Moon Over Buffalo is one of those rare and brilliant chestnuts in Contemporary Theatre that relies heavily on situation comedy for its humor, sprinkled with a tad of sexual innuendo for spice, and a smidgen of slapstick humor to ramp up the laughs. It also marked the beloved actress and comedian Carol Burnett’s triumphant return to Broadway after 30 years (for which she received a Tony Award nomination).
When it originally opened on Broadway in 1995 it ran for 309 performances and is also unique for the extraordinary D.A. Pennebaker documentary film entitled Moon Over Broadway, which followed the show from rehearsal period through Broadway opening, documenting the time during rehearsal when the play had to be stopped due to a technical problem and Burnett for half an hour just did the Carol Burnett Show.”
Subsequent Broadway casts included Lynn Redgrave and Robert Goulet and the play later opened at London’s legendary Old Vic starring Joan Collins and Frank Langella. And now under the direction of top-notch comedic director Todd Thomas, orchestrated chaos of Moon Over Buffalo is poised to astonish audiences upon the regional stage as Pit & Balcony prepares its own concoction of this deftly layered theatrical exercise for a series of performances that are set to run from March 16-18th and March 23-25th.
In the madcap comedy tradition of Lend me a Tenor, the hilarious Moon Over Buffalo centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950's. At the moment, they’re playing Private Lives and Cyrano De Bergerac in rep in Buffalo, New York with 5 actors. On the brink of a disastrous split-up caused by George’s dalliance with a young ingénue, they receive word that they might just have one last shot at stardom: Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee, and if likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Unfortunately for George and Charlotte, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, abetted by a visit from their daughter’s clueless fiancé and hilarious uncertainty about which play they’re actually performing, caused by Charlotte’s deaf old stage-manager mother who hates every bone in George’s body.
As one can tell from this short synopsis, the narrative movement and comedic interaction between the various actors is ripe with action and activity flowing together on numerous levels, making Moon Over Buffalo a particularly challenging work to orchestrate and pull off, especially insofar as with such type of theatrical comedy, timing is everything. Hence – the selection of Todd Thomas to direct the P&B production of Buffalo is an exciting choice, given his love of the genre and proclivity for rendering successful productions of similar complex farces such as Noises Off, which marked his directorial debut at the Pit in a previous season.
“With many of Ken Ludwig’s farces, the levity and flow of the script belies the fact that when you dissect it closely, one realizes he constructs his work with the similar precision of a good engineer,” reflects Thomas. “It’s much like a huge rollercoaster ride, filled with much physical humor, especially for the lead actor Shawn Finney, who portrays the character of George Hay, and is required to deliver a highly physical performance. The action and dialogue are fast-paced.” Rounding out the cast are veteran thespian Amy Spadafore as Charlotte Hay, Rachel Jingles as Rosalind, Katie Cook as Ethel, and actors Dan Kettler, Trashan Donald, Matt Kehoe and Kevin Proffit.
As a Director, it is imperative for Thomas to draw upon all the talents and expertise of his actors to render a tightly orchestrated, yet seemingly unforced and un-staged flow to the entire arc of the script. “As an actor, you want to know a cue line for doing a specific action, and the problem is with comedies of this nature is that it’s a continuous motion. Nothing actually stops or waits for something else, so it’s a very difficult situation for the actors. I keep telling them it’s both hard and complicated, which is the exact reason why it’s so damn funny. It’s all in the timing.”
“I believe that audiences will be thoroughly delighted with this production,” concludes Thomas. “Early on you are able to identify with the characters you’re seeing; and one of the worst things you can do in acting farce is ‘try’ to be funny. You can’t force it. That’s why I tell my actors, ‘Be who you are’. Feel like the characters are real and they can and will be funny.”
“I think we have the cast that will do that and I believe people will leave Pit & Balcony in a better mood after seeing this performance than when they came.”
Pit & Balcony’s production of ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ will run March 16-18 & 23-25th. Performances being at 7:30 pm and Sunday matinees start at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $18.00 and available by phoning the Box Office at 989.754.6587 or by ordering online at pitandbalconytheatre.com. Pit & Balcony is located at 805 N. Hamilton in the historic Saginaw Old Town District.
16th November, 2023