Judge Reinhold leaves New Theatre’s ‘Harvey’

Judge Reinhold, the heavily promoted star of the New Theatre production of “Harvey,” has resigned from the production.

Richard Carrothers, co-owner of the Overland Park dinner theater, said Reinhold had appeared increasingly unhappy. The production is directed by company co-founder Dennis Hennesey.

“Very early in rehearsals, both the acting company and Dennis realized that Judge was not happy,” Carrothers said. “After three weeks he became more unhappy and more unhappy and we decided to give him the opportunity to resign and he took it.  He just seemed genuinely unhappy with everything — the actors, the costumes, the music. Anything that was brought forth he wasn’t happy with.”

Reinhold responded to a request for comment with an emailed statement in which he declined to address the circumstances of his leaving. But he struck an upbeat note.

The New Theatre owners, he wrote, “have provided a wonderful entertainment for people and the current production of “Harvey,” whether it be with or without me, is no exception. I’m very proud of all their technical and creative team and the very gifted cast . . . ‘Harvey’ continues to be both a charming and hilarious play . . .”

In a 1992 interview in the Los Angeles Times, Reinhold said he had acquired a reputation for being “difficult, and rightly so,” but that he had matured and learned his lesson. Early in “Harvey” rehearsals, in an interview with The Star, Reinhold seemed excited about working on the show. He had immersed himself in the history of the play and expressed respect for his fellow actors.

“I was concerned that it would be outdated, but just because something’s old doesn’t mean it’s not charming,” he said. “It won the Pulitzer Prize.  The reason I think it endures is it’s a farce and has laughs but it has these deeper themes going on.”

Carrothers wanted to emphasize that “there was no villain or victim in this scenario.” Coming just before Wednesday’s opening, the resignation forced the theater company to cancel that night’s performance and find a replacement on short notice.

Carrothers said each ticket holder was contacted and given an opportunity to see the show on a different night.

The production will open Thursday following an afternoon matinee, Carrothers said.

The lead role of Elwood P. Dowd in the whimsical 1944 comedy will be played by Craig Benton, a Kansas City-based actor who had been hired to understudy the role.

Benton, a New Theatre veteran, will perform through Jan. 29. Then a new guest star, Charles Shaughnessy, a Los Angeles-based British actor who starred in the New Theatre’s 2011 production of “Game Show,” steps into the production.

Shaughnessy’s credits include the sitcom “The Nanny,” a recurring role on the 2008-2009 seasons of “Mad Men” and the daytime soap “Days of Our Lives,” in which he played secret agent Shane Donovan periodically from 1985 through 2013.

Carrothers said Shaughnessy was scheduled to arrive Sunday.

These things happen in show business, Carrothers said. But canceling the first public performance of a show was a first for the New Theatre.

“I can’t remember when we’ve canceled an opening,” Carrothers said. “Or where we’ve delayed the opening by one day.”

As of Thursday morning, Reinhold’s photo still occupied a prominent position on the New Theatre’s website. Carrothers said that would be changed by the afternoon.

Carrothers said making the change won’t be cheap.

“What it costs us is we have to rebuild all signage and newspaper ads and television ads,” he said. “You have to pay air travel for another actor to come in. But we’re going to have a better show with everybody on the same page.”