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BWW REVIEW: Great Lyric Cast Charms in LIGHT UP THE SKY

Written by Moss Hart; directed by Scott Edmiston; scenic design, Janie E. Howland; costume design, Gail Astrid Buckley; lighting design, Karen Perlow; sound design, Samuel Hanson; music director, Will McGarrahan

Cast:

Paula Plum, Irene Livingston; Will LeBow, Sidney Black; Richard Snee, Owen Turner; Will McGarrahan, Carleton Fitzgerald; Kathy St. George, Frances Black; Bobbie Steinbach, Stella Livingston; Alejandro Simoes, Peter Sloan; Terrence O'Malley, Tyler Rayburn; Jordan Clark, Miss Lowell; Bob Mussett, William H. Gallagher

Performances and Tickets:

Final performance is June 13 at 8 p.m.; tickets are available online at www.lyricstage.com or by calling the Box Office at 617-585-5678

Producers, directors, playwrights, leading ladies, stage mothers, talented yet dutiful assistants and even convention-going Shriners all get their due in Moss Hart's lovingly laugh-filled tribute to "The Theater" LIGHT UP THE SKY. Presuming that all the world's a stage and everyone upon it merely players, this 1948 comic valentine skewers everyone from the highest of the high brows to the lowest of the low brows, simultaneously loving and lampooning the celebrities we all secretly wish to be.

LIGHT UP THE SKY takes place in the Ritz-Carlton hotel suite of leading lady extraordinaire Irene Livingston (a deliciously self-indulgent Paula Plum) immediately before and after the opening of a new play that is having its pre-Broadway tryout at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. Emotions are sky high in the hours before curtain, but after a less than enthusiastic response from the audience, everyone is looking for someone to blame.

Was it the fault of the fledgling playwright Peter Sloan (a hangdog Alejandro Simoes), or the melodramatic director Carleton Fitzgerald (a flamboyant Will McGarrahan)? Did its star chew too much scenery, or did the neophyte ice follies producer Sidney (Will LeBow) and his above the title ice-skating spouse Frances (Kathy St. George) opt for too much crash commercialism over true artistry?

After an endless barrage of barbed attacks on each other, and an inordinate amount of hammy histrionics, the celebrants-turned-cannibals finally read the reviews - and voila! Those who moments ago were ready to retire to some remote outpost in Iowa are now enamored with their industry once again. Good times and bum times, they've seen them all, and my dear, they're still here. There's nothing like life upon the wicked stage.

For the Lyric Stage production, director Scott Edmiston has fittingly assembled a cast rich in Boston theatrical royalty. How better to simultaneously spoof and canonize those who risk humiliation and rejection for a living than to stud LIGHT UP THE SKY with the area's brightest stars?

Plum is a peach as the supremely talented yet still insecure diva Irene Livingston. The ineffable Bobbie Steinbach, as Irene's gin-swigging and gin rummy-playing mother, pairs with the always delightful Kathy St. George to deliver endless volleys of deadpan laughs. McGarrahan does double duty, prancing and preening as the overly sensitive and temperamental director but also singing and tickling the ivories á là Cole Porter. LeBow is all bravado and bluster as the excited novice theatrical producer who wants to shoot a "Roman candle into the tired face of show business." Simoes is perfect as the awestruck young playwright whose idealism takes a beating at the hands of the jaded and sarcastic veterans whose innocence and optimism were lost long ago.

The ever droll Richard Snee provides balance as the established playwright Owen Turner who can still appreciate a fledgling's excitement at seeing his first play produced on stage. Snee is also the calm at the center of the storm, observing but never allowing himself to be buffeted by the tempest that makes his contemporaries feel alive. Jordan Clark provides additional ballast as Miss Lowell, Irene's personal assistant and ghost writer of her memoirs. Terrence O'Malley is sweetly supportive as Irene's sympathetic husband, Tyler Rayburn, and Bob Mussett as William H. Gallagher turns the hard-drinking Shriner stereotype on its ear when his ardor for the theater becomes apparent.

It would be easy to turn LIGHT UP THE SKY into either a dusty, dated museum piece or an anachronistic fever-pitched farce. Director Edmiston and his finely tuned cast do neither. They navigate the shoals of Moss Hart's backstage comedy delicately, capturing both the elegance and irreverence in perfect harmony. It's a fitting end to a very fine season at Lyric Stage. As the cast sings before the final bow, "There's No Business like Show Business."

PHOTOS BY MARK S. HOWARD: The cast of LIGHT UP THE SKY; Will McGarrahan as Carleton Fitzgerald, Paula Plum as Irene Livingston and Alejandro Simoes as Peter Sloan; Bobbie Steinbach as Stella Livingston and Kathy St. George as Frances Black; Bobbie Steinbach, Will LeBow as Sidney Black, Bob Mussett as William H. Gallagher and Kathy St. George


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