Actor Spotlight: Michael Lilly

Norman smallPP: Your portrayal of Norman Thayer has been drawing praise from critics, colleagues, and audiences alike. The Mountain Xpress called your performance “exceptional work.” Do you agree this is some of your finer work?

Michael: I do believe this is the best acting I have done. I have been working primarily as a director but every now and then a role comes along that you just sense might be really right for you. Parkway has given me the chance to get back on stage and Jeff Messer instilled in me a confidence that I never thought I could have again.

post show talk back
From left to right: Michael Lilly, Steve Elderbrock, Turner Weinmeister, director Jeff Messer, and Alesa Bryant

After my heart surgery I threw myself into getting into shape physically. I lost nearly seventy pounds and have tried to eat healthier. I didn’t want to do anything stressful so I basically stopped doing theatre for about a year. But not doing theatre is impossible for me. Even in Los Angeles I worked very stressful TV and film jobs to make enough money to do theatre. I just wish that I could make more money (who doesn’t) at it.

on golden pond friends
Norman and Chelsea (played by Jen Russ) become friends.

Norman is a huge role. He is on nearly sixty eight pages of a seventy five page play. But I can honestly say that I have never had more fun acting. A great amount of that comes from who I am working with. Alesa is a rock out there. We have each other’s back.


I have had the very good fortune to work with some exceptional actors as a director and dialogue coach: Frank Langella, Roy Scheider, Ben Vereen and James Marsden to name just a few. On a film called The Men’s Club, Langella said, “you just say the lines and move through the space”, and that stuck with me.

PP: Do you have a favorite retort from among the many in the play?
Michael:  My favorite Norman quip is replying to Ethel’s question, “why is it so dark?”, with the line, “because the sun went down.” It’s also cool to tell Turner (Billy Ray Jr.) “we are practically twins.”
PP: After so many roles, are there any you have yet to play that you’d like to?
Michael: Even though I am probably too old I would love to play Hoss in Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime. I saw the original production back in the early 70’s and will never forget the way I felt leaving the theatre. Exhilaration!!
Be sure to catch Michael at his finest! There are only two more showings of On Golden Pond: Friday at 7:30 and Saturday at 7:30. Make plans and get tickets in advance — online or by calling 828.682.4285.

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Parkway Playhouse, located in the Appalachian town of Burnsville, NC, is a haven of theatre talent. While people come to the mountains to get away, Parkway Playhouse is a natural gathering place to connect. Likewise, we are an extension of traditional mountain talents: singing, dancing, and, foremost, storytelling. By giving rise to energetic new voices and through a wide variety of plays and musicals, we invite our audience into experiences that are thought-provoking, adventurous, and entertaining. Together we reimagine the world in every live performance, creating dynamic conversations that last far beyond the curtain call. This blog is will feature stories, helpful information, insight and features about the performances.

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