Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Zander Opper
Say Goodnight, Gracie
Originally produced on Broadway in 2002 and starring Frank Gorshin, Say Goodnight, Gracie holds the title of being the third longest running solo show in Broadway history. It is easy to see why it carries this distinction. The initial conceit of the show is that, at the start, George Burns has been summoned before God and he has to recount his life before moving on to heaven. While this setup may sound a bit hokey, it works beautifully. Through the performance of R. Bruce Connelly, and aided by the use of old film clips of the real George Burns and Gracie Allen, the play flows smoothly, as it recounts the life of George Burns from his earliest days to the very end. It manages to maintain a poignant balance between humor and heartache.
While not exactly doing an impersonation of George Burns in his later years, Connelly still conjures up the actor through the use of speech inflections, horn-rimmed glasses, and, of course, the requisite cigar that the star always smoked. But his performance is much more than just superficial features: this actor summons up the spirit and personality of George Burns to the point that one almost forgets that it's not the real star that we are seeing onstage. It also helps that Rupert Holmes has written a terrific play, and the work of director Michael McDermott and his marvelous scenic and costume designers (Daniel Nischan and Kari Crowther, respectively) is equally stellar.
During the course of Say Goodnight, Gracie we learn quite a lot about the lives of George Burns and Gracie Allen, and the play can both move one to tears without ever feeling mawkish, and also provide humor that is often laugh-out-loud funny without ever tarnishing the memory of these singular talents.
Speaking as someone who missed out on growing up with George and Gracie, on the radio or on television, the show works beautifully and proves to be a real delight, and I can highly a performance at the Ivoryton Playhouse, where you'll fall under the spell of George Burns, as enacted by the brilliant R. Bruce Connelly.
Say Goodnight, Gracie continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut through November 16th, 2014. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call (860) 767-7318.