By Richard Schultz, July 2016 Issue.
Desert Stages Theatre is preparing for its move to a new venue in the Scottsdale Fashion Square, occupying the space that once housed the Harkins movie theaters off the food court this fall.
To bid farewell to their old home, Desert Stages presents a nod to a bygone era in theater with Ken Ludwig’s comedy Moon Over Buffalo. This fast-paced farce proves to be the ideal summer fare, as it’s both charming and hilarious.
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 1950s. At the moment, they’re playing Private Lives and Cyrano De Bergerac in rep in Buffalo, New York, with five 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.
Director Dan Ashlock saw the show on Broadway with Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco in the leading roles.
“I knew that someday I wanted to direct this show,” he said. “Ken Ludwig created eight fantastic characters and put them into a situation just ripe with hilarity and comic twists. I love the elements of comedy that force the actors to be quick both in mind and on their feet.”
Ashlock, who is making his directorial debut at Desert Stages, recognizes that farces are fun to stage, but also require hard work and trust among the actors.
“This show uses an extravagant and exaggerated plot along with lots of physical humor,” he said. “In rehearsals, we explore the physical elements along with the dialogue and characterization. It’s important the actors learn the script early so we could fully explore the physical elements. We often repeat smaller sections so the actors can increase the rapid-fire delivery of lines naturally. I want the audience to feel the exhilaration and frenetic energy the characters bring to the story.”
Ted Frumkin, who plays George, said he enjoys the challenge of the physicality of the show.
“George is not only verbose but very frenetic,” he said. “I am a high energy person so it has been interesting to try and bring my own frenetic energy to the role.”
Frumkin admits that he’s been a longtime fan of The Three Stooges, Oliver & Hardy and Abbot & Costello.
“I was drawn to the role for the physical comedy that I knew was part of playing George,” he said. “… I have been doing pratfalls and slapstick comedy with my friends ever since I was a kid. I am having so much fun using these self-taught skills to play George.”
For actress KatiBelle Collins, playing Charlotte was a bucket list role.
“From the first time I read the play, I thought this part is written for me,” she said. “I think every actor has those roles that they feel were written for them. These are roles that we connect with on some level and that match our personalities.”
The most enjoyable aspect, she adds, has been working with this cast, especially Ted who plays George, her husband.
“He is a consummate professional, and a wonderfully talented comic actor,” she said. “From the first time we read together during auditions, there was a chemistry that made it so much fun. He works hard to make things work, sometimes we get to laughing when things don’t go exactly as planned.”
Moon Over Buffalo
Through July 24
Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre
4720 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Tickets: $25; 480-483-1664