Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Booth in Another Play at the Tremont

When “The Bonnie Brier Bush” played in at the Tremont Theatre in Boston, “These familiar characters were greeted as old friends by the audience.”

This from the New York Times on the opening of J. H. Stoddard’s play based on the novel by Ian Maclaren. It was August 26, 1901, 109 years ago tomorrow.

I would say it seems like yesterday, but it doesn’t.

The play is described as being somewhat similar to J. M. Barrie’s “The Little Minister”, in that it takes place in the Scottish countryside, a love story between a young lord and a village girl, where scandal sends them away from the village (at least until Act IV), and a secondary romance between another lady and the minister.

Charles Hutchinson and Irma La Pierre played the leads, with the supporting cast including Sidney Booth, Gertrude Bennett, Stoddard in the role of the angry father who drives his daughter away from home, and Reuben Fax in the comic role of village tippler.

A quartet singing the old Scots song “Annie Laurie” brought what must have been folksy poignancy to what the New York Times reported called an “idyllic piece.” This was still an era of specialty acts punctuating the plots of plays. It was still the era of the four-act play.

This play went on to Broadway the next month, with a run of only a couple of months. Sidney Booth, incidentally, who played the minister, made a number of appearances on Broadway, and was a member of that famous acting family, the Booths. He was the son of actor Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., and the nephew of both actor Edwin Booth and actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth. (See this previous post for more on the Booth brothers’ personal and professional turmoil at the time John Wilkes Booth murdered President Abraham Lincoln.)

Have a look at this previous post for more on the Tremont Theatre.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clare Boothe Luce Plays Stamford, Connecticut

“No good deed goes unpunished” is a line often attributed to Clare Boothe Luce (and others), and might well be pasted on a review of her performance in George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida.”

At the time she played this role at the Strand Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut in August of 1945, she was also a member of Congress, a Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut.

She had a varied career as a playwright (“The Women”), she wrote for Vogue and was an associate editor for Vanity Fair, was a correspondent to Life (her husband’s magazine), and wrote the screenplay for the 1949 movie “Come to the Stable.”

But way back she wanted to be an actress, had a few early stage experiences, and evidently decided it was not too late, despite her workload as a Congresswoman, to trod the boards again.

Critic Lewis Nichols of the New York Times remarked in his column on August 6, 1945, with a tartness Luce might have appreciated were the jibes not directed at her:

It was generally agreed after the first performance tonight that the Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut deserved full credit for trying, she probably need not cause Katherine Cornell too many uneasy moments…

What the audience saw was a production of “Candida” which was word-perfect but lacked warmth…

Opening nights are trying affairs even to the experienced, but with all allowances for summer and a debut, Mrs. Luce seemed stiff and detached.

Mr. Nichols, evidently more intrigued with her connections than her acting prowess, notes others in the opening night audience included Brigadier General Elliot Roosevelt, son of the late President, who attended with his wife Faye Emerson. Financier Bernard Baruch, Connecticut Governor Raymond Baldwin, “who amiably vaulted a row when put into the wrong seat”, as well as actresses Margaret Sullivan and Betty Field.

Congress would re-convene soon, and the end of World War II was close at hand. One imagines there would not be too many more opportunities for playacting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"A Funny Thing Happened" - by Lester Colodny

And now for something completely different.

Monty Python fans will recognize that catch line, but it happens to be the theme in the rollicking life and roller coaster career of Lester Colodny, whose new memoir, “A Funny Thing Happened - Life Behind the Scenes: Hollywood Hilarity and Manhattan Mayhem”, attempts to chronicle all the weird and wonderful events, and characters, that have crossed his path in the entertainment field.

Recently published by SciArt Media, written by Mr. Colodny with Susan Heller, the book opens with the horrific and classic barrel of monkeys story, a true event of a simian takeover of the set of NBC’s “The Today Show” during which Colodny was the show’s writer and associate producer.

Mr. Colodny kindly granted me a phone interview and discussed his long and varied career as a writer of plays, ad copy, of news prĂ©cis, and screenplays. He stumbled into acting and stumbled into Mae West, touring with her show “Diamond L’il”. He worked as a literary agent, a talent agent, and director of television commercials. He won an Emmy Award for a special with Jack Benny he wrote, directed and produced. He won several “Clio” awards for his unique “Xerox” commercials.

Now, at 85 years old, Lester Colodny is enjoying a new endeavor as a director of community theatre plays in Connecticut.

“One of the things that irks me is I think I’ve missed my calling,” he says, having discovered a “natural affinity for directing.”

