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Big, loud 'teddy bear' takes to stage

It’s been said that a director paints his scene with the colors of his characters. But when it comes to Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman in this year’s Broadway Rose Theatre Company production of “The Music Man,” no one can quite agree what color he is. by: COURTESY PHOTO - Hillsboro resident Brandon Weaver prepped backstage as Luther Billis in Theatre in the Groves South Pacific in 2012.

“He’s red,” said Chrissy Kelly-Petit, who plays librarian Marion Paroo in the musical, coming to the Tigard stage this weekend. “His character is angry from the beginning and he just wants his comeuppance.”

“Oh, definitely orange,” said director Peggy Taphorn. “He is fiery and hopping mad most of the time, but he has his mellow moments.”

Perhaps the most worthy opinion of Charlie’s color is that of the actor who plays Charlie — Brandon B. Weaver.

“I’d say Charlie is very green, very jealous,” said the fair-haired, bespectacled man after a moment of thought in the cool, quiet lobby of the Deb Fennell Auditorium in Tigard High School. “He’s jealous that the lead Harold Hill has these magical salesman powers, but you can always find a way to understand that person if you open up to their point of view.”

For Weaver — Hillsboro resident, electrician and a longtime Theatre in the Grove (TITG) player — Charlie Cowell is another hue in the palette of color characters the 40-year-old has played over the course of his lifelong acting career.

“I like the side characters that come [out on the stage] while the other actors are changing costumes,” Weaver said.

Weaver’s life changed when a troupe of professional actors visited his fourth-grade classroom in Beaver in 1984.

“They had us stand like statues while they would poke our noses or move our arms around,” Weaver recalled. “Then I got to be the fox in the production of ‘Pinocchio,’ and it was just so much fun. That’s what got me started as an actor when I was 10 years old.”

Weaver and his family eventually moved to Hillsboro, where Weaver pursued his passion for drama, choir and vocal ensemble at Brown Middle School and Hillsboro High School. During his senior year, Weaver played at TITG for the first time as an ensemble gangster in the 1990 production of “Guys and Dolls.”

“That was magical,” said Weaver. “Once you perform and you like it, there’s almost no reason to stop.”

For Weaver, the show did come to a temporary end.

“I just didn’t have enough money for college or acting school,” he said.

Weaver had a job in construction, but worked on tuning his voice by singing Irish drinking songs with friends.

Over the next 15 years, he worked a variety of jobs — even taking on night shifts as a strip club bouncer.

“But I really missed theater, the well-oiled machinery of a show,” Weaver said. “It’s an interaction you can’t find anywhere else, where you and 50 other talented people are all working toward the same goal of making the audience feel the story.”

In 2005, Weaver returned to the stage of his youth as Teddy in the TITG production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Weaver took countless colorful roles in a variety of TITG productions, including Luther Billis in “South Pacific” (2005), as Amos in “Chicago” (2012), and as Oliver Warbucks in “Annie” (2013).

“I was pining to entertain,” said Weaver. “And once I started doing it again I could not stop.”

He identified mentors from his past who’ve helped him along.

“I’ve performed with my high school choir director Bernie Keene, with my eighth-grade English teacher Caroline Azure and with my high school friend Jennifer Yamashiro,” said Weaver, who bought a house with his wife in Hillsboro to be close to Forest Grove.

While Weaver has typically played comic relief roles, his recent performance as Bill in the March 2014 TITG production of “August: Osage County” has opened him up to more serious parts.

“What I liked about Osage County is that it’s very realistic pain,” said Weaver. “The tragic stuff is interspersed with sweet moments of sheer hilarity.”

The actor was chosen for the role of Charlie Cowell out of a talent pool that extended as far as New York.

“People come from all over to work at Broadway Rose,” said Taphorn, a North Carolina resident, who said Weaver is very easy to direct. “The sets, the costumes, the lighting and sound at Deb Fennell are all top-notch. Brandon stood out because he can play the heavy antagonist but he has a sense of humor, so he’s ultimately likeable.”

“He can be very intimidating on stage,” added Kelly-Petit. “He makes great acting choices and he’ll scream and shout at you, but he’s a pretty big teddy bear off the stage.”

“This role at Broadway Rose is the most prestigious I’ve had,” said Weaver, who hopes to someday act with Artists Repertory Theatre or Portland Center Stage. “I can do anything anybody asks me to do.

“I’ll just do the best I can, and hopefully someone will say, ‘That Brandon Weaver, he made me laugh or smile or cry. He didn’t do too bad!’ That’d be a fine with me.”



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