Previews: BIG TROUBLE AT LITTLE YALTA at Central Standard Theatre

A subversive and funny look at World Power politics

By: Jun. 25, 2024
Previews: BIG TROUBLE AT LITTLE YALTA at Central Standard Theatre
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One of the fun parts of covering theater in Kansas City is the huge variety of available shows.  Occasionally, you may have the opportunity to witness the birth of something entirely new.

Recently, I watched and chuckled at an early rehearsal of a show called BIG TROUBLE AT LITTLE YALTA.  Bob Paisley's Central Standard Theatre presents the World Premiere of LITTLE YALTA scheduled for July 3 through July 7 at the Just Off-Broadway Theatre at 3051 Central in Kansas City.

The creation story for BIG TROUBLE AT LITTLE YALTA is as much fun and at least as subversive as the inspiration behind it.  This is a mostly comic reimagining of the February 1945 meeting between the BIG THREE Allied World War II leaders  They were American President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Strong Man Joseph Stalin.

The idea for BIG TROUBLE FOR LITTLE YALTA grew out of a well lubricated afterparty at an Adelaide Australia Public House. The three actors now playing the lead parts were then performing  in other shows at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival just prior to the Covid-19 scourge being loosed  across the world.

According to Playwright Neil Salvage (also one of the actors), no one actually remembers who proposed the idea of writing a play about YALTA as a mostly comedy.  Anyhow after several rounds of pint refills, the three actors were assigned parts. Playwright Salvage would play Winston Churchill, KC based Bob Paisley would impersonate FDR, and UK actor Nicholas Collett would transform into Joseph Stalin.

A pint fueled conversation like this one might be quickly forgotten, but this one stuck in Neil Salvage’s subconscious.  Caught at home in East Sussex UK for an extended period during the COVID lockdown, the show just kind of fleshed itself out and a play script was born.

Time passed, and the three friends became entranced with the notion of a World Premiere  production.  The script read funny.  Would it be as funny out loud? Bob Paisley, who is the local founder of Central Standard Theatre, an international performer, and co-founder of Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre took action, signed on as actor and producer, and found a theater available at an agreed to time.

Sounds almost like a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland film where they find a barn and put on a show.  That's doubly amusing because the Just Off-Broadway Theatre started life many years ago as a stable for the KC Police mounted unit.  It has since been remodeled into a very nice theater. 

BIG TROUBLE AT LITTLE YALTA, while mostly broad comedy, is based on a real event (with huge liberties taken). It is also an examination of power dynamics among the three most powerful leaders in the world (at the time) with whiffs subtly wafting down from today’s complicated world of politics.

The original conference convened at Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula in what is now occupied Ukraine.  Why Yalta?  Stalin dreaded flying. Churchill and Roosevelt needed to come to him. Each leader had his own agenda.

Together they imagined the outline of a post World War II International Order.  The actual conference at Yalta split up the spoils of an increasingly obvious Allied Victory in Europe.  What they decided has mainly held over almost eighty years. 

Neil Salvage has imagined these three  legenday leaders with their guards down and with liquor flowing like over flood stage on a swollen Missouri River.  What Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill may have really thought about the nature of power is offered as crosstalk while staff is not in the room and in a most jocular way. 

The actors and proucers have aspirations of booking BIG TROUBLEAT LITTLE YALTA onto an international tour and perhaps even into a feature-film version to be made in concert with an Australia production company.  This will be the first ever opportunity to laugh with Winnie, Franklin, and Uncle Joe and perhaps see how the sausage gets made. It may not be pretty, but it will be funny.

Your participation is encouraged.  Each performance will be followed by a post-show champagne reception.  Your opinions may assist with the international development of something that may be a significant and fun evening at the theater.   

Tickets are available on the Central Standard Theatre website   

Photo by Alan Portner  


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