'Boomerang' star Robin Givens stages her play 'Joy in the Morning' in Bradenton

Actress Robin Givens directs locals in her production 'Joy in the Morning'

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJuly 29, 2012 

Robin Givens' agent wanted her back home in Los Angeles.

But the actress, who appeared earlier this month as a guest star on TV Land's "Retired at 35," explained she had work to do in Bradenton.

"It's like a little gem that the world doesn't know about that I find really special," Givens said of the city where her sons attended IMG Academies and Bradenton Preparatory Academy. "You know, it's just a nice place for me to call home, there's a certain sense of warmth."

Givens sat in the trailer used by the Manatee Players. It's next to the community theater company's future home on Third Avenue West near the Bradenton Riverwalk.

The former model who first became famous for her work in the 1980s ABC television sitcom "Head of the Class" and starred opposite Eddie Murphy in the 1992 film "Boomerang" has been involved with the Manatee Players for most of July. She's work-shopping her new play with music titled "Joy in the Morning."

It's based on the book of the same name by her mom, Ruth Givens.

"The sense of the story is really coming home to oneself," Givens said. "Our little girl is our narrator of the story and plays our main character, the woman, as a little girl, and is essentially saying, 'Come back to yourself,'" Givens said.

"When life begins to happen to us we sort of put up walls or begin to hide or toss our dreams aside and she's our little character that says, 'Hey, don't you remember me and don't you remember all you wanted and who you were meant to be.'"

Krissy Pizzo will play the "little girl" when the Manatee Players present the Givens-directed production of "Joy in the Morning" Thursday and Friday at Riverfront Theatre in downtown Bradenton.

Pizzo played eldest daughter Liesl in the Manatee Players' winning staging of "The Sound of Music" last season.

She might even play the Little Girl in front of a much larger audience when "Joy in the Morning" opens in Toronto in

the fall as planned.

"You don't want to put too much pressure on people looking ahead, but I think that would be very nice," Givens said.

The cast, which Manatee Players' Producing Artistic Director Rick Kerby coordinated, also includes Laurie Zimmerman (Wife) and Mark Shoemaker (Doctor).

Kelly Burnette, Bea Fletcher-Miller, Phyllis Banks, Robin Miller, Diana Shoemaker, Dan Yonko, John Brown and Woodford Joseph are members of the ensemble.

Eve Caballero plays an untitled woman.

When the Manatee Players opened its season last year with "Chicago," Caballero portrayed vixen Velma Kelly.

Givens made her Broadway debut in "Chicago," playing Velma's murdering pal Roxie Hart, in 2006.

So, what kept Givens from casting herself in "Joy in the Morning"?

"I want to go to work and not have to get in hair and makeup," she said, with a laugh. "If I don't have to get in hair and makeup, you got it, that feels like the biggest success to me."

Incidentally, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world Mike Tyson's one-man show "Undisputed Truth," directed by Spike Lee ("Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X"), has a 12-show Broadway run starting Tuesday.

Givens and Tyson were married for about a year in 1988 before it ended with her accusing him of spousal abuse on national television.

Tyson has said in interviews he will be talking about Givens during his Broadway show.

"You know, this I'll say, it's so funny because I literally have a child that's almost the same age I was when I got married" at age 21, Givens said. "Literally, it's like for me just a lifetime ago. I was a baby so I don't know how much is (him airing dirty laundry) or whatever. But, literally, it's funny for me because I look at my son and I'm like I was about that same age."

Details: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 3, Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre, 102 12th St. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $26, $13 (students), $15 (teachers). A limited number of preferred seating tickets will be available for each evening which include a private talk-back with Givens. Preferred seating tickets are $50.Information: 941-748-5875 or manateeplayers.com.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.

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