He has worked with the Ridgefield Theater Barn, directing Christopher Durang’s farce, “Beyond Therapy” in 2009 as noted in this previous “upcoming plays” post. A month later he directed “Jake’s Women” for the Town Players of New Canaan, Connecticut, and a few months ago worked with Curtain Call in Stamford on “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Really fine professionals have come and told me that my shows are good or better than many of the shows on Broadway.”

Mr. Colodny is currently in rehearsal with the comedy “Enter Laughing” by Joseph Stein, adapted from the novel by Carl Reiner, which will be produced by the Westport Community Theatre from September 24th through October 10th.

“We get a pretty good turnout,” he said, noting that in the past he had also directed some community theatre in New York, Illinois, and in California.

Lester Colodny brings with him a lifetime of experience, including a brief stint on Broadway when a play he wrote starring Joan Rivers opened and closed with in a week, “a tremendous flop,” he says.

Throughout the course of his varied careers of wearing many hats, Lester Colodny worked with, partied with, or clashed with many famous names in the entertainment business, which are recounted in his new memoir, “A Funny Thing Happened.” We discussed this last week in this post from my New England Travels blog.

For more on his adventures in film and television, join us next week at Another Old Movie Blog.

For more on Lester Colodny’s book and to order your copy, have a look here at the SciArt Media website. SciArt Media is a new publishing company in New Hampshire, which specializes in books by New England authors.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Upcoming Plays for August 2010

The following plays are upcoming for August, 2010:

At the Acadia Repertory Theatre of Mt. Desert Island, Maine:
“FALLEN ANGELS”, August 3rd through 15th. A hilarious comedy of middle-aged women behaving badly by Noel Coward.

Followed by:
Agatha Christie's “MURDER ON THE NILE” August 17th through September 5th.

Arundel Barn Playhouse in Kennebunkport, Maine presents:  “Shout - The Mod Musical” August 3rd through 14th.

“The sensational sounds of the 60’s British Invasion! Savor the memories of Gen X in this blast from the past with a platinum pop score featuring These Boots Were Made for Walkin’, I Know A Place, Only Want To Be With You, Wishin’ & Hopin’, Don’t Sleep In the Subway, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, & many more! You’re all invited to tap, clap and shout!”

Followed by:
“Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits - A Mocument in Musical Theatre”
August 17th through 28th

“It’s the hottest ticket in town to Broadway’s greatest musicals as they meet Broadway’s greatest satirist in an hilarious, loving tribute to musical theatre’s sparkling shows and stars. Featuring whimsical glimpses of Hairspray, Spamalot, Rent, Fiddler, Momma Mia, Chicago, Les Miz, Chorus Line and many more!”

At the Barnstormers Theatre of Tamworth, New Hampshire:
“The Ghost Train”, August 10th through 14th.

“Ernest in Love”, August 17th through 21st.

“The Mystery of Irma Vep”, August 24th through 28th.

Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, Massachusetts presents:

“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, directed by Eric Hill.

Followed by:

“A Delicate Balance” by Edward Albee, directed by David Auburn.

“Agnes and Tobias, a 50-something couple, want nothing more than to be left alone. However, they are saddled with Agnes’s alcoholic sister. When their daughter returns home as a result of her fourth divorce and their best friends seek asylum from some unnamed “fear”, tensions fray and every relationship in the house threatens to fall apart. An examination of the intricate web we all create among our friends and family and how easily it can all fall apart, A Delicate Balance sings with Albee’s trademark lyricism and insight. This Pulitzer Prize-winning piece is poignant, incisive, and funny.”

At the Cape Playhouse, Dennis, Massachusetts:
“Grey Gardens - The Musical”, August 9th through 21st.

“This Tony winning musical is based on the famous documentary by the Masles brothers documenting the rise, fall, and independent spirit of "Little" Edie Beale, first cousin to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Some people said Little Edie was odd, others that she was a fashion genius ahead of her time. Hilarious, touching, and original.”

The Dorset Theatre Festival, Dorset, Vermont presents:

“MURDER ON THE NILE” by Agatha Christie, through August 15th.
“DTF once again plays host to Dame Christie in this classic mystery sure to please old and young alike. Join in the fun as you travel down the Nile on a paddle steamer with a cast of characters guaranteed to keep you guessing. One of Christie's best “who dunnits” simply packed with murder, intrigue and fun for all.”

Followed by:
“THE NOVELIST” by Theresa Rebeck, August 18th through 29th.
“A country home. A weekend away from the city. A brilliant novelist and his bitter son. A nubile and cunning young female assistant enters the picture and events explode in this fierce and funny contemporary drama which explores Chekovian territory in a contemporary American setting.”

