Citadel Theatre presents LIGHT UP THE SKY Review — Egos in Bathrobes

Citadel Theatre LIGHT UP THE SKY
Sarah-Lucy Hill, Lauren Miller, Irene Currie, Geoff Isaac, Rob Frankel, Laurie Carter Rose, Chuck Dribin and Chuck Quinn in Moss Hart's LIGHT UP THE SKY at Citadel Theatre through October 29th. Photo: Norh Shore Camera Club

Let’s hear it for the bathrobes. Each defines the character wearing it. Every single one is fabulous.

It’s Act III of LIGHT UP THE SKY at Citadel Theatre. 1948. Middle of the night. A suite at the Ritz Carlton in Boston. The robes – created by costume designer Paul Kim – remind us that the world onstage has all but vanished. 

Citadel Theatre LIGHT UP THE SKY
LIGHT UP THE SKY, now playing at Citadel Theatre, features Laurie Carter Rose, Chuck Dribin and Lauren Miller. Photo: North Shore Camera Club

That world happens to be the heyday of the Broadway tryout, through the lens of Moss Hart who knew a thing or two about it. In the 1930s, Moss and George S. Kaufman co-authored the enduring megahits You Can’t Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner

As a solo writer a decade later, Hart wrote LIGHT UP THE SKY, a comedy about show biz types tripping over egos in the hours before and after the Boston tryout of a new play. By 3:45 a.m., even the parrot – who has LIGHT UP THE SKY’s opening lines – “SRO, no seats till January” – is overtired. The show, a dreary allegory that no one actually understands, is declared a disaster and the producers want out of their $300,000 investment.

 

LIGHT UP THE SKY: a time when Broadway mattered

Once upon a time, Broadway mattered. Major cities like Boston had multiple newspapers with full time critics. A rich married couple, not corporate entities, could finance a show. A stage actress could become a legend. A playwright could build a career. A cast could include enough characters to send two off to the side to play cards for a while. Working with a slim plot, director Pat Murphy chooses to recall this era without 21st Century commentary.

 

Citadel Theatre LIGHT UP THE SKY
Jordan Golding, Chuck Dribin, Geoff Isaac, Laurie Carter Rose, Rob Frankel and Lauren Miller in LIGHT UP THE SKY, directed by Pat Murphy for Citadel Theatre. Photo: North Shore Camera Club
Citadel Theatre LIGHT UP THE SKY
Chuck Dribin, Sarah-Lucy Hill, Rob Frankel and Lauren Miller in LIGHT UP THE SKY, Citadel Theatre's first show of its 2017-18 season. Photo: North Shore Camera Club

In this viewer’s opinion, LIGHT UP THE SKY doesn’t offer enough floodlights to merit a revival. But it does have some viable one-liners, plus priceless details from the past. First time playwright Peter Sloan (Jordan Golding) calls American Airlines to order a ticket that he’ll just “pick up at the window.” To catch the young man before he flies back to New York, producer Sidney Black (Rob Frankel) tells the operator to connect him to Boston’s airport manager. Nearly 70 years later, air travel so personal is hard to imagine.

Citadel Theatre production picks up steam

LIGHT UP THE SKY’s low dramatic stakes and rigidly etched characters make it hard to build comedic tension. However, Rob Frankel’s Sidney has marvelous energy that’s convincing right from the top. Others onstage pick up steam and join him in what finally becomes a concluding romp. Unexpectedly, Golding’s Peter pauses the action for a heartfelt phone conversation with his girlfriend about his presumed failure as a writer. It’s nice. It’s real. Besides fabulous robes, LIGHT UP THE SKY’s show people deserve that level of truth.

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

 

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre In Chicago.

WHEN:

Now through October 29
Thursdays at 7:30 PM
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 3:00 PM
Wednesday, October 4 & 18 at 11:00 AM

Citadel Theatre LIGHT UP THE SKY
Sarah-Lucy Hill in LIGHT UP THE SKY by Moss Hart, now through October 29 at Citadel Theatre. Photo: North Shore Camera Club

WHERE:

Citadel Theatre
300 S. Waukegan Rd.
Lake Forest, IL

TICKETS:

$37.50 - $40
(847) 735-8554
www.CitadelTheatre.org

Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning, Emmy-nominated playwright, journalist and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre.

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