New Jersey Stage
Monday, April 25, 2011
Broadway's Joel Rooks Returns to Cape May Stage in Say Goodnight, Gracie
Playwright Rupert Holmes celebrates the life of America's funniest centenarian in this life-affirming one-man show. Holmes, whose other Broadway credits include Curtains, Accomplice and Solitary Confinement, is the first person in theatrical history to win the Tony Award for Best Book, Best Music and Best Lyrics for his Tony award-winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
In this 90-minute production, director Roy Steinberg takes theater audiences on a guided tour through the 20th century, told through the eyes of Burns. Burns, the raconteur who savored each day from his impoverished youth on the lower East side to his career in Vaudeville, regales audiences with stories about his marriage to Allen, their rise to success on stage, screen, radio and TV, and ends his narrative touching upon his memorable "second time around".
Say Goodnight, Gracie is an unforgettable theatre experience, centering around one man's devotion to his wife: a woman who was his friend, his sweetheart, and his partner for life and beyond. A love story one hundred years in the making, it induces tears of laughter and compassion as it tells the remarkable adventures of Burns, a scrappy kid from the absolute poverty of New York's lower East Side (whose neighbors included Fanny Brice and The Marx Brothers) who fought his way with song and dance into Vaudeville. When Burns met the romance of his lifetime, the deliciously delirious Allen, the pair teamed up as both entertainers and lovers and rode a rainbow to stardom that led them on to the heights of Hollywood and into the homes of America.
And the critical acclaim speaks for itself: "George Burns came alive again for ninety wonderful, endearing minutes! I strongly recommend it!!" hailed Jeffrey Lyons for NBC, while Robyn Carter for CBS proclaimed it "a mesmerizing, career-capping achievement!" THE NEW YORK TIMES vows that "you'll be in heaven yourself, at least for ninety minutes" while THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS declares it "an endearing journey into the past that you'll find irresistible!"
But perhaps USA TODAY defined it best: "Say Goodnight, Gracie is an old fashioned love story in which the joy of being alive is the greatest love of all." Set the date now to meet George (and Gracie!) ... and remember again what life and love and laughter can be.
About the Cast
Joel Rooks first performed the role of George Burns on Broadway as understudy to the late Frank Gorshin. Other Broadway credits include Taller Than A Dwarf directed by Alan Arkin, The Tenth Man, The Sisters Rosensweig and the voice of the late night DJ in Frankie and Johnny in The Claire de Lune. Some of the many Off-Broadway productions he has done include The Secret Order, Rocket to the Moon, Jewtopia, Iron, Comic Potential, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Richard II, School for Scandal, After The Rain and the New York Theater Workshop's Obie award-winning production of More Stately Mansions. Films include It Runs In The Family, The Sightseer, Why George?, On The Run, American Blue Note, The Gig and His and Hers. TV Credits include Copshop, Ed, The Beat, Winchell, many appearances on all the various versions of Law & Order, and an assortment of doctors, lawyers and cops on several daytime dramas. He is a member of Ensemble Studio Theater, Circle East and New River Dramatists. He has been a guest teacher in the theater departments at NYU, the Mason-Gross School at Rutgers University and at the Hogeschool in Eindhoven, Holland.
Didi Conn is best known for her starring role in the film, You Light Up My Life, and as Frenchy, the beauty school dropout in Grease and Grease II. She recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of Grease by writing Frenchy's Grease Scrapbook- We'll Always Be Together. Ms. Conn has recorded hundreds of commercials for radio and television. She and her husband, composer David Shire, and their son, Daniel, divide their time between homes in NY and Los Angeles.
Opening May 11, Say Goodnight, Gracie performances are Thursdays thru Sundays at 8pm with 3p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees. Beginning June 1, performances run Wednesday through Sunday at 8p.m. and matinees on Sunday at 3p.m. through June 18 at the Robert Shackleton Playhouse of the Cape May Stage. Tickets are $35 adults, $30 seniors, and $15 students. Previews on May 11 will be half-price tickets. Call (609) 884-1341 for tickets and information or visit the theatre's website, www.capemaystage.com. Audio enhancement, wheelchair accessible seating, and large print programs are available with advance notice by calling the box office at (609) 884-1341.
This production is generously sponsored by The Queen Victoria ® Bed & Breakfast.
Pictured: Joel Rooks; Photo by Aleksey Photography