Phoenix Theatre cast clever in ‘Once in a Lifetime’

  • By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, September 8, 2010 7:44pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The Phoenix Theatre kicks off another season in classic comedic style with the laugh-inducing “Once in a Lifetime.”

Director Christine Mosere deftly performed a role that could be compared to that of circus ring leader as she juggled this production’s unusually large cast — 14 in all — of mostly zany characters without dropping any pins.

Mosere had some help in that several Phoenix veterans were sprinkled in among the newcomers so that when issues such as dropped lines or uncooperative scenery occurred, those vets were there to fill in the blanks and make the mishaps part of the comedy.

All in all, the Phoenix crew delivered “Once in a Lifetime” as the wisecracking satire it was meant to be.

The story, written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, is about a trio of vaudeville actors who are down on their luck in New York as the “talkies” take hold of the motion picture industry. They decide to head to Hollywood to open a school to teach silent-screen actors how to talk properly,

Along with lampooning one-liners, this Phoenix production added into the story line a few musical interludes and several wonderfully spoofy touches.

One such musical moment included three flappers in little yellow hats with blue feathers — hats off to costume designer Viveca Sanai — singing, “California Here We Come,” while wheeling around cardboard cutouts of suitcases.

And at this point I must say that Phoenix veteran Kayti Barnett, one of the flappers, is so hilarious that she doesn’t even have to talk and she’s funny.

The cardboard suitcases were among the production’s cache of spoofy cutouts, which included oversized martini glasses, a pencil, cigars and a telephone. Too clever.

In addition to actress Barnett, other standouts in this hefty Phoenix cast included newcomers Laura Hanson as May, Fox Matthews as George, the effervescent Alysha Curry playing the untalented yet aspiring actress Susan Walker, and Eric Hellend wonderfully portraying the forgotten playwright, Mr. Vail.

Finally, I believe every performance at the Phoenix should include a part for veteran Melanie Calderwood who does here what she does best, which is changing flawlessly from one character to another — she was Susan’s mother and secretary Leighton — and making “Once in a Lifetime” just that much funnier.

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424;

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