Moonlight and Magnolias performed by Leitheatre is on at The Festival Theatre Studio for the next few days, and if you get the time, it is well worth going to see.
Leitheatre are, as you can probably guess, a local amateur drama group, but don’t let those words “amateur drama” put you off. We have a great liking for Leitheatre and their productions are always of a high standard. It is also important that drama at this local level is supported as much as possible, not only to give emerging talent a platform to work on, but also simply just to allow people to enjoy the experience of being involved in a stage production both on stage and behind the scenes.
This work by Ron Hutchinson is a brave production for Leitheatre to attempt to stage as it tells the story of legendary film producer David O Selznick trying to fix the problems he has with his new film “Gone With the Wind”. Film production has been closed down and in just five days he has to find a new director, a new script and be ready to re-start production on a film that everybody believes will be a major flop and ruin the studio – after all, “no one has ever made money out of a civil war film”. His solution - lock his new director, his star re-write script man and himself in his office until the job is completed.
I say this is a brave production because there are only four characters in this play and it is a heavily dialogue driven piece of work. Our characters are Ben Hecht – script re-writer extraordinaire (David Rennie), Victor Fleming - film director (Josh Ingram), David O Selznick – film producer (Kevin Rowe) and Miss Poppenghul –Selznick’s secretary/PA (Elona C Smith). Once this play starts, there is no hiding place for our producer, writer and director as they are on stage all of the time.
I liked this one a lot. The script is a gentle comedy, and watching Kevin and Josh act out some of the scenes from the book as David attempts to write the script is funny as it done with a light touch that never treads into farce. There are also some nice “in jokes” about the state of the Hollywood film industry at the time.
All the main characters are well performed here, but somehow it is David Rennie as Ben Hecht that steals this production for me as the somewhat neurotic writer working solely for a large pay cheque as he has no belief whatsoever in the film adaptation of the book. His lack of faith in the project is only slightly larger than that of his conscripted from “The Wizard of Oz” director Victor Fleming. I think much of my liking for Ben as a character is just that this part simply seems to be more developed than the other two. Elona C Smith does get to put in some nice almost cameo appearances, but has little to do in this work apart from come through a door every now and then and take a few notes.
If there is a fault with this work however, it has nothing to do with Leitheatre. This is a play about the making of “Gone With the Wind” and unless you are familiar with possibly the book, and certainly the film (the two are different) and the main people around its creation then a lot of this play may be lost in translation. If you are not that familiar with the characters, then a quick Google synopsis search may be in order before going to see this one as it will certainly increase your understanding of the source material and make some of these scenes even funnier.
Review by Tom King