The Walpole Footlighters 229th show of their 81st season is Neil Simon's "45 Seconds from Broadway", a look at the behind the scenes action in show business. It takes place near the heart of the theatre district in the legendary "Polish Tea Room"(really the Edison Hotel coffee shop) on New York's 47th Street. Here Broadway theatre personalities gather and schmooze. The superb authentic setting by Gary Poholek offers enough nostaglia and opportunities for a parade of colorful comic characters march in and out of this cafe. Simon's characters are all different from each other and give this four scene, two act play it's power as a comedy peppered with one liners. The four seasons of the year represent each scene, starting with summer. Director Beth Goldman chooses the best actors for these 12 roles and lets the laughter flow from the audience in the New England premiere of this show.
Paul Campbell shines in the leading role of Mickey Fox, the Borscht belt-type, Jewish comedian who hangs out at the "Polish Tea Room" where he meets a variety of comic people during the course of the show. He sounds like Jackie Mason and delivers his one liners and interacts with everyone splendidly.The owners of the coffee shop, Bernie and Zelda, are well played by Rich Morton and Sue Leiendecker who escaped from the Nazis many years ago. They both handle their comic lines with ease. Bernie's kindness extends to free meals and jobs for budding playwrights and actresses. Marty BlackEagle Carl as Solomon Mantutu, an aspiring South African playwright and Colleen Lavery as an actress-wannabe do wonderful jobs in their roles with each of them earning success for their characters by the end of the show. Their portrayals will win you over with their acting ability. Barbara Pettis steals the show with her wacky one liners as a demented grande dame, Rayleen. Her fur coat costume seems to grow bigger and wilder each time she enters the cafe. Rayleen demands a table cloth and an intricately double brewed cup of tea. One of her funniest lines is when she tells her up to this point mute husband to stop thinking in French. Sustained laughter greeted this line as well as many of Barbara's lines. Her hen pecked husband, Charles played perfectly by Jerry Matus, becomes the mouse who roared in the second act. He also supplies the show with a surprising twist at its close.
The other two biggest scene stealers of this show are Barbara Schapiro and Cynthia Wegel as Arleen and Cindy who are suburban theater mavens and two self designated theater critics. They provide some of the biggest laughs with their running commentary throughout the show and their Jewish accents are a hoot. Rounding out the show are strong supporting players, Dyan Madrey as Bessie, a self confident actress on her way to Hollywood, Joe Hunt as British producer, Andrew Duncan who wants Mickey to play Tevye in "Fiddler" and Bill Bowen as Mickey's brother, Harry who want to Mickey to get his 41 year old son, Steven into show biz. So for another truly funny comedy from Neil Simon, the master of comic writing, be sure to catch this 2001 show, "45 Seconds from Broadway".