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Although not one of its better efforts, the current Towne Players of Garner community-theater production of Harry Segall's charming comic fantasy, Heaven Can Wait, is still highly amusing in places. Towne Players veterans Rob Smith, Holmes Morrison, Rusty Sutton, Greg Flowers, and Frances Stanley all deliver crisp characterizations.
Rob Smith is a stitch as saxophone-playing boxer Joe Pendleton, who accidentally arrives in heaven 60 years before his time. Holmes Morrison is highly amusing as Mr. Jordan, the nonplussed gatekeeper of heaven, and Rusty Sutton is a hoot as Messenger 7013, the bumbling angel who pulled Joe out of a plane in a death spiral moments before the plane actually crashed. Joe insists he could have prevented or survived the crash, and The Registrar's file on Joe agrees.
But returning Joe to Earth will be difficult, because Joe's distraught manager Max Levene (Greg Flowers) has already cremated his body. So, Joe must go back to Earth in the body of ruthlessly amoral millionaire Jonathan Farnsworth, who is about to be murdered by his unfaithful wife Julia (Missy Dapper) and his treacherous personal secretary Tony Abbott (John Kreilkamp), who are having a torrid affair behind his back.
But when Joe returns, he changes things. He starts giving away sizable chunks of Farnsworth's ill-gotten gains, he sets out to right the wrongs that the villainous millionaire has perpetrated, and — most inexplicably of all — he hires Max and resumes training to become a top boxer in his weight division. All of the above upsets Julia and Tony and aggravates Mrs. Ames (the irrepressible Frances Stanley), another puzzled Farnsworth associate.
Morgan Abner is too young, too soft-spoken, and too inexperienced to make the most of her role as Joe's new love interest, erstwhile Farnsworth victim Bette Logan; and Kyle Montgomery struts and frets ineffectually as Inspector Williams.
Kyle Christopher is much better as Lefty, the crusty manager of prizefighter K.O. Murdoch, and Arlie Honeycutt and Rebecca Booth are both cute as a button as the youthful stewardesses on the plane ride to heaven.
Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt took a big chance by casting so many inexperienced newcomers, and that chance only partially paid off. However, the set created by Honeycutt; her husband, Scott; and technical director Jeff Nugent is one of the Towne Players' best. And Scott Honeycutt's lighting and sound design are also fine additions.
The Towne Players of Garner present Heaven Can Wait Friday-Saturday, Feb. 21-22, at 8 p.m. in The Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 West Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina. $8 ($6 students and seniors). 919/779-6144. http://www.towneplayers.org/.