Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lyric Stage Ends Their Season With a Bang - "Light Up The Sky" Features An All-Star Cast

When I saw the cast list for "Light Up The Sky," Lyric Stage's current offering, I said to myself, "This is going to be fun!"  And it certainly was.  Director Scott Edmiston has assembled some of the most well known actors of Boston stages to mount this production of Moss Hart's classic comedy about Opening Night of a Boston tryout of a play that may be heading to Broadway - or may close after the first perfromance.  This send-up of the world of theater in those halcyon days of out of town tryouts paints with broad strokes some of the most stereotypical of theater world denizens: the diva, the over-reaching producer, the histrionic director, the stage mother, the milquetoast husband, the neophyte playwright, the stage struck fan.

Former truck driver turned playwright, Peter Sloan has written an edgy work that producer Sidney Black believes will "stick a Roman candle in the tired face of show business."  He sinks $300,000 of his money into producing this play, much of the money earned in promoting his ice skating wife, Frances.  They hire director Carleton Fitzgerald and diva, Irene Livingston to turn this raw play into a Broadway smash.  The complications that ensue are full of old but hilarious show business jokes. Add in some inebriated partying Shriners, and things get interesting on Opening Night.

Although some of Moss Hart's dialogue and characters may seem a bit dated, this wonderful ensemble of actors makes the one-liners sting and the action gallop.  They are helped by a gorgeous hotel suite set designed by Janie E. Howland, stunning period costumes by Gail Astrid Buckley, Lighting by Karen Perlow and Sound by Samuel Hanson.

Let's discuss Edmiston's all-star cast, to whom he gives great latitude in chewing the scenery as Hart intended in some of the most melodramatic scenes.

The Cast of
"Light Up The Sky"
by Moss Hart
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Through June 13
Photo by Marl S. Howard

  • Paula Plum is clearly having a ball in portraying diva Irene Livingston, the Leading Lady. She runs the gamut of feigning hysteria over some imagined tragedy, excoriating the young playwright when she thinks the play may be a flop, and turning on the charm when she needs to reconcile with Black and Fitzgerald after the early reviews are glowing.  It is a funny and delicious performance by one of Boston's Leading Ladies.
  • Will LeBow plays the role of Producer Sydney Black to the hilt.  Having made his money promoting his ice skating wife, he wants to enter the world of legitimate theater, and takes a shot with Peter Sloan and his new play.  One of his best scenes occurs when he is woken up by his wife to come meet one of the Shriners, who may be a potential investor in the play. Initially disheveled, and dismissive of the Shriner, Mr. Gallagher, Black perks up when money is mentioned.
  • Richard Snee is Owen Turner, an elder statesman of the theater, and veteran playwright who hangs around to offer advice, commentary and snide remarks about what he is observing among this ship of fools..  As is often the case, Mr. Snee is strong on charm and savoir faire as he portrays the sage playwright.
  • Will McGarrahan hams it up wonderfully in the delicious role of Carleton Fitzgerald, who cries at the drop of a hat.  He is smarmy and histrionic, and no one in the group respects him - until the reviews come in praising his work in this new play.
  • Kathy St. George is Frances Black, ice skating star of a certain age who loves spending her husband's money on baubles and furs.  She also passes the hours in Boston playing gin with Stella Livingston, Irene's mother.  Ms. St. George is hilarious as the brassy dame whose Opening Night Gold-lame gown is in gloriously bad taste.
  • Bobbie Steinbach almost steals the show as Irene's mother.  Two of the best scenes involve her describing sneaking into the dress rehearsal disguised as the cleaning woman, and later hearing Fitzgerald rhapsodize about this bedraggled cleaning woman he spied in the balcony.  Ms. Steinbach's facial expressions and slow burn as she listens to herself being described are worth the price of a ticket to this show.
  • Alejandro Simoes plays the taciturn young playwright, Peter Sloan.  Initially meek and idealistic about the world of show business, Sloan quickly grows up and learns to accept the world as it is and to play the game by the rough and tumble rules.  Mr. Simoes is appropriately understated in this crucial role as he deftly portrays the arc of his character's development.
  • Terrence O'Malley is Tyler Rayburn, Irene's husband, whom no one regards as anything but a fifth wheel.  His character is set when he shows up at an awkward moment during an Opening Night toast, and Irene reads him the riot act for choosing to take a train that would dump his at the hotel at such an unfortunate hour.  It is a small and difficult role, but Mr. O'Malley plays it with grace and a vacant smile on his face. 
  • Jordan Clark is Miss Lowell, Irene's secretary and ghost writer for her autobiography.  She is all innocence about the complex world of the theater.  Her facial expressions register her every though as she observes the nature of each character and their less than honest interactions with one another.
  • Bob Mussett as Shriner William Gallagher comes late to the party, but makes the most of his time on stage in portraying a stage struck Midwesterner who is a frustrated actor and would be mogul.

An additional couple of treats are the two Wills at the baby grand crooning away some old familiar tunes.

As an ensemble, these actors are a perfectly matched set - playing off of one another with seasoned proficiency.  Watching them in their acting and their mugging is a delight and worth every dollar.  If you want some good old fashioned fun at the theater, "Light Up The Sky" is your ticket - through June 13. 

There's No Business Like Show Business!



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