Hackmatack Playhouse of Berwick, Maine presents:
“Carousel” through August 14th, “Rodgers and Hammerstein's dramatic story of the Maine coast, a carnival barker, a mill worker and the power of love. It features many famous of R&H songs including: ‘If I Loved You’, ‘You'll Never Walk Alone’, and ‘June is Bustin Out All Over’.”
Followed by:
“Hello Dolly”, August 18th through August 28th.

"Grab your hat, Fellas; Find her an empty lap, Fellas, Dolly is back in town!" In the first act someone asks Dolly, "What do you do for a living?" Dolly replies "Some people sew, some paint... I meddle". Come join in all the fuss and fun as you enjoy this most delightful of musical comedies.”

Ivoryton Playhouse, Ivoryton, Connecticut presents the musical “Finian’s Rainbow” August 11th through September 5th.

Mount Washington Valley Theatre, North Conway Village, New Hampshire presents
“THE FULL MONTY” through August 14th. “The story of six out of work, and out of shape, steel workers, who decide to put on a strip show to make money and earn back their manhood, is poignant, funny, and the bare-it-all ending…well, you’ll have to come and see!”

At the Newport Playhouse, Newport, Rhode Island:
“Don’t Dress for Dinner” August 5th through September 5th. “Bernard packs his wife off to her mother’s and is planning the weekend with his mistress. He asks his best friend to be his alibi. What could possibly go wrong?!”

North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, Massachusetts presents:
“JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT” August 3rd through August 22nd. “Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's entertaining family musical retelling of the biblical story of Joseph, his devoted father, his jealous brothers, and his incredible series of adventures. Filled with spectacular costumes and high energy dance numbers, the story is told through a variety of musical styles - everything from country to calypso to rock 'n' roll.”

The Peterborough Players, Peterborough, New Hampshire presents:
“Tartuffe”, the classic comedy by Moliere, opening tonight and running through August 15th.

The Ogunquit Playhouse, Ogunquit, Maine presents:

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Sunset Boulevard” with Stephanie Powers,
July 28th through August 14th. Book and lyrics by Don Black & Christopher Hampton
Based on the Billy Wilder film. Direction by Shaun Kerrison, choreography by Tom Kosis, musical direction by Ken Clifton.

Theatre By The Sea of Matunuck, Rhode Island presents:
“The Full Monty”, August 6th through August 29th. Music & lyrics by: David Yazbek, book by Terrence McNally.

At the Weston Playhouse, Weston Vermont:
AUGUST 5 - AUGUST 21, 2010
“Damn Yankees” runs August 5th through 21st. By George Abbott & Douglass Wallop, Richard Adler & Jerry Ross.

“Nothing says summer fun like baseball. And Damn Yankees takes you out to the ballpark in true Broadway style. In this classic musical from the creators of The Pajama Game, middle-aged Joe Boyd sells himself to the devil – and to the machinations of a temptress named Lola – in order to see his favorite team win the pennant. A sure-fire winner the whole family will love, this perennial favorite includes such stellar songs as ‘Heart’ and ‘Whatever Lola Wants.’”

Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut presents:
“I Do, I Do”, August 10th through 28th. Book & lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt. Directed by Susan H. Schulman.

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, Massachusetts presents:
“Our Town” by Thornton Wilder through August 8th.

Followed by:

“The Last Goodbye: A Musical
Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet”, August 5th through 20th. Conceived and adapted by Michael Kimmel; music and lyrics by Jeff Buckley; orchestrations, music direction and arrangements by Kris Kukul; directed by Michael Kimmel; choreography by Sonya Tayeh.

The Winnepesauke Playhouse, Laconia, New Hampshire presents:
“Dr. Cook’s Garden” by Ira Levin, through August 14th. “Greenfield Center is a very fortunate town. There are no mean people and the residents seem to enjoy exceptionally good health. The local populace attributes this to God's ever watchful eye and benevolent stewardship of their little hamlet. However, a young doctor soon begins to suspect that other forces are at work in this thriller of ethical proportions written by the author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.”

Followed by:
“Crossing Delancy” by Susan Sandler Aug 18th through 28th. “A charming romantic comedy about old world traditions and new world desires. Isabel is a modern young woman who lives alone and works in a bookshop. When she isn't visiting her Grandmother, Bubbie, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, she pines for a handsome author. But Bubbie and the local matchmaker, Hannah, have found a "good catch" for Isabel: Sam, the pickle man. Will Izzy choose love in the old world or the new in this romantic comedy?”