Voice-over artist Bill Ratner gives a mild slap down to American television’s most legendary and beloved show of all time in his one man show, Bobbywood, Whatever Happened to Bobby the Bell Boy currently running at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It’s a warm & not so fuzzy tale about a man trying to identify with & recover a family member he has been forbidden by his family to meet for most of his life until he becomes an actor himself and lands in LA.
Uncle Bobby, in the early days quickly graduated from being a well loved, comedic radio pioneer to a brilliant tv actor because he could do characters. (Setting the bar for why even today acting teachers, coaching and casting directors will always say, “Forget about being a lead, you should be a character actor!” [jeez!]) But his rise to fame came with a heavy price. Bobby finds himself in the office of Dezi Arnaz, (Ricky Riccardo) who pulls him aside one afternoon and asks him (along with every other actor on the show) to sign away his residuals for life. He doesn’t want to do it, but he’s scared not too when Arnaz couches his possible otherwise firing by saying, “I’m the producer. If I like you, and I like you Bobby, you’ll work on the show.” And so launches the spiraling downfall of Bobby Jellison, from guilt and betrayal and an eventual pink slip anyway when the show gets cancelled.
Sitting in the audience listening to the outrageous shenanigans of a now aged, alcoholic Bobby who on one hand seems almost wise and on the other completely insane, selfish and irresponsible, even sinking low enough to cheating on his wife at the back of a cemetery mausaleum, is an eye-opener.
Waking up one day from being a world renowned celebrity to suddenly a life of obscurity the next, selling men’s trouser’s in a department store is the kind of shock to a person’s system that could send anyone into a life long depression. But, “That’s show business kid.”
Bill is an exceptional story teller. He never “lays it on thick” keeping the door open for laughter without anger, accusation, remorse or judgement. Bobby has his own life, has made his own choices, and simply was who he was. And Hollywood?… It is what it is.
The audience is invited to “share.” We get a sense that Bill Ratner, however nonchalant he may be in telling the tale, is forever changed; moved in the simplest of ways to discover his own life as a person and as an actor in the business. It was sweet.
A MUST SEE at the Fringe this year.