Once in a Blue Moon, a local actor has a chance to reprise a leading role in two major Triangle productions during the same calendar year. This time, it is Greg Flowers, a consummate comedian cast by two local community-theater directors as itinerant actor George Hay in Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo.
In April, Flowers literally stole the show in Garner in The Towne Players’ exuberant production of this wacky backstage comedy, set in 1953 on stage and behind the scenes at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo, NY -- a long, long, long way from Broadway. Flowers repeats -- and even improves upon -- his critically acclaimed comic characterization in the current Raleigh Little Theatre presentation of Moon Over Buffalo, staged with brio and wicked wit by long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, who underscores the sexual side of every double entendre and comic confrontation and, in so doing, transforms this backstage comedy into a door-slamming sex farce.
At one time, George Hay and his tightly wound wife, perpetual ingénue Charlotte Hay (Jenny Anglum), were rising stars of the American theater scene -- a sort of second-rate Lunt and Fontanne -- but now George is a ham’s ham onstage and a boozer and womanizer off stage, and Charlotte is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore.
Greg Flowers, who sometimes careens around RLT scenic designer Roger Bridges’ nicely detailed set rubbery legged, like a rag doll, deepens and broadens his grasp on his meaty role; and Jenny Anglum proves the perfect foil. George has been a bad, bad boy -- he’s impregnated Eileen (Lois Triplett), the ditzy twenty-something blonde in his steadily shrinking traveling company -- and Anglum gets Charlotte Hay’s attitude just right: she loves the bum, and she’s fed up -- but if the rumored chance to co-star with George in a big-budget film directed by Frank Capra actually materializes, she’ll stand his shameless indiscretions just a little while longer -- but only for the sake of her career.
When their handsome entertainment lawyer, Richard (Jim Sullivan), rides in like Prince Charming on a white charger, Charlotte is ready to play Damsel in Distress and let him rescue her from her increasingly sordid domestic situation -- unless and until Capra calls. Meanwhile, the Hays’ prodigal daughter, Rosalind (Collette Rutherford), is back with Howard (Jaret Preston), her wide-eyed television-weatherman fiancé, in tow. Before she gave up acting to try to lead a more normal life, Roz used to be in love with Paul (Damien Juel Taylor), the Hays’ behind-the-scenes jack-of-all-trades.
Lois Triplett is cute as Eileen; Collette Rutherford is amusing as Roz; and Jaret Preston is entertaining as Howard, a fish out of water whose fanlike admiration for George and Charlotte Hay cannot possibly survive exposure to the real thing. Damien Juel Taylor plays Paul with gusto; and Joyce Weiser has a field day playing Ethel, Charlotte Hay’s hard-of-hearing mother -- and the company’s jill-of-all-trades.
If it were a motion picture, Haskell Fitz-Simons’ production of Moon Over Buffalo would be rated at least PG 13, because the veteran director underscores the show’s adult humor by transforming Cyrano’s rubber nose into a phallic symbol, and staging a wrestling match between George and Paul in a particularly suggestive way.
In addition to Roger Bridges’ imaginative set and costume designer Vicki Olson’s impressive assortment of 1950s fashions and characters’ costumes for Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives, the backstage contributions of lighting designer Rick Young, props mistress Amy Flynn, and stage manager Becca Easley also add extra luster to this stellar production of Moon Over Buffalo.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Moon Over Buffalo Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 13-15 and 20-22, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 23, at 3 p.m. on the Cantey V. Sutton Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $15-$21 ($12 students and seniors Thursday and Sunday). 919/821-3111 or via etix at the presenter's site. Note: All performances are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all performances. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/buffalo.htm [inactive 4/06]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=6216. Ken Ludwig: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=7069 and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0525024/. Moon Over Broadway: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125412/ and http://www.artlic.com/films/moon.html [inactive 9/08].
Raleigh Little Theatre will present Moon Over Buffalo, a brilliant backstage comedy by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor), on its Cantey V. Sutton Stage Oct. 7-23. Long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons will direct the show.
