Lunch at the Piccadilly follows these residents as they try to find their place in this world, to not be forgotten, and to fight for what they believe in. All with a smile on their face along the way. They realize that they are all FULL of life.




Photo by Donna Bise

‘Lunch at the Piccadilly’
is a sight to behold






Grab your skateboard. Hop on your Hoveround. Hike up your britches; straighten your wig. Do whatever it takes to get on down to the Hanesbrands Theatre to see "Lunch at the Piccadilly."


The production by Festival Stage, which has been in previews since last week and opened Tuesday night, is top-notch. The performances are fully developed, the comic timing spot-on, the music is great, and the set is charming.


Based on Clyde Edgerton's novel of the same name, "Lunch at the Piccadilly" was inspired by one of Edgerton's aging aunts and her experiences in assisted living. In the play, Rosehaven, a friendly and humane retirement community, is being sold to a religious university that plans to make the residents into geriatric guinea pigs and kick out the folks who are on Medicaid.


Dr. Ted Sears, in charge of buying Rosehaven for Ballard University, is the best villain since Hannibal Lecter. Duke Ernsberger uses his gigantic face, hands — and rumbling voice — to great effect, playing Sears to the hilt.


The four leads are the most likeable quartet of old people since "The Golden Girls." Aunt Lil (Bo Thorp), Clara Cochran (Patricia L. Cucco), Eli (Mike Craver) and L. Ray Flowers (Trip Plymale) sing, dance and quip up a storm.


"There's nothing wrong with my hearing," Lil says. "People's talking just fell off."


Plymale reels from wonderfully crotchety — "I used to be a saint," he says, "but now I ain't" — to dazzlingly joyful. He springs from his wheelchair to preach the gospel of "nurches," the First Breakfast Club's brainstorm to combine nursing homes and churches into places where the able-bodied young, middle-aged and old take care of the less able.


Mike Craver is charming as the socially awkward Eli. Craver also wrote the show's music, which is full of hummable tunes. He strums a guitar on stage, as a fine, small band, led by Amy Jones, plays offstage.


Cucco is particularly funny in her dramatic poetry reading during the Breakfast Club's open mics and in her duet with Lil, "How Does a Glass Eye Work?"


Fleur Phillips as Anna, who manages Rosehaven, is a delight with her sweet soprano and great looks — copper hair and pale skin. She is well-matched in Carl, Lil's nephew who cares for her, played by Greg King.


The sound by Anthony Federle and lighting design by Eric Winkenwerder, with wonderful, dappled sunlight on the "porch," is superb.


Everything is not sweetness and light, but difficult topics — such as leaving one's lifelong home, loneliness, loss of control, losing freedom and having to tell your aging loved one that they have to give up the car keys — are handled with blunt good humor.


I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

Author Clyde Edgerton at a Piccadilly book signing.

Piccadilly vibrant with
old age






The premiere of Clyde Edgerton’s Lunch at the Piccadilly earned a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd that packed the Cape Fear Regional Theatre on Saturday night.


“...these words come to mind when describing the oddity of a musical set in a nursing home: Irreverent and unflinchingly human.”


Just as you giggle over a clever line, Edgerton and songwriter Mike Craver hit you in the gut with some of the most meaningful and well-written songs I’ve heard in a musical in a long time.


Lunch at the Piccadilly is based around Edgerton’s novel by the same name. Edgerton, a North Carolina author and professor, wrote the book in part based on his own experiences caring for an aunt in a nursing home from 1996 to 1999.


After adapting it as a musical with help from Craver, a former Red Clay Rambler and musical theater writer, Edgerton shopped the play to several regional theaters. But like three of his previous works, it came home to Fayetteville and artistic director Bo Thorp for its premiere.


For those who have read the novel, the musical version is much different.


The story of the play has more of a live performance arc with the characters, whose stories also end differently. And, of course, there are the songs of Craver that add to the story.


It is all based around the “First Breakfast Club,” an impromptu club of nursing home residents who aren’t quite ready to give up on life or independence.


While their uniting idea is improbable (combining churches and nursing homes across America), it gives them hope and a shared sense of community that is used to battle a corporate purchase of their nursing home, the Rosehaven Convalescence Center in fictional Listre, N.C.


And boy does the writing for each character shine. You have retired preacher L. Ray Flowers, the inspirational leader of the group; Lil’ Olive, the newcomer; Beatrice, the crazy like a fox one; and Clara, the, well, militant one.


It also has Edgerton and Craver’s knack for taking a Southern theme and making it universal through the writing and planning.


Credit also goes to guest director Steve Umberger and the talented band for making the show flow so well.


We all knew that the Cape Fear Regional Theatre could do the work proud.


It’s good to know that Edgerton thinks so as well.

Photo by Donna Bise

Piccadilly makes its debut






Although the Piccadilly is a popular southern cafeteria-style restaurant, this eatery attracts a car-load of elderly thrill-seekers who escape from the fictional Rosehaven Convalescence Center. This lunch actually caters to people who enjoy a rare treat in theater. The menu lists a cast of characters sure to fill the appetite for good laughs, with humor for the main course and a tear or two for dessert.


The Cape Fear Regional Theater presents the world premiere of Clyde Edgerton's novel Lunch at the Piccadilly, rewritten as a musical for performance on stage. The preview is Friday, March 10, and the Champagne Opening is Saturday, March 11, followed by 14 more performances through March 26.


The play exposes that hidden slice of life, when people live out their golden years in a nursing home. Set in the fictional town of Lister, NC, it's actually a behind-the-scenes look into the day-to-day adventure of getting older.


According to Edgerton it's all based on real life. "I had to put my aunt in a nursing home in 1996," Edgerton explained. "And that got me started dealing with the heroes and villains, the family drama and stress that comes to life in this kind of place. I had a unique relationship with my aunt and I wanted to write about that. Since several of my novels were adapted to the stage, but other people did it for me, I decided to do this one myself."


Edgerton came up with the musical idea two years ago and sent an email to former Red Clay Rambler Mike Craver, asking him to be his accomplice in writing the music and lyrics.


The Red Clay Ramblers played old time string band music. The group started as a trio, became a quartet, and finally a quintet, all acoustic in an Irish/Scottish style - turn of the century Appalachia - with a banjo, mandolin, guitar, and piano. The band played out of Chapel Hill, all over the state, the U.S., and overseas. The Ramblers made nine albums and did some theatre work, starting out in a piece called Diamond Studs.


"I saw his production of the Oil City Symphony which Mike wrote and produced Off Broadway," Edgerton said. "I love his voice. He's one of my favorite singers so he was a natural selection." It has taken two years and over 300 emails to bring Lunch at the Piccadilly to life on stage.


Edgerton and Craver have combined their talent to write 25 songs for this production.


"Edgerton is a popular southern-style writer and musician," Craver said. "I like his books a lot and I knew he was a good songwriter so I said yes. It's really exciting for me because it's a new show. It's all original music that we wrote and that's thrilling. It was challenging to take a nursing home setting and make a musical out of it. You don't ordinarily think of nursing homes as being places where people just break into songs and dance but we do and it's a really good time."


CFRT Artistic Director Bo Thorp plays "Lil Olive." Lunch at the Piccadilly is the fourth Edgerton play Thorpe has helped bring to life on stage. In the late '80s and early '90s she produced Rainey, Float Plane Notebooks, and Walking Across Egypt with great success, and she expects Lunch at the Piccadilly to do quite well.


"We had such a terrific turnout for the reading in January and that's a key indication that people really like Edgerton's work," she said. "This isn't a musical like you'd expect in theatre. This is an ensemble piece and it's principally about old people, with a cast of 10, and some of the actors are musicians as well. Above all the script is funny, and funny is hard to come by. It's easy to make people cry in theatre but to make people laugh it really has to be funny."


Steve Umberger of Charlotte Repertory Theatre fame, is the director.


Umberger has developed and directed 150 theatre premieres. He is also the founder of Playworks, an independent production company created for the development of new plays and films.

Photo by Donna Bise

Nutty novel, lively theater






In its inaugural production at Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Piccadilly takes the writer's flesh-and-blood characters and sets them to the music of veteran off-Broadway composer Mike Craver. The acting, musical and technical talent are first-rate, and the themes about aging and family are universal.


The story centers on shy Carl, who helps his beloved Aunt Lil move to Rosehaven, an assisted-care facility. Lil befriends addlepated residents Clara and Beatrice, and Carl falls for charming social worker Anna. Much of the plot revolves around resident L. Ray Flowers, the Baptist preacher whose wild-eyed sermons and grand ideas lead to his notion of combining nursing home and churches into "nurches."


In his first attempt at adapting his own work, Edgerton retains many of the book's hilarious moments, from Lil's wild drive with her cronies, to Clara's outbursts of foul language and Beatrice's confusion over historical personalities, to talk about favorite foods at the Piccadilly cafeteria. And there are the moving episodes, from Lil leaving her long-term home to the residents grappling with memory loss and complicated Medicare rules.


Having Craver on board as composer and co-lyricist means a number of quirky and poignant songs (Edgerton also contributes a couple of numbers). The flamboyant and funny songs easily entertain, but it's the heartfelt songs that linger, such as Lil and Carl's wistful "Home Is Where the Heart Stays" and Anna and Carl's melancholy "Half Empty Room."


Director Steve Umberger gets strong, confident characterizations from the cast, especially veteran actors Bo Thorp and Mayon Weeks. Thorp gives Lil wonderful pluck and resilience, masking a touching fear of losing mobility. Weeks finds the right combination of zeal and crustiness for L. Ray, covering an abiding fear of being left alone. Both are pros at finding nuance in their musical numbers.


Greg King makes Carl engaging in his devotion to Lil and his awkward wooing of Anna. CoCo Sansoni gives Anna believable sweetness and understanding, pairing convincingly with King, especially in their winning duets. Patricia Cucco (Clara) and Phoebe Hall (Beatrice) give vibrancy and zaniness to their characters, while Vivian Wade-Banks as Carrie, the dedicated Rosehaven worker, Libby McNeill Seymour as Geraldine, the officious administrator, and Rob Summers, the greedy facility owner, all make fine contributions.


The realistic front-porch setting by Linwood Taylor and the atmospheric lighting by David Castaneda add layers of richness. Craver, along with Amy Jones and Rick Starling, play the music with subtlety and charm.

Photo by Donna Bise

A winning new musical overflows with wonderment






When the residents of Rosehaven Convalescent enter rise up in high dudgeon, watch out! They might be wheelchair-bound, mentally challenged or using a claw-foot walker, but there's strength in numbers. Like Martin Luther, who nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, they're fed up and not going to take being pushed around or ignored anymore.


Over-simplified, this is roughly the plot of Lunch at the Piccadilly, the irrepressibly side-splitting and heart-stoppingly poignant musical that premiered last week at Cape Fear Regional Theatre (in Fayetteville, NC). It takes all the despairing moments in a nursing home and encapsulates them into a delightful show that's a must-see for everyone. Remove your reading spectacles, put on your distance glasses, take a load off your feet and settle back to let the good times roll. And will they ever!


Director Steve Umberger has translated the music and lyrics by Mike Craver and Clyde Edgerton into a funny, teary and totally unforgettable show, one that presents totally believable actors who're just like the people next door. You believe you're on board for a three-hanky time, but you're so busy laughing that finding time to cry just isn't an option.


On the heartache side, there's the caring nephew Carl (Greg King) opining "How Do You Tell 'Em They Can't Drive No More" while his Aunt Lil (Bo Thorp), singing "Home Is Where The Heart Stays," cranks up her Kirby vacuum to clean the baseboards one last time. It's a graphic scenario of that moment every individual must face one day.


At Rosehaven, Lil meets a memorable cast of characters, including caustic former librarian Clara (Patricia Cucco), depressed former evangelical preacher L. Ray Flowers (Mayon Weeks) and a judgmental complainer suffering from intermittent bouts of dementia, Beatrice (Phoebe Hall). Luckily there are also a warm and loving social worker, Anna (CoCo Sansoni), and the sunny natured nurse Carrie (Vivian Wade-Banks), who make up for the meanness of others in charge.


This is a pair one hopes never to encounter. They are officious chief nurse Geraldine (Libby McNeill Seymour), with a Ph.D in Christian geriatrics, as well as a penchant for acronyms, and the sleazy, money grubbing Dr. Ted Sears (Rob Summers), who's all for putting old people out to pasture, pulling the plug on the poor and ensconcing the rich in their well-deserved luxury.


Set to songs, ranging from such ditties as the hilarious "How Does A Glass Eye Work," "Medicaid Hell" and "Business is Business" to the mournful dirge "Bring Him Home", this is a gentle story with an unflinching message about right and wrong that hits the mark.


High points? Almost too many to enumerate. The baffling scene where Carl is presented with a maze of government gobbledygook paperwork. The incomprehensible moment when Beatrice ponders the mystery of "seeing through a glass eye darkly." The bouncy quartet of Clara, Beatrice, Lile and Preacher Flowers belting out "Jesus Would Approve/First Breakfast Club." The foursome's version of the wave, Clara's rendition of the hootchy kootchy and three little old ladies wriggling to the music on a purloined iPod.


With Craver's pop-in appearance as Eli Greyson, there's also a wonderful surprise at the end of the musical. So, how on earth could a show with the reasonable argument that a First Breakfast Club is the logical follower to 2000 years of Last Suppers miss?


Believe me, the answer is that it can't.

Photo by Donna Bise


 ©2017 The Playworks Group, LLC

All Rights Reserved.


Production photos:
Donna Bise

Additional production photos:
Norris Greenlee, Bobby Moody