Friday, November 30, 2007

Deck the Halls with Bows so Jolly

Posted by Bruce Miller

The talented cast and crew of Theatre IV's new production of A Christmas Story took their first curtain call tonight, and then gathered in the historic Empire lobby for that merry ritual known as Meet and Greet. The Opening Night cast party was put on hold for a half hour or so until all playbills were signed and every jolly juvenile was sent on his or her way home with a smile and an autograph. Meet and Greet is so rewarding for cast and audience members alike at each Theatre IV production, I often wonder why we never try it for adult audience shows at Barksdale.

A Christmas Story was our third mainstage opening in as many weeks. If I were to put on my MARKETING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS hat, I'd tell you that the evening was an unqualified success. And in many ways it was. The audience LOVED the show, awarding it a million laughs and an enthusiastic ovation. The cast did an outstanding job.

But if I were to put on my LET'S PEEK BEHIND THE SCENES FOR THE TRUTH hat, I'd have to say that we encountered a few glitches this evening, more in my opinion than we encountered at this morning's final dress rehearsal. But such is the joy of live theatre. When you mount three major mainstage productions and four national tours in 15 days, glitches are gonna happen. Having been down this road more than a few times before, we know that now is the time to iron out some of the technical kinks that tripped us up in a few places tonight. I'm confident that every aspect of this big show will soon be in sync with every other aspect, creating the holiday heartwarmer that this production is destined to be.

Gracing the cast party were our Ralphie and Ralph (the same character as a boy and a man), played with wonderful humor and charm by Eric Pastore and Tony Foley (pictured to the left). Tony is well remembered as the young lawyer husband in Barefoot in the Park, and the innkeeper husband in Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.

When not rubbing shoulders with his adult self, Eric Pastore decided to hang with his compadres Michael Thibodeau and Eric Evans, who play Ralphie's best pals Flick and Schwartz. These three multi-talented young men (pictured to the right) are all Barksdale veterans, having appeared in leading roles in Mame, The Member of the Wedding, and Mame, respectively (yes, the role of Young Patrick in Mame was triple-cast).

And let us not forget the fourth hooligan who contributes so much to this production. Chandler Hurd, a sixth grader at Byrd Middle School, plays the hooliganiest of all--Scut Farkas, bully to the stars. Chandler was taken ill during our opening weekend, but as one would expect from such a young trooper, he's been there for every rehearsal and performance, twisting arms and laughing villainously. In fact, the only thing he's missed was the Opening Night Party! We missed him, too.

Gordon Bass and Julie Fulcher (pictured to the left) do a terrific job playing Ralphie's dad and mom, known affectionately by grown-up Ralph as "Mother" and "The Old Man." It's Gordon who wins the leg lamp as a "major prize," and Julie who keeps trying to disconnect it so that the neighbors won't see. And in case you're starting to wonder if the cast party for A Christmas Story was a slumber party, remember that Meet and Greet is conducted in costume.

The three other stage wunderkind's who are knocking everyone's socks off are R. Cooper Timberline as baby brother Randy, Lillie Izo as brainiac Helen, and Lyla Rossi as Ester Jane, the young girl whose heart Ralphie has won. They are pictured to the right in front of the sign recognizing our wonderful sponsors for this production: Dominion, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, The Supply Room, STYLE Weekly and Radio Disney.

This is Lyla's second show with Theatre IV, having appeared in The Wizard of Oz as a Munchkin last spring. But this is the first time she's been part of a mother/daughter act. Lila's mom, Theatre IV All Star AnnaMarie Rossi, shares the role of Miss Shields, the teacher, with another Theatre IV All Star, Jackie Jones.

Chase Kniffen, our talented young director, goes cheek to cheek with STYLE critic Mary Burress at the post performance cast party. And our hard working stage manager, Ariel Osborne, and house manager, Catherine Dudley, survey the joyous goings on from the historic marble and forged iron staircase that leads to the balcony. Terrie Powers (Swingtime's exemplary set designer) and Virginia actors extraordinaire--Jill Bari Steinberg, Robert Throckmorton and Robyn O'Neill--discuss the latest theatre news in the background.

As the party wore on, one little bro had to call it a night in the comforting arms of his dad, Dave Timberline, henceforward known as "Cooper's old man."

So, before you get too tired, make your plans to join us for A Christmas Story at the historic Empire Theatre. It's 2 1/4 hours of holiday delight for young and old.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like another hit for the Theatre IV- Barksdale team! I have no doubt that Richmonders are clueless as to this enormous undertaking (three shows AND touring in three weeks!!)but I for one am grateful for you guys consistently bringing these productions to our community. - I hope to see Christmas Story soon. Keep up the good work.