What do you do when actors playing carnival performers in a major Broadway production come to town?
You take them to the carnival museum -- the International Independent Showmen's Museum in Riverview, to be exact.
"When I walked in my heart has been beating non-stop," said Katrina Kemp, who plays the role of little person Fleck. “I love it. I love it.”
She is one of three narrators – along with actors Richard Koons and Stephen Petrovich – who together play the ultimate trio of carnie minions in the Phantom of the Opera sequel ---- "Love Never Dies" ---- playing at the Straz Center in Tampa through Dec. 17.
Image courtesy Straz Center
The show's story is set in Coney Island's 1900's heyday, because what else could top a Paris Opera House in that turn-of-the-century world?
"Our three characters represent the littlest person, the tallest person and the strongest man," said Koons, who plays "the Strongman," Squelch.
The characters the actors portray in this sideshow world have a special connection to the Tampa Bay area.
"At one time there were 138 human oddities,” said “Doc,” who gave us the museum tour, “what you would call 'freaks' that lived in the area. They came down with a big circus sideshow it for the winter and they were very loyal to their employers, so they stayed and helped put the show together for the coming year."
"Love Never Dies" has traveled the country, but this is the closest these performers have come to the trappings of their characters.
“To be able to come in someplace that actually embodies what we're playing onstage in the history of what we playing onstage, it's beyond belief," said Koons.
"This is it," said Stephen Petrovich, who plays "the Tall Man", Gangle. "There is so much heritage to the circus-- and even in the theatre we kind of call it 'circus', "show biz", "the show must go on" -- that tradition is very much alive here."
The Showmen's Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.