Past their prime, actors George and Charlotte Hay have a last shot at a major Hollywood picture. But somehow they’ve mistaken their daughter’s fiancé, Howard, a television weatherman whom they’ve never met, as famous director Frank Capra.
“Moon over Buffalo,” the season’s first production by the Summit Theatre Group, is a a rollicking comedy — a “love letter” to live theater, said Director Mark Hamilton, of Fairway. The play was written in 1995 by Ken Ludwig.
Hamilton teaches part time at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and is an equity stage manager who has worked on productions at Quality Hill Playhouse, the Coterie Theater and dinner theaters in Kansas City.
The plot concerns a struggling acting troupe in 1953 based in Buffalo, N.Y. The troupe is going broke and its aging actors suddenly have hope of reviving their careers, when they believe Capra is coming to watch one of their shows. The word is out that Capra is desperate to replace actors for a movie he has underway, as the lead actor has broken both legs and the star actress quit.
So are the couple George and Charlotte Hay, owners of the troupe, who also have love interests on the side/ Their daughter, though engaged, is in love with another member of the troupe.
“Everything goes wrong, but the little theater company keeps trudging along,” Hamilton said. “It’s a really well-written script and very funny.”
He said character George Hay is a very dramatic, over-the-top actor, played to the hilt by Joe Caronia of Kansas City, with Jacqueline Friedhof of Lee’s Summit as his foil, playing the Charlotte Hay, the woman who tries to keep the troupe running.
Friedhof is a freelance marketing consultant and a contract worker for a temp agency, where she works on human resources projects, such as payroll or verifying worker documentation.
Like others in community theater, the play is another way for her to express herself. She said she started acting in high school and studied acting for a while, at college in New York City, but the competitiveness at that level began to take the joy out of theater. She switched her studies to business. She said about 10 years ago she got the itch to return to acting.
“I need to fulfill that creative side,” Friedhof said. “I was missing it.”
She’s been in six Summit Theatre Group productions. She said her role was once played by Carol Burnett on Broadway. A live audience brings an energy to a show that invigorates actors, she said.
“It’s going to be a really fun show,” Friedhof said. If you’re newly exposed to theater, it would be a good show to start out with.”
The show is full of hectic action and snappy banter.
In one scene, George says to Charlotte:
“Charlotte, am I getting old?” She responds, “No dear, you’re just falling apart.”
Jon Specht, a Lee’s Summit resident who also does voiceover work for radio and television, as well as being a producer for the Kansas City Chiefs radio network, plays lawyer Richard Maynard, another of Charlotte’s love interests.
Specht said he’s been in several community theater productions. He grew up around his parents doing theater and acted some in college. He’s been in three productions of Summit Theatre Group and two plays directed by Hamilton.
The cast is rounded out by Erzi Killeen of Lenexa, Dee Dee Diemer of Kansas City, Eli Biesemeyer of Lee’s Summit, Julie Thompson of Overland Park and David Webster of Leawood.
“It’s a creative outlet. It’s a blast,” Specht said. This is a great group of actors, I’m really impressed.”