‘Give ‘em Hell, Harry’ comes to Gulf Theater

Jack Rabito will reprise the role of the country’s 33rd president when he performs “Give ,em Hell, Harry” at the Gulf Theater at the Military Heritage Museum on Jan. 17.

Military Heritage Museum

Jack Rabito has been playing Harry S Truman (he didn’t use the period after his middle initial) for nine years now, and “it never gets old.”

The veteran actor will reprise the role of the country’s 33rd president when he performs “Give ‘em Hell, Harry” at the Gulf Theater at the Military Heritage Museum on Jan. 17.

“Harry Truman occupied a unique place in American history,” said Isaac James, the Gulf Theater’s manager. “A lot of people recall the triumphant Truman holding up the newspaper headline declaring his opponent the winner of the 1948 presidential election. But not everyone remembers that he implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe and established the Truman Doctrine and NATO.

“Jack brings this towering figure to life.”

Rabito, a Venice resident, came across “Give ,em Hell, Harry” when his son, also an actor, sent him the script.

“He said, ‘Dad, you should do it,’” Rabito recalled. “It seemed like a lot of work to me. But after I read it, I decided to give it a try.”

Rabito first performed it in October 2011 with the Charlotte Players, a community theater group in Port Charlotte.

“I was expecting 20 people,” Rabito said. “We sold out three shows.”

Truman was a plain-spoken man who did not suffer fools kindly. He had a penchant for saying what he was thinking and keeping his comments brief and pointed.

“He was a very simple man,” Rabito said. “What impressed me so much about this man was he was the last of his kind in campaigning and in respect and honesty toward the office of President. He made no money off it. He left without a pension.

“He was just what he was — an honest, down-to-earth politician who had a high regard for people and ethics.”

The show, Rabito said, has an “inertia all its own. People respond to it.”

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