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Ganssle 'growing up' in signature Gleason portrayal
By Matt Stone

September 24, 2005

For over a decade, Gene Ganssle has worked in the Valley as an actor, perfecting dozens of voices and routines.

It is only now that Ganssle has gotten a chance to really let loose his talents in his first one-man show, “And Away We Go.” The show, in which Ganssle portrays the legendary comic Jackie Gleason, is also his first time producing a stage show.

“I have a lot of respect for these small theatre companies that get started on a shoestring,” said Ganssle.

"They are courageous and the ones that survive more than two years, heroic."

Aside from just his voice, Ganssle has worked hard to perfect other characteristics of Gleason that will make people remember the icon, such as donning a fat suit to resemble Jackie’s body shape.

“It’s [the suit] about eight pounds dry,” Ganssle said.

“After an hour it’s probably two to three pounds heavier.”

Tommy Cannon wrote the play, which runs from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2, at Viad Tower’s Playhouse, 1850 N Central Ave., Phoenix. Cannon and Ganssle joined forces from their mutual admiration of Gleason.

“We’re both still working on growing up, so we’re willing to try anything. He’s an improv man as well as a writer,” said Ganssle.

The show has more meaning behind it than just honoring the late Gleason. Half of the proceeds each night will be donated to various charititable organizations. Ganssle, who volunteers for the same charities, has handpicked each one. Without being able to contribute to these charities, Ganssle questions the show ever coming to fruition.

“I didn’t see a real reason to do the show otherwise,” said Ganssle. “Using my talents to give to causes I care about is a dream come true.”

To further help the giving efforts of the play, Ganssle has enlisted friends and family to work on the production. With his wife running lights and even his father in the mix, the show’s costs are cut to help give more to the charities.

For audience members born too late to experience Gleason, Ganssle says there’s still fun for all.

“It’s really going to be a family show,” he says.

“There are a lot of surprises people will discover about Jackie. We will also use audience participation for prizes and more.”

Tickets cost $20 and show times can be found at the show’s website,

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