Cast members in the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild’s upcoming comedic production are gearing up to make audiences laugh.
“Moon Over Buffalo,” which opens Thursday at The Grand Theatre in Eau Claire, is a fast-paced, farcical show with lots of physical humor, they said.
The show centers on George and Charlotte Hay, two aging stars in the 1950s.
“(They) are hoping to get one last shot at being in a big-time motion picture when they hear that (director) Frank Capra is coming to their show to possibly audition them for a movie that he is currently doing,” said Reid Sollberger, who who plays George. “It’s one of those instances that everything that can go wrong does go wrong.”
The title, “Moon Over Buffalo” comes from the fact that the characters are doing a show in Buffalo, N.Y., “which is a long way from Broadway, where they once shined,” said actress Sue Kelly, who plays Charlotte.
Director Bob Carr said the show, which premiered on Broadway in 1995, was written for award-winning actress Carol Burnett’s return to the stage. Burnett earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Charlotte.
“So the whole thing is Carol Burnett humor, Carol Burnett style, that type of comedy,” Carr said.
The quick, over-the-top humor has been both fun and a challenge, the actors said.
“It’s people who have played characters their whole lives, and as a result of that, their own personalities are big and flamboyant and over the top,” Kelly said, noting she’s enjoyed the humor and intensity of the show.
Sollberger described the comedic pace like a “pingpong match.”
“I think in previous productions that I’ve done where I’ve had a scene with another actor, a lot of times it’s a lot of times felt like a tennis match,” Sollberger said. “This feels like a pingpong match, where it’s just so quick back and forth … because the lines need to come out so fast for the laughs to hit.”
Sollberger said the role of George has a lot of physical demands that he’s had to embrace.
“I’m constantly on the ground, falling on the ground, getting hit,” he said. “We’ve got sword play in the beginning, and I start off the second act drunk. So that’s been a challenge throughout is just trying to get the physicality of George.”
Jake Pritchard, who plays Paul Slinger, said it’s interesting to study and dive into characters in farcical shows like this one.
“It’s so easy to just find the jokes and try to make people laugh,” he said. “But even though these people are ridiculous, they’re still people. And just trying to find the grounded place where all of these weird things are coming from is a fun challenge, but it’s so easy to forget that these are people when they’re acting like cartoons.”
Russ Slack, who plays Howard, said he hopes audiences relax and enjoy the humor the show has to offer.
“Obviously the climate that we’re in right now is pretty stressful, so hopefully the humor of the show will take (audiences) out of that for at least an hour and a half,” he said.
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