With trademark cigar close at hand and speaking directly to God with his Harry Potter-like eyeglasses, Joel Rooks as George Burns – who made God a household name in a series of high grossing films in the 70’s starts this beautifully written one man show “SAY GOODNIGHT GRACIE” a loving tribute to Mr. Burns and his wife of 42 years, Gracie Allen. A more loving tribute you will not find on any stage.
Mr. Rupert Holmes, its author, has fashioned a terrific memoir performed to perfection by Mr. Rooks who was Frank Gorshin’s understudy on Broadway in 2003 and has since played the role nationwide and is now reprising it at St. Luke’s Theatre 308 West 46 Street Friday, Saturday & Sundays at 2.
With the use of original music by Mr. Holmes, vintage projections, movie and television clips, fascinating facts, and the friendly and confidential sharing of them by Mr. Rooks as Mr. Burns we learn about Mr. Burns’ long life in show business (he performed until the age of 98) with the help of Didi Conn who supplies the “Voice of Gracie Allen”.
From flopping in vaudeville to fame on radio to Paramount Pictures to more fame on television to receiving the Oscar for “The Sunshine Boys” we see the love he had for singing, writing and performing and the greatest of his loves the very original Irish girl named Gracie Allen who was his partner on stage and off.
The girl who made “illogical logic