Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Once in A Lifetime"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"Once in A Lifetime"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bay Colony Productions' current show is Kaufman and Hart's 1930 screwball comedy, ''Once in a Lifetime'' which was their first collaboration and ran for 401 performances on Broadway. The show takes place in 1927 and is about three vaudevillians who are down on their luck. Jerry decides to sell their part of the show for $500 and head to Hollywood to make 'Big Money' with the advent of 'the talkies'. Astutely manipulated by the 'better third', the enterprising May Daniels, they set off for LA with its legion of would-be writers and starlets. A chance encounter with Helen Hobart, a Hedda Hopper type newspaper columnist on the train who is May's friend from years back, leads May claiming to be an elocution teacher and voice coach to Lady Tree from England. With Helen's help the trio lands jobs at the Glogauer studio, based on the Goldwyn studio, and due to a series of consistant blunders, George, the most stupid of the three is carried to the pinnacles of fame and fortune until he's literally made a god of the industry. Kaufman and Hart's inside knowledge of the entertainment industry lends their satire an edge and originality with the parade of humorous film types which they parody, gives a comical look into motion pictures in their early days. One line that still stands the test of time, "Did anyone read the script before the film was made?", can apply to some current day trashy movies, too. Director Justin Budinoff leads his 25 member cast in this rollicking romp of this 75 year old comedy of yesteryear, obtaining many laughs along the way.

Justin blocks this huge cast show marvelously, keeping the actors in constant motion. His crew moves the sets with ease from a tacky apartment set to a Pullman car set to the impressive Gold room hotel set to the reception area of the studio set. The numerous 1920's style costumes are by Daniel Kozar who plays a playwright in the show who ends up in a sanitarium because he keeps getting a paycheck for doing nothing for eight months and keeps waiting to see Mr. Glougauer day after day without any success. Justin and his crew bring the audience back to the 1920's not only with the set and costumes and the wonderful period wigs for the women but with Al Jolson recordings from that era including "Mammy" and "California, Here I Come".

Leading the cast is Melissa Prusinski as the wise-cracking May. She sounds like Rosalind Russell and gives a high energy performance as the gal who is smart about life but sappy in love with Jerry who is oblivious to her once they land in Hollywood. Melissa commands the stage in all her scenes, ordering her two cohorts to do her bidding. She captures the essence of this tough talking broad from the past. Award winning actor Bill Stambaugh plays Jerry who gets them to move from New York to LA to seek fame and fortune. Although Jerry formed the vaudeville act, he meets with little success in LA. Bill handles this role with ease, showing why he won two E-mact awards. Their good-natured but dumb pal, George is wonderfully played by Donald DeBerardinis who returns to the stage after a two year absence. He plays the part of the dumbbell who manages to crack Hollywood as easily as he cracks nuts with his teeth, showing how the talentless George makes it while smarter people fail. Donald's portrayal is hilarious and his character also winds up with girl at the close of the night. The girl of his dreams, Susan Walker is a young starlet who is beautiful but isn't very talented. However Nicole DaCosta who plays this role is a triple threat perfomer who is very talented. Her doting and fawning mother who is constantly at her side is played by Susan Jones. The character sees John Gilbert and other famous actors everywhere and she is ruled by her ironfisted husband back home.

One of the biggest scene stealers of the night is Dori Bryan as Helen Hobart. She makes this odiously self important gossip columnist larger than life, giving many laughs to the crowd. David DaCosta portrays Mr. Golgauer, the pompous head of the studio who doesn't know what the hell he is doing. He handles the caricature of this Goldwyn-like movie mogul wonderfully, barking orders at everyone who dares to cross his path. Paul Warner is amusing as the dictator like German director, Kammerling a la Eric Von Stroheim who struts around the stage, yelling and screaming until he gets his way, waving his whip. Two silent screen beauties who have awful screen voices and need to be tutored by May are played humorously by Samantha Brior- Jones and Davida Wright Galvin. Samantha uses a high pitched voice as Florabel while Davida uses a deep voice as Phyllis. The ditzy receptionist who can't remember anyone's name five minutes afterwards and is dressed in a black evening gown is played by Jessie Desmarais. She is a hoot and wears a blond wig, using a high pitched dumb blonde voice to go with it. This huge cast plays the manic and comic moments up, keeping your interest in what they are doing. So for a trip back to Hollywood in the good old days, be sure to catch "Once in a Lifetime" at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro.

"Once in A Lifetime" (14 - 23 October)
Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 543-ARTS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide