The Walpole Footlighters 233rd show of 82nd season is the New England premiere of "Hollywood Arms" by Carrie Hamilton and Carol Burnett. The show is based on Burnett's best-selling autobiography "One More Time", it depicts young Helen's (Carol) coming of age in a dilapidated Hollywood apartment building. She is guided through her life's journey by her mother, Louise, a would-be writer who turns into an alcoholic and her wise-cracking but overbearing grandmother. Helen's only escape is on the roof of the apartment house where she creates her own magical world. The play is a memory play of the events of her life in 1941 and 1951. It is a series of vignettes showing how Burnett was nurtured by the movies and the Depression conviction that better times were always around the corner, she and her family struggle to survive their lot. Director Marianne Phinney chooses ten strong performers to pull off this play with a wonderful mixture of comic and poignant moments in it. The dilapidated set design by Gary Poholek and Dan Sheehan adds to the enjoyment of this period piece as does the mood lighting by Shirley Cowles.
Tracey Seier plays the older Helen who narrates the opening scene and only appears in the second act. Her dynamic portrayal is topnotch and her comic timing is, too. Her description of a Betty Grable movie is hilarious and the character's theme song is "I'm Always Chasing Rainbow's". Kay Blaha is a whirlwind of energy as Nanny. She demands attention from the other characters and they better give it to her. Nanny gets her own way almost throughout the entire show until Helen takes the reigns of her younger sister away from her mother and grandmother. Gina Donaher plays the beautiful and tragic mother, Louise. She captures the essence of this woman who dreams of a writing career but alcohol ruins her life. Their argument scenes sizzle and crackle with the necessary intensity and Kate Smith's rendition of "When The Moon Comes Over the Mountain" is the perfect one for the closing of the show.The younger Helen is played by eighth grader, Jackie Kelly. She captures the innocence of the young girl. Her funniest scene is when she asks her Nanny what a boy's privates are and Nanny says a boy's is a Roger and a girl's is a Susie. Another funny scene is the bookie scene where they have phones ringing constantly and they are taking racetrack bets. A cop, well played by sixth grade teacher, Damon Rainie busts up their racket but exits hastily after Nanny's attack of flatulence while pretending to be sick in bed.
Dan Kelly plays Helen's well meaning but weak alcoholic father who gets tuberculoses. He plays both the comic and touching moments in the show beautifully. Rich Morton plays Bill, Louise's boyfriend and second husband who she really doesn't love but uses for his money. He gives the guy the heart of gold quality needed to pull it off. Charlene Winslow plays Dixie, the desk clerk who is Louise's best friend and usually winds up getting involved in her crazy schemes while her naughty, clumsy son, Malcolm is well played by eighth grader Jesse Seckel-Cerrotti. They appear in the hilarious bookie scene, too. Also appearing only in the second act is 15 year old Elizabeth Kelly who plays Alice, Helen's kid sister who goes wild and Helen decides to take her to NY with her. She does a great job in this role. So for a fun filled look back on Carol Burnett's wacky childhood and young adult years, be sure to catch the New England Premiere of "Hollywood Arms".