It was Ben Miller's drive for wanting to memorize lines that landed him in the lead role of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

It was Ben Miller's drive for wanting to memorize lines that landed him in the lead role of "The Man Who Came to Dinner"

Even though he is adept at memorization, Miller said, he has so many monologues that it has not been an easy task.

The thing Miller likes best about the play, which will be brought to the stage of the Davidson High School Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 8, is his character Sheridan Whiteside.

Miller said he never heard of the play, written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, until Director Trace Crawford made the announcement that they would perform "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

Kaufman and Moss modeled the character for and after Alexander Woollcott, a theater critic and radio star. The mean-spirited Whiteside came to shape after Woollcott visited Hart's Buck County estate, according to Wikipedia.

"He just came in and took over the house," Miller said.

When Woollcott left, after terrorizing the staff, reports say he left a note saying, "This is to certify that I had one of the most unpleasant times I ever spent."

Woollcott, who gained notoriety as an old grouch, even played Sheridan Whiteside in one of the productions, according to Miller.

The day after Crawford selected his cast, the students sat down to watch the movie version staring Nathan Lane and Jean Smart.

Camille Young, who assumes the identity of June Stanley, said Miller is the epitome of Lane.

The production, according to the cast, is hysterical.

"Believe it or not, we all have an incredible amount of one liners," Miller said.

John Ackerman will take on three different roles during the play.

In the first act, Ackerman is the more intellectual Professor Metz.

Then he will take on the role of Beverly Carlton, a snobby, rich man, in Act Two.

Ackerman steals the show when he first comes onto the stage in Act Three as the crazy comic Banjo.

"As soon as he enters, roaring laughter," Miller said. "You are supposed to laugh on stage and think it is funny or whatever, but it is genuine laughter for me. Because he is just the funniest character."

Miller said Banjo chases Whiteside's nurse around the room.

"He just screams and he has all of these different voices," Miller said. "He breaks into song and that is the part of the play where I have a couple of one liners that don't really mean anything, just to keep the scene going."

Ackerman said he likes all three of his characters for different reasons.

Banjo is the wackiest of his characters.

"He's pretty crazy," said Ackerman. "He is really out there and it is just off-the-wall energy all the time."

Between each act, Ackerman said, will change his makeup, hair and costumes to make himself believable as three different people.

"I will have plenty of time," he said. "It's like it was made for that."

Michelle Weiser, as secretary Maggie Cutler, will play opposite Miller, as they have done in a number of productions since their freshman year.

"We have excellent stage chemistry," Miller said.

Weiser said she is keeping count of the number of times they have been matched.

"We were watching the movie and the director was saying the really central relationship is between Maggie and Sheridan," said Miller. "It is a love story, but it's not a romance."

They said it is about Whiteside allowing Cutler to be herself.

"There is a level of devotion between the two of them," said Weiser.

Twenty-five people make up the cast.

Miller said that is large for a fall comedy.

"Last year we did 'I Hate Hamlet' and it was a cast of six," he said.

Two seniors who are new to theater this year have taken on roles and made them their own, according to Miller.

He said Maggie Eldridge, who plays Lorainne Sheldon, and Lexi Kaufman, who plays Harriet Stanley, are doing a wonderful job with their parts.

"The cast is working so well together," said Weiser.

She and a friend went to dinner and tried to figure out who would be the best person for the roles available. Then they were surprised when they got the cast list, because none of the roles were filled by the people they thought would be good for the parts.

Once everyone was on stage and getting into their characters, Weiser said, it was obvious that Crawford knew what he was doing.

"I've never been in a show where things ran so smoothly since the very beginning," Weiser said. "The script and lines are so well written that it flows so easy. I love to bring it to life."

Miller said the cast is able to suspend their own personalities and become the characters.