by Dick Kerekes
The Alhambra Dinner Theatre opened the funniest play this year last week with Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo. I had seen this show twice previously but still I laughed myself to tears especially in the wild second act of this great farce. This play opened on Broadway in l995 with Carol Burnett in the leading role garnering a Tony Nomination and has been popular every since all over the USA.
The plot is the story of an over the hill acting couple, who in l953 are on tour in Buffalo with a repertory of two plays, Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Cyrano de Bergerac. They receive news that they will have one more chance at starring roles in the movie The Scarlet Pimpernel. World famous director Frank Capra is coming to their matinee to catch their act. Since this is a farce it becomes an exaggerated comedy with many humorous situations, mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and lots of doors opening and closing and miles and miles of frantic running around.
Our leading man, George Hay (Tony Triano) is suspected of having an affair with the company’s young acting ingénue Eileen (played by Douglas Anderson student, Ana Hill). George’s wife Charlotte Hay (Lisa Valdini) considers leaving him for their long time attorney Richard (Joe Candelora), Their daughter, Rosalind (Katie Scott) is visiting, having quit show business because it is so crazy and like living in an asylum. She has come to have parents meet her new fiancé, Howard (Joshua Edwards) who works as a ditzy TV weatherman. This is complicated by Paul (Joey Panek). Paul is Rosalind’s former fiancée is the company manager and still has the hots for her. Toss in one final character, Charlotte’s hard of hearing mother Ethel (Ann D. Hurst) who handles the company’s costumes and you have the ingredients for stew full of slapstick and lots of fun.
All this mostly takes place in the backstage ready room, on a set that has FIVE doors, yes, be sure to count them, and congratulate set Scene Designer David Dionne for managing to fit them on the small Alhambra stage. In addition Dionne fashioned a lovely outdoor patio for Private Lives and part of a castle for Cyrano.
Director Tod Booth could not have cast this show any better. The actors are razor sharp with their lines and entrances and are an ensemble as good as I have ever seen in comedy of this type. Ms. Valdini and Mr. Triano have worked together many times and have wonderful chemistry. Her first show at the Alhambra was in l984, and Tony’s in l988. Although they play actors past their prime, this dynamic duo is just reaching theirs.
If you are an actor or aspire to be one, you will love this show with its look at back stage life in theatre. You will be delighted and inspired by the wonderful performance of Ms. Hurst as the mother.
This shows builds its laughs line by line, that culminates in the hilarious 2nd act, when George gets drunk, and performers as Cyrano in Private Lives and anything that can go wrong, does. I am pleased to report that there is a surprising and happy ending and you will leave the theatre with a big smile on your face.
The Alhambra is noted for the musicals they have entertained thousands of North Florida residents and visitors with over the past 40 years. A couple of times a year they do straight plays, always a comedy that audiences have come to appreciate and enjoy. As a gift to Jacksonville, the Alhambra is offering a special deal on this show through September l4th. Buy one and get one free!! Hurry the show runs through October 5th, but the special ends the l4th of September.
Moon Over Buffalo
by Dick Kerekes