Braving the Front Row for ‘A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine’ at Barnstormers
You sure do get more for your money with the musical A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine, playing at Barnstormers Theatre in Grants Pass through June 28. The two acts are virtually unrelated, other than the genre of the 1930s. The first half reviews a whirlwind of Hollywood classics from the 1930s, complete with tap dancing and all the glitz. The second half is loosely based on Anton Chekhov’s one-act play The Bear, complete with the Marx brothers. Ah, the Marx brothers. They never get old. Even when you have your arms crossed after the first few jokes thinking, this is childish and dated; once you are halfway through the act you can’t help constantly giggling.
All the music and dancing were very well done, even though some of the cast had never tap danced before. The play is directed by Penny King, the owner of Stillpoint Dance Studio in Grants Pass, which probably helped a great deal. Two standout performances in the cast are also accomplished performers: Sarah Foster (Mrs. Pavlenko) and Bruce Allen (Samovar, the Groucho character). In addition to Foster’s hilarious performance and singing prowess, she also took the stage with a saxophone. Allen is the theatre director at Brighton Academy, and his Groucho is awesome.
In A Day in Hollywood, a Night in Ukraine, facial expressions were a key element to the “plot” – i.e. Groucho’s eyebrows. On an intimate stage setting like that at Barnstormers, the audience can enjoy all of the actors’ subtle nuances up close, instead of being stuck in the balcony. I saw another Marx brothers-influenced play in a much larger venue last year, and they did a great job of interacting with the audience, well, the first 10 rows. At Barnstormers, there are fewer than 10 rows, so every seat in the house feels like the front row. Plus, it feels good to be part of the show. Between Groucho addressing the audience dryly to a full chorus of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” we all felt like part of the team.
‘A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine’
2 pm and 8 pm, through June 28
Barnstormers Theatre, 112 NE Evelyn Avenue, Grants Pass