Fred Willard to 'Shine' for his Wife at Grove

This appeared in The Press Enterprise - April 29, 2004

Fred Willard has finished shooting a few episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond and a feature film, Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy with Will Ferrell. He also plays the juicy role of Frasier's psychiatrist in one of the upcoming final episodes of Frasier.

Willard is a busy man who received numerous nominations and awards for his roles in Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, but he has time to star in his playwright wife's latest piece, Moon Shine! at the Grove Theatre in Upland.

"It's a great treat to work in a theater like that," he said by phone from his Encino home. "I always love musicals, and I have two songs to do. It's a fun musical."

As a misunderstood gay man in the play, he first sings about the mean, old world and then sings an upbeat song after finding acceptance.

The upcoming premiere is making his wife, Mary, ecstatic: "This is as happy as I can be. I love all the actors, and my husband is in it and I love him."

She had written Elvis and Juliet, which had a 10-month run at the Theatre at the Improv in Hollywood. She and Fred also run a comedy sketch-writing workshop, MoHo Group.

Moon Shine! is her first musical, and she scored a notable composer for it.

Grammy-winner Marty Stuart, who played with Lester Flatt, Doc Watson and Johnny Cash before recording his own albums and the film score for All the Pretty Horses, came to California and hung out in the Willards' back yard while he and Mary wrote the musical numbers.

She got the idea for the musical after a discussion with a friend about country music. The plot involves a career woman who meets three Texas cowboys and finds her life changed.

"Everybody in the play falls in love and lives happily ever-after - there's a twist," Mary Willard said and then laughed.

The cast includes Jim J. Bullock, who played the wacky Monroe Ficus in Too Close for Comfort and was a regular on Hollywood Squares, and Broadway stage actor Tom Schmid, who has been in television's Gilmore Girls and Angel. Also featured are Joel McCrary, Ginger Kinison and Erin Johnson .

The show runs Saturday through May 23 at 7:29 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. $20-$30. 276 E. Ninth St., at the corner of Third Avenue, Upland. (909) 920-4343.

By Pat O'Brien

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