According to RLT:
“It’s 1953 and George and Charlotte Hay [Greg Flowers and Jenny Anglum] — think Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne ... or, perhaps, the Barrymores — are playing rep in [the old Erlanger Theater in] Buffalo ... Buffalo!!! If you speak the lingo, you know that’s very, very far from Broadway (but at least they’re not doing commercials). George and Charlotte carry on despite the small audiences and their inappropriate roles as young lovers in two classic shows.
“Their motley company and crew are touring [French dramatist Edmund] Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac and [British playwright] Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Cyrano is a late-1800s romantic sword fighting play with a huge cast (George and Charlotte have cut it back to a cast of five, thereby losing most of the point of the play). Private Lives is a British drawing-room comedy from the 1930s, fortunately having very few roles. Their egos dictate that George and Charlotte will play the too-young roles of Coward’s Elyot and Amanda, and Rostand’s Cyrano and Roxanne.
“Theory and reality are shown to be two very different things when both plays are staged the same day with hysterical results. Their daughter Roz [Collette Rutherford] — a darn fine young actress by the way — has had it with the hand-to-mouth existence and is marrying a safe and solvent young man [Jaret Preston as a buttoned-down Buffalo weatherman named Howard]. Paul [Damien Taylor], the company’s young manager, wishes she weren’t (you see where this subplot is going).
“We meet this theatrical family when the supporting actor has just walked out, the ingénue [Lois Triplett] is headed to the doctor’s for a pregnancy test, the payroll is two weeks overdue, and there’s a matinee in an hour. It would all seem like just another humdrum day in the theater if it weren’t for an unexpected phone call from their New York agent.
“[Moon Over Buffalo] is told with typical twists, turns, collisions, mistaken identities, ridiculous miscommunications, slapstick antics, some terrifying swordplay, and a stage set with six doors. Add to all that an eccentric, near-deaf mother-in-law [Joyce Weiser], a couple of love triangles [one involving Charlotte Hay and a smooth-talking entertainment attorney named Richard (Jim Sullivan)], an overly square weatherman, and a chance at stardom if famous Hollywood Director, Frank Capra, comes to see the play and chooses George and Charlotte for Hollywood roles in his upcoming epic.”
In addition to director Haskell Fitz-Simons, the RLT production team includes scenic designer Roger Bridges, lighting designer Rick Young, costume designer Vicki Olson, props mistress Amy Flynn, and stage manager Becca Easley.
Moon Over Buffalo made its Broadway debut on Oct. 1, 1995 at the Martin Beck Theatre, with veteran character actor Philip Bosco and celebrated television comedienne Carol Burnett playing George and Charlotte Hay. The show closed on June 30, 1996, after 309 performances. It earned 1996 Tony Award® nominations for Bosco and Burnett as Best Actor and Best Actress in a Play.
Moon Over Broadway, a 1997 documentary directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (The War Room), provides a hilarious behind-the-scenes look as playwright Ken Ludwig, director Tom Moore, producers Rocco Landesman and Elizabeth Williams, and stars Philip Bosco and Carol Burnett struggle to make this comedy about a low-rent Lunt and Fontaine into a Broadway hit.
In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman reported, “It’s rare to see a fly-on-the-wall documentary that’s as much fun as Moon Over Broadway.” Len Klady of Variety claimed that this choice documentary “chronicles the guts, grind and glory of the [creative] process. [It is a] valentine to the contemporary commercial stage.… Pennebaker, a lion of cinema verité, and Hegedus do an exemplary job. [Moon Over Broadway gives its viewers a] front-row-center seat for an enjoyable romp on the boards.”
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Moon Over Buffalo Friday-Saturday, Oct. 7-8, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 13-15 and 20-22, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 23, at 3 p.m. on the Cantey V. Sutton Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $15-$21 ($12 students and seniors Thursday and Sunday), except $10 all seats Oct. 9th. 919/821-3111 or via etix at the presenter's site. Note 1: All performances are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all performances. Note 2: The Oct. 9th performance will be American-sign-language interpreted and audio described. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/buffalo.htm [inactive 4/06]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=6216. Ken Ludwig: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=7069 and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0525024/. Moon Over Broadway: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125412/ and http://www.artlic.com/films/moon.html [inactive 9/08].