‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by February 24, 2017

‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ was written in 2004 by the Irish born, Emmy Award winning screenwriter, Ron Hutchinson. The title refers to the pleasant soft lighting and sweet flower aromas experienced by the women at home, in contrast with the pre-civil war tension of the soldiers. Ron wrote dozens of award winning scripts for the cinema (‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’) and TV series (‘The Irish Play’, ‘Ghost Squad’).
Raised in Coventry, UK, Hutchinson now lives in Los Angeles, with his second wife and adopted daughter.
This 90-minute comedy / drama is based on historical events. It is being presented by the Wanneroo Repertory Inc. and can be seen at the Limelight Theatre, Civic Drive, Wanneroo every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 8.00 pm until Saturday 4th March. There is one matinée on Sunday 26th February at 2.00 pm.

The scene is the luxurious office of the semi-independent mogul, and legendary film producer, Selznick. Doug McLean’s set justifiably received applause when the curtains opened. The walls are black and light mustard, with Art Deco touches (Ursula Kotara). The walls are covered with Selznick’s awards and film posters. The furnishings are light oak, and the chairs Art Deco Club style. There were numerous cinematics equipment props, showing a huge amount of work by Loretta Gibbs and Carryn McLean. Shelley McGinn’s wardrobe design was perfect for the period.
The efficient stage manager was Mike Gibbs.
Wally Fry’s lighting (aided by Jillian Betterton) was beautiful. It captured the warmth of the old incandescent lamps, a couple of good effects and picked out the specific areas perfectly. Patrick McGinn and Tom Melanko flawlessly cued the sound.

It is Hollywood in 1939, so naturally the play starts with a set of cinema titles (Calum McLean).
The curtains open and David O Selznick (Tim Fraser) is in full flight, waving his arms with enthusiasm and frustration. Three weeks into shooting ‘Gone with the Wind’, Selznick has decided that the script is appalling, and the director incompetent. With only five days until shooting starts again, He fires the two men concerned.
Selznick’s hardworking and most tolerant secretary, Miss Poppenguhl (Christine Smith) tries to carry out his vague instructions and demands. Selznick hires the most respected, but reluctant script doctor, Ben Hecht (Chris Juckes), but unfortunately he has never even read the book.
Next, Selznick pressgangs director, Victor Fleming (Andrew Govey), from finishing another Selznick production, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, to be the new director. The producer believes in this movie so much, that he locks the three of them in his office, incommunicado, for five days. With bananas and peanuts as their only food, they pull together and produce a new script.

The rich script is fast paced, delivered with (thankfully) only a slight American accent. With such a complex dialogue, the four actors had to be perfectly rehearsed and well-focused, or the whole show could have collapsed. Director Carryn McLean has done a wonderful job, the superb cast melded well, and the urgency of the situation was relentless and palpable. As the script writing came along, the three film makers decided to test out the dialogue by enacting the scenes themselves, this was hilarious.
The opening scene was frenetic, but soon the characters cooled to a mere feverish state.
The script had some fascinating facts about Hollywood, relationships, and who owned what.
If you have not read the book or seen the film, you will love the characterisation; but if you have knowledge of the story, then you will really enjoy the humorous comments.
Skilfully presented. A powerful cast. A quality production. Very well done.