Why was the movie version of Gone with the Wind heading toward disaster and how was it saved?
That question is answered in hilarious fashion in Ron Hutchinson’s comedy, Moonlight and Magnolias opening Friday in the Oldcastle Theatre‘s production that is a dream come true for both film buffs and anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
In 1939, Hollywood was abuzz as legendary producer David O. Selznick shut down production of his new epic, Gone with the Wind, a film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s best-seller. Selznick fired the director, the famed George Cukor, and decided a new script was necessary. He took director Victor Fleming off the set of The Wizard of Oz to replace Cukor. He then brought in playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht to write a new script. Despite the fact that playwright Sidney Howard had completed the script and 14 other writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, had already revised the script.
The problems escalated when Selznick discovered that Hecht was perhaps, the only adult in the country who had not read the book. So Fleming and Selznick proceed to act out the book’s story so that Hecht can write the screenplay. Hutchinson, a British playwright and screenwriter has done a tremendous amount of research while concocting a script that is both an enormous pleasure for movie fans and a laugh riot, perfect for a summer theatre experience.
The cast includes Eli Ganias, who is the legendary Hollywood producer, David O. Selznick. Mr. Ganias was Matt in Oldcastle’s and the Bickford Theatre’s production of Talley’s Folly two years ago. His many theatre appearances include a long New York run in Tony and Tina’s Wedding as well as TV programs such as two of the Law & Order franchises.
Paul Romero, who plays Ben Hecht, returns to the Oldcastle stage after appearing with the company in several plays including last season’s world premiere, and Berkie Award Nominated The Consul, the Tramp & America’s Sweetheart and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Big Daddy. His TV appearances including Spin City, The Late Show with David Letterman, All My Children and Chappelle’s Show.
Nathan Stith, is cast as the director, Victor Fleming. Last season Mr. Stith directed Oldcastle’s 39 Steps and this year returns to act with the company. He has appeared with Oldcastle in a wide range of plays from the musical Bells Are Ringing to the comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner. He is a member of the faculty of Trinity University where he will be directing Into the Woods this fall.
Natalie Wilder plays Selznick’s secretary in Moonlight and Magnolias having just closed in Fresh Hell: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker for Oldcastle. Her many appearances with the company include a trio of plays based on novels by Charles Dickens as well as 39 Steps.
Producing Artistic Director Eric Peterson is directing the production with a set design by Associate Artistic Director, Richard Howe. The costumes are by Ursula McCarty, the sound design by Cory Wheat and the lighting design by David V. Groupé. The stage manager is Gary Allan Poe.
“Rarely does one find a modern play with such impeccable scholarship that also happens to be so downright hilarious,” Peterson said. “The cast watched Howard Hawks film, His Girl Friday based on the play by Hecht and Charles MacArthur, in order to study the style of 1930 comedies. They were fast, furious and funny. Hecht and MacArthur wrote a play that became a classic and Hawks made one minor change and with Hecht’s screenplay made a movie classic.”
Moonlight and Magnolias opens Friday June 23rd. The buy one get one free performance isWednesday, June 28th. The production runs through July 9th. For reservations or information call Oldcastle Theatre at 802 447-0564 or visit www.oldcastletheatre.org.