ALBANY Shelly Garrett cant
quite remember his line, but he remembers the
audience reaction like it was yesterday. Thats when
Garrett got the acting bug.
Id been working with a lighting
company at the CBS and ABC studios in LA, and I was
working on the old Chico and the Man TV program,
Garrett said. Jack Donohue was the director, and I
told him Id like to be an extra on in episode. I
wanted to be an actor.
He called me into his office one
day and gave me two pages of script. He told me,
Youre on the second page. I thought Id just be
an extra, but I wound up having a part as a
policeman with an actual line. I remember when I
came out and said my line in front of the studio
audience, they screamed with laughter. That was it;
I had the bug.
It was the immediate reaction of a live audience
that sparked something in Garrett. And while his
acting career never really took off, he did find a
way to replicate that audience reaction thousands
and thousands of times over as a playwright.
As author, director, producer,
designer chief chef and bottle washer of the
groundbreaking 1989 urban play Beauty Shop and its
subsequent sequels, Garrett has rung up tens of
millions of dollars in ticket sales and kept
audiences rolling in the aisles for more than two
The latest in the line of Beauty
Shop incarnations will debut Saturday at the Albany
Municipal Auditorium when Garrett presents Beauty
Shop 2011. The two-show run (8 p.m. Saturday and a
3 p.m. matinee Sunday, Jan. 16) will be a homecoming
for the shows star, Doris Garrett, the playwrights
Doris Garrett is an Albany State University alumna
who was chosen queen of the Alpha Phi Alpha
fraternity and captain of the universitys Royal
Passionettes dance team.
Weve always wanted to do the
show in Albany, so Im excited about this
opportunity, Doris Garrett, who was introduced to
her future husband by a mutual friend in Atlanta,
said while in town Wednesday to promote Beauty Shop
Shelly Garrett said hed been
trying to bring his play to Albany for the last
couple of years, but he couldnt get officials at
the Albany Civic Center to return his calls. And he
said when he contacted a city official, he was
discouraged from bringing his show to Albany.
We were told the play wouldnt do well here,
Garrett said. I was amazed, because my wife has
ties here. But we tend not to concentrate on the
Albany audiences will witness a
show that influenced such noted African-American
auteurs as Tyler Perry and David E. Talbert.
Tyler Perry told me he saw Beauty Shop three
times when we took the show to New Orleans, and
David E. Talbert told me hed seen the show and felt
compelled to do something similar, Shelly Garrett
said. People have asked me why I dont do movies
like Tyler does, but its not something Im
interested in doing.
If theres a movie out there,
why would anyone pay a higher price to go see the
live play? Besides, weve done all right. The play
made $33 million in its first 3 1/2-year run.
After his one line on Chico and
the Man, Garrett became something of a rising star
in Hollywood. He landed roles in McDonalds,
Kentucky Fried Chicken, GMC and Dr Pepper ads, and
from those he was able to get bit parts in TV dramas
like Baretta, Rockford Files, McCloud, The $6
Million Man, Police Woman, Quincy and other
But the process of doing small TV
parts and ads did not excite Garrett.
Youd have to be on the set for makeup at 5:30
a.m., and you might not be on camera until 4 that
afternoon, he said. Most of the actors just read
books or sat around, but I went out and watched the
director, the sound people, the camera crews to see
how they put everything together.
Garrett got his last conventional
role after answering an ad in the casting periodical
Drama-logue. He was cast as Dootsie Williams, the
real-life owner of DooTone Records, in the
entrepreneurs production of Earth Angel.
It wasnt a very good play, and
when we performed there might be 10 people in the
small theater ... and they were usually friends or
relatives of the actors, Garrett said. If an actor
made a mistake, Dootsie would call out from the
audience, I didnt write that. It was hilarious.
I went to him one day since I was playing him
and suggested a different line at one point in the
play. He started yelling at me, telling me, You
dont change my script. If youre so smart, why
dont you go write a play of your own, Youre
While Williams may not have been
offering literal advice, Garrett took him up on the
challenge. He wrote his first play, Snuff and
Miniskirts, which sold out a 300-seat LA theater
for a six-week run.
Soon after, Garrett wrote Beauty Shop. With it
came the live audience reaction Garrett had grown to
It just clicked, the playwright
said. Audiences loved it. It was the first stage
play at the Wilshire-Ebel Theatre in Los Angeles,
the first to play at Constitution Hall in
Washington, D.c., and the first to play The Beacon
Theatre in New York City.
In fact, Beauty Shop was at the
famed Beacon for 13 weeks, and each of the eight
weekly shows was a sellout.
People need and want to laugh, Garrett said.
Garrett wrote other plays notably Im Doing the
Right Thing With the Wrong Man, the first play in
which he cast his future wife but audiences kept
demanding more Beauty Shop. He acquiesced,
updating the original in Beauty Shop Part 2,
Beauty Shop 10 Years Later, Beauty Shop Under
New Management, and Beauty Shop The Original
Stage Play, which was recorded by Urban Works
Productions during a 16-night run in Dallas for DVD
Now comes Beauty Shop 2011.
It updates the story again,
Garrett said. Instead of Chris the flamboyantly
gay character whose been in all of the plays and who
everyone loves owning the beauty shop, its now
owned by the lovely Champagne Miller, who happens to
be played by Doris.
Its her first starring role, but I think shes
going to nail it. From the first time I put her in
one of my plays, I realized that she was born to do
this. She just takes over the stage when shes on
Garrett, who was forced onto the
stage when his lead actor was grounded on Sept. 11,
2001 after the World Trade Center and Pentagon
terrorist attacks, also has a role on the 2011
Funny thing about acting in the play, I wrote it
but I didnt know the lines, Garrett laughs. When
I had to replace Larry Blackmon at that 9-11 show in
South Bend, Ind., I had post-its hidden all over the
stage. Id put them where the audience couldnt see
them and read them.
Everyone in the crew was dying laughing at that.
Garrett said his team of actors
and his production
crew are ready to wow Southwest Georgia theater
People here will be totally
entertained, he said. Theyll laugh, there will be
some tears, and there will be a lot of singing. I
guarantee its going to bring goosebumps to their
arms and neck ... and thats by intermission.
When they meet up with friends
in the lobby during intermission and theyre asked
how they like the show, I dont want them to say
Its OK. I want them to feel like theyve already
gotten their moneys worth. I want them to tell each
other, I cant wait for the second act.