It was super-cold this particular evening -an evening that many would select to stay in by a fire. Not us. My Mom and I parked and walked rapidly to Spotlighters. We couldn’t let the wind chill keep us from our enjoyable night of enchantment at the classic The Man Who Came to Dinner by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, and we got exactly that!!
Set Designer and Scenic Artist Alan Zemla set the tone by creatively converting the stage to a 1930’s living room, to include a glossed floor with a medallion in the center, French doors leading to a side room, a small flight of stairs headed to the second floor, and even dainty, operating wall lamps placed on decorated columns. Laura Nicholson designed the colorful costumes and Allison Ramer contributed the effective Lighting Design.
Director and Managing Artistic Director Fuzz Roark welcomed the audience to Spotlighters, and to the show. He joked about great times that the cast had shared, including learning to use a two-piece rotary telephone. It was a cute reminder of how times had changed and a nice touch to start off with an intimate welcome. And what a talented cast Roark has assembled!
The show starts with quite alot of movement. House staff, a nurse, and others quickly scatter through the living room to carry out their orders, and shortly you learn that a not-so-nice male is the cause of the hectic-ness. You hear him bark remarks from the room off stage, and watch others reaction to them.
The anticipated brash voice enters the room, and thus we are introduced to Sheridan Whiteside, played by Michael J. Galizia. Whiteside matches his voice. His is big in statue, has grey, slicked-back hair, a full beard and travels via a wheelchair with a blanket covering his legs. Even though disabled, he is dressed to the nines – suit, crisp white shirt, tie, and polished wingtips. We soon find out that this personality is no longer a welcomed one. You see, he slipped on the iced steps of the Stanley’s home and has been their guest while he heals. Due to his popularity as a radio star, he has a sense of entitlement, and calls out orders like the king of a country.
Garima Bhatt plays Maggie Cutler – Whiteside’s secretary. She is stunning!! She’s committed to Whiteside in every sense of the word, and has mastered the ability to gracefully ignore and/or belittle his attitudinal outbursts and commands.
Both Galizia and Bhatt are perfectly cast. Their working relationship and chemistry is convincing and strong. Whiteside is miserably content as long as things go his way, and he’s the center of attention. Due to his national radio fame and popularity, he often name-drops, and even receives eccentric gifts, visits, and phone calls. And remember, it’s not even his house!
The poor Stanleys have to suffer through the craziness. Mrs. Daisy Stanley (Julie Press) enjoys the celebrity-ism in her home and is willing to overlook the downfalls that come along; however hubby, Ernest Stanley (Jim Hart) is fit-to-be tied with the Whiteside foolishness. To top it off, Whiteside has captured the ears of the Stanley young adult children, (Dennis Binseel and Claire Iverson), and needless to say, the advice given is not in line with what their parents might desire.
The drama only heightens when a newspaper guy, Bert Jefferson (Eric Poch), stops by. Jefferson is tall and good-looking and catches secretary Maggie’s eye. Hmmm, would Whiteside lose his assistant of 10 years to this young buck?
In comes the sexy and sassy Lorraine Sheldon, played by Caroline C. Kiebach. Kiebach lights up the stage and delivered my favorite performance of the evening. She is charming, witty with an over-the-top personality. Her arrival causes a change of events that even affects Whiteside, and nothing affects Whiteside. A phone call turns into a major tantrum and is hysterical. It’s a real ‘Scene Stealer.’
So yes, from Whiteside’s forever-crying Nurse Preen (Penny Nicholas), to several other bigger-than- life visitors, this home’s action could be compared to a colorful circus, and a very enjoyable circus.
Were left having experienced lots of LOL laughter and live entertainment at its best. Spotlighters always goes out of its way to show you a nice evening. Their extra touches of welcoming the audence, the wine and hors d’oeuvres from the 1930s, and the ability to interact with the cast during the post-show reception, were the icing on the cake. And the beautifully decorated tree added to the set for their Christmas scene only enhanced the festive ambience.
Spotlighters’ joyous The Man Who Came to Dinner is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season! Kudos Spotlighters!
Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with two intermissions.