HAIL THE BELOVED COUPLE: GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN


BONNIE GOLDBERG

When Nathan Birnbaum, the son of a cantor, was seven he found himself supporting the family when his father died suddenly. It wasn't until he met and married Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen, a sweet Irish Catholic girl who loved to dance, that the beloved comedy duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen hit the big time. If you listened to the radio in the 1930's to 1950 and watched television in the 1950's, then you probably are familiar with that comic couple. The Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is welcoming that particular pair until Sunday, March 5 for the benefit of the theatre's educational programs as well as their HALO Awards to honor area high school musical productions.

"George and Gracie: The Early Years" utilizes some of the actual episodes of the total 291 television shows that Artistic Director Semina De Laurentis used to frame this tribute show to the genius of these vaudevillians. She also captures the heart and soul of Gracie, with all her innocence, naiveté and pure zaniness, with what George described as "illogical logic." When they originally created their act, Gracie was the straight man to George's jokes. He realized early on that Gracie received the majority of the laughs and so he switched places becoming the straight man. He is famous for quipping: "All I had to do was say, 'Gracie, how's your brother?' and she talked for 38 years. And sometimes I didn't even have to remember to say 'Gracie, how's your brother?' "

Semina's Gracie is a sweetheart as she puts herself in unbelievable situations, whether it's not buying a set of encyclopedias, mastering an intricate game of cards, getting a manicure, hiring a private detective or accompanying George to Washington to meet the president. Helping or hindering her along the way are her next door neighbors Harry (John Swanson) and Blanche (Sarah Knapp) Morton and the radio and television announcer Harry von Zell (Tom Chute). Semina's Gracie is without guile, gifted with the ability to make her character beautifully sincere and believable.

Her match is the incomparable R. Bruce Connelly, with his trademark cigar and perfectly timed straight lines, set off with an arched eyebrow and a "can you believe that?" grin. They are charm personified as they soft shoe through life with no need for a four letter word, unless that word is love.

For tickets ($39-57), call the Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.SevenAngelsTheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 pm and 8 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. Watch for the Play readings ($10) on February 19 and 26 and April 2 at 6 pm. Interested in adult acting classes being offered in March and April on Tuesdays?  Call the theatre. Plan now for Badda Bing Comedy Night on March 11 AT 8 PM.

Let nostalgia reign as the memories flood your senses, with the welcome return of that beloved couple known for comic timing and perfectly tuned delivery: George and Gracie.

 


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