by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Entirely silly and wholly entertaining, Wasatch Theatre Ventures took a comedic deep dive with Ken Ludwig’s, Tony-nominated Moon Over Buffalo and landed a good old-fashioned, hilarious romp!  Opening last weekend at the Grove Theatre Center in Burbank, director Kiff Scholl presented an all-star cast in one of Broadway’s more outrageous parodies.

A lively show from front to back, actors Mark Belnick, Paul Galliano, Carol Herman, Sarah Hunt, Kimberly Lewis, Paul Michael Nieman, Chuck Raucci and Keri Safran, delivered technically on this very character driven, slapstick, situation comedy, timing critical script, keeping up a thoroughly animated energy and excellent fast pacing throughout. Not a moment of dead time ever doused the fun.  The cast worked together seamlessly in the ensemble work.  The audience reaped the rewards of a great show that kept them laughing for the entire performance.

 Paul Galliano, Mark Belnick, Kimberly Lewis, Keri Safran - Photo by Ed Krieger
Paul Galliano, Mark Belnick, Kimberly Lewis, Keri Safran – Photo by Ed Krieger

Charlotte and George Hay, a once-famed acting couple, are now on tour in Buffalo, NY in 1953 with a repertory consisting of Cyrano de Bergerac (the “revised, one nostril version”) and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Audience tastes have changed with television and film taking over and have left this theater duo in a rep rut with hardly any regular audience and hard-pressed to pay the bills.  Suddenly, Fate has given these stars one more shot at the big time: starring roles in a motion picture.  But can they survive their off-stage, daily madcap, melodrama and actually pull off a showcase performance, without a hitch, in front of legendary film director Frank Capra who is flying in to see the matinee?

The problem is, that they are a hodgepodge of players with extra cast ill-suited for stage and who quit on cue, a deaf grandmother who doesn’t like her son-in-law and who accidentally, nearly, sabotages the production, a not so ingenue leading lady ready to jump ship, a often drunk and philandering leading man, a runaway (to another career) daughter who claims she hates theatre, a jealous, head-over-heels-in-love, ex-fiancé stage manager trying to keep it all together, a ditzy, teary-eyed, supporting actress who needs a husband – quick, a love-sick, talent manager bent on stealing away the married woman of his dreams…and… one outsider, a weatherman, fiancé, who practically drives this farce all the way to an over-the-top epic fail.

The story is pretty, disastrously, hysterical. As a note this show when it first opened on Broadway marked the return of Carol Burnett to the stage after a 30 year absence and also starred Phillip Bosco.  So the zaniness is built into the script and also quite a bit into the expectation.  But the cast truly pulls it all off beautifully.

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All the actors gave standout performances.  One of the hands down critical moments was played by actress, Keri Safran (Rosalind) who was especially spectacular as she handled the comedy of holding down the fort, alone onstage, while her father roams around in the wrong costume, utterly drunk, during Private Lives. She and Mr. Galliano (Paul) also register a really exciting chemistry as the fallen out but still in love, sexually attracted couple.  Indeed the chemistry between the entire cast is what sets this show apart.

Michael Mullen’s costume design is more than noteworthy.  Creative and 1953 timeline spot-on his costuming of the characters in real life and onstage in repertory are absolutely gorgeous, colorful and remarkably, un-frumpily, flattering.

Everything about this boisterous show is delightful and Worth the Ticket.

Photo (above) by Ed Krieger: Kimberly Lewis, Paul Galliano and Keri Safran  

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