When iconic comedienne Carol Burnett returned to Broadway in the 1990s, after a 30-year absence, her first role was in Moon Over Buffalo, a play written for actor-comedian Philip Bosco. But before going into production, playwright Ken Ludwig rewrote the script to enlarge the role of the female lead, taking advantage of Burnett’s fame and tremendous comic gifts.
The Phoenicia Playhouse takes on Moon Over Buffalo from May 4 through 20, Fridays through Sundays, with direction by the theater’s artistic director Michael Koegel. The cast is led by John Remington and Elaine Young as George and Charlotte Hay, fading Broadway stars of the 1950’s. Desperate for a comeback, the Hays are part of an acting troupe with five other actors playing a gig in Buffalo, NY. The Hays’ one last desperate shot at stardom arrives as the famous Hollywood director Frank Capra is to see their matinee for the casting of his movie remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Of course, anything that can go wrong, does go wrong in this madcap comedy.
Koegel spent four weeks at the theater, five days a week, eight hours a day, designing and building the set, complete with six doors for plenty of door-slamming and running in and out. “It’s all about timing and pace,” said Koegel. “Often actors think comedy has to be fast — and it does, but the bits have to be worked carefully and then sped up. We spent weeks tearing down each little take or slap or pratfall, figuring out how it worked. ‘Look first, then do that, then the say the line. Okay, now do it faster.’”
Remington and Young played the parents in last year’s Playhouse production of Prelude to a Kiss. Young, who performed with the Metropolitan Opera for 25 years, replaces Burnett’s characteristic whoops with notes belted out in her big voice. Also in the cast are Geneva Turner, Austin Carrothers, Caitlin Connelly, Will Anderson, Daniela Goldberg, and Rob Rowe.
Lighting has been designed by town supervisor Rob Stanley, who retired years ago from his local acting career to serve on the town board. He recently returned to the Phoenicia Playhouse board of directors. Marsha Panza has organized spectacular costumes, and there is a staff member devoted entirely to wigs. Adding in the pastel colors of the set, said Koegel, “This show is eye candy. It’s like being inside an Easter basket. It’s also a valentine to the theater. Just sit back and laugh.”
Phoenicia Playhouse presents Moon Over Buffalo May 4-6, 11-13, and 18-20 with Friday and Saturday curtains at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors and students. For reservations, call 845-688-2279 or purchase tickets online at https://phoeniciaplayhouse.com/. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office. As a special offer, mention “Friends and Family” on the phone or at the box office and get a second ticket at half-price for opening night only (offer not available online). The Phoenicia Playhouse is located at 10 Church Street, Phoenicia.