Biggar stage will be scene of US reunion

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This week, Biggar will witness a moving on-stage reunion of two old friends who last acted together 41 years ago and 3,000 miles away.

Indeed, if you wrote a script about how the production of a bittersweet comedy being staged as part of the Biggar Little Festival came about, it would probably be rejected for being too corny, if not downright unbelieveable.

Back in 1975, BJ McComis, the man who is now Biggar’s Mr Theatre, was a promising young actor and director on the New York amateur theatre scene.

One of his last productions before emigrating to Scotland was Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady, during which he formed a close friendship with budding young actress Joan Apfel, who was playing the part of the daughter of the title character, a fading cabaret singer.

In those pre-social media days, the two lost touch when BJ crossed the atlantic to find a new home in Biggar.

Eventually, just recently, Jane tracked him down, and BJ suggested that she come over to Scotland to star in his revival of the play that had first brought them together four decades ago.

“I jumped at the chance”, said Joan, who had long ago given up acting to become a teacher and to raise a family which now numbers nine granchildren.

“I asked my husband if I could fly over to do the show with BJ, and he instantly agreed, saying that he always sensed how much I missed the stage,” she said.

“The only downer is that I’m now playing the broken-down cabaret singer and not her daughter.”

The Gingerbread Lady plays at Biggar Corn Exchange from Thursday, October 13, to Saturday, October 15.

Tickets, priced £10, are available online from www.biggar-little-festival.com, the festival box office, Hamilton Newsagent’s in Biggar or Lanark’s Oxfam shop.