Classical Voice of North Carolina


REVIEW: Raleigh Little Theatre: Greg Flowers Brilliantly Reprises His Role in Moon Over Buffalo

by Robert W. McDowell

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. 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.

Alan R. Hall's                     Front Row Center              Vol. 10, No. 12

Theater in the Triangle                                          October 26, 2005

RALEIGH - Raleigh Little Theatre’s second Mainstage event this season was a hoot of a comedy by Ken Ludwig, playwright of “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Noises Off.” As are the other two, this play is a crash course in how not to run a theater; this particular one is located in Buffalo, NY, in 1953.  Ensconced within is the repertory company of George and Charlotte Hay, a husband and wife team of actors who have both seen the high points in their careers come and go.  They now hold together a small and fragile little company which is, as we join them on one Sunday morning, coming apart at the seams.

While “Moon Over Buffalo” is perhaps the least refined and most predictable of the three plays we have mentioned, RLT made it work, by bringing back not only the styles and stages of the fifties, but also some exceptional costumes, a great cast including a leading man who is very familiar with this play, and that pretty terrific revolving stage that got so much attention at its debut in “The Spitfire Grill.” The plays that are involved in this particular repertory are “Private Lives” and “Cyrano de Bergerac,” and we saw scenes from both. Using that revolving stage, RLT was able to switch back and forth from onstage to backstage with panache.

“Moon” only uses a cast of eight, and not all of them are actually in the repertory company. Imagine, if you can, a production of “Cyrano” using a cast of five. This is the kind of difficulty the company faces on a daily basis, but this Sunday morning, everything seems to go wrong at once. The supporting actor, who, like the rest of the company, has not been paid in two weeks, decides to walk. Eileen, the ingenue (Lois Triplett), is certain she is pregnant, and leaves for the doctor’s office for confirmation. Ethel, stage mom of the company, costumer, and mother of the leading lady (Joyce Weiser), seems to have mislaid her hearing aid, and without it she’s deaf as a post. George Hay, co-owner of the company and its leading man (Greg Flowers), is in very hot water because, if Eileen is pregnant, he’s the father. Charlotte Hay (Jenny Anglum), is in a quandary as she must decide between her philandering husband and the attentions of Richard (Jim Sullivan), the quite handsome and filthy rich lawyer for the company who, despite the fact that she is already married, has just proposed. And Paul, company manager and General Understudy (Damien Juel Taylor), is smarting over the re-appearance of his once-love, Rosalind (Collette Rutherford), daughter of George and Charlotte, who left the company long ago and is only now returning to announce her betrothal to Howard (Jaret Preston), a local TV weatherman who is almost terminally “normal.”

Things appear headed for complete doom until a phone call changes everything. Both George and Charlotte auditioned for roles in a Frank Capra remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” but others were cast. However, the leading man has broken both legs and the leading lady has walked out. Suddenly, Capra is again interested in the team and is flying in this afternoon to see the matinee of “Private Lives.” Suddenly everything depends on this one performance.  But by this time, George thinks Charlotte is going to leave him, and gets rip-roaring drunk.  Both lesser roles are out, since the supporting actor has walked and Eileen is still at the Doctor.  So Paul must step in, Rosalind is drafted to play Sybil, and every effort is made to sober George up—to no avail.  He appears onstage in his Cyrano costume, and after several (riotously funny but) terrible moments, falls off the stage.  The show is shut down before the end of the first scene, and all seems lost.

Haskell Fitz-Simons directed “Moon” with every single aspect geared to make us laugh. There were no less than six (very sturdy) doors onstage, and all were used with blinding force. The exit to the street, stage right, revealed new and hilarious sounds from beyond with every entry or exit. George and Charlotte actually took to dueling with epees—quite well, truth be told—and Paul and Rosalind found out that what they thought was over wasn’t, quite.  Throughout, we were kept pretty much in stitches.  This was not so much due to the actual play itself, as it was to the truly gung-ho gusto with which this cast played it.

Earlier we mentioned that Greg Flowers was exceptionally familiar with this show.  Without a doubt, it’s true.  He had only just finished playing this very role for the Garner Players when he was cast in this show.  His total familiarity, along with a very long and very limber torso, made him a natural, from his own lecherous self to the roles he played.

All of the cast took well to being dated in the fifties, especially the ladies, Rutherford as Rosalind and Anglum as Charlotte.  They were quite comfortable in striking outfits, from street clothes to costumes a la 1920’s for “Private Lives;” and the costumes brought forth for “Cyrano,” both the men’s and the women’s, were gorgeous.  The only one person who didn’t get to play his role for every laugh that might be in it was Jim Sullivan as Richard, an earnest suitor and businessman who could not understand the pull that the stage held on his beloved.  He played the straight man throughout.

Raleigh Little Theatre is now in its 70th season; that’s gotta be a record for a community theater. But as long as the company keeps presenting plays that are as well-produced as this one, be it musical, drama, comedy, or farce, the seasons will continue, and RLT will keep packing in the houses.  RLT’s next presentation is imminent; “Miss Nelson is Missing!” opens in the Gaddy-Goodwin Theatre a week from Friday and runs Nov. 4-6, 9-13, and 17-20, with evening performances at 8 and matinees on Sundays at 3.  This is a musical comedy for the whole family!  Reserve your tickets now by calling 821-3111.

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