Sandy Duncan returns to Chicago in new play

Sandy Duncan (Photo courtesy of Sandy Duncan)
Sandy Duncan (Photo courtesy of Sandy Duncan)


Imagine a TV, stage and screen veteran not shy about her age, what roles she could do or  what else she would do if not acting.

Chicago Theater and Arts recently spoke with Texas born, NYC/Conneticut-based Sandra Kay Duncan on her upcoming role in “Middletown,” a new Dan Clancy Play.

A GFour Productions show, the play will be at the Apollo Theatre Feb. 27 through March 22, 2020.




CTAA found this “Star Spangled Girl” 1972 Golden Globe nominee and 1980 “Peter Pan” Tony nominee to be refreshingly honest. And as she turns 74,still sounding like the delightful lead in the mid-late 1980’s “The Hogan Family,” a TV series that started as “Valerie” but changed when Valerie Harper left.

Ms. Duncan sounds happy to be back in Chicago. “I was here in “King and I,” “Peter Pan” and “That’s Christmas.” I’m glad to be back. It’s a good theater town,” she said..

Asked about what role she would like to still play, Ms. Duncan, born Feb. 20, 1946, answered, “It’s what I can play. I’m 74. I’ve had back surgery I have a pacemaker and a litany of problems.”

The comedienne, singer, dancer, actor who also had played Roxie Hart in “Chicago” in 1999, recently discussed roles with husband Don Correia. “I turned to my husband and said, can you see me leave the earth even an inch?”

As to retiring to do something else, Ms. Duncan said, “It’s about what I can do. I can’t do anything else. I once – this was a long time ago – stepped in for a friend as a hat check girl. I couldn’t even do that. I lost the job for her. But I like acting.”

She also likes the play “Middletown.”

Written by Dan Clancy (“Timekeepers”), it has four characters, each standing at a podium going over their life’s challenges and high points as they read from the script. There are no props or sets. 

However, she doesn’t see it as another “Love Letters,”

“I have done “Love Letters,” several times. It’s a brilliant play. This isn’t like “Love Letters.”

Asked what attracted her to the show, Ms. Duncan said, “With all the awful things happening around the world, people are ill at ease. They need something comforting.”

She explained. “The show has two couples. They are friends who meet every Friday to talk over dinner about life. It’s about relationships. It’s kind of what we are like. You see from their tragedies and the wonderful times that you’ll get through it.”

Ms. Duncan likened it to exchanging thoughts and memories over a campfire. “I’m from Texas. People did that. I don’t think people do that very often now.”

She thought that audiences will learn from the characters’ highs and lows.

“The play is not linear where you can identify a time period. It’s not clear about their ages or the time. I think it would not have as much impact if you knew those, because then you would think you would know what to expect.”

The difference between knowing what to expect and not knowing and then “getting through it,” recently affected Ms. Duncan on a personal level. She had just had a close friend die.” I couldn’t get over it. I was crying for three days.”

But whatever audiences are or had gone through, she thinks the show will help. ““It’s warm. It’s comforting. I think it will make people feel good.”

In a written statement about his play, Clancy explained the lack of sets and props.

“I wanted to tell a relatable ‘every-person’s’ story in a direct and straightforward manner where human emotions are front and center – without bells, whistles, special effects, or props,” said Clancy. “I wanted the words to speak for themselves.”

The other three parts are played by Donny Most (Ralph Malph from Happy Days), Adrian Zmed (Bachelor Party and TV’s T J. Hooker) and Kate Buddeke (Superior Donuts, Carousel).

The play is not Will Eno’s “Middletown,” but came out of a workshop that received a Carbonell nomination for “Best New Work” in 2017. It premiered in Las Vegas, Bucks County, PA. and Wilmington, DE. with Didi Conn (Grease) and Zmed. Most and Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley) were in two of the productions.

For tickets and other information call (773) 935-6100 or visit ApolloChicago. The Apollo Theater is at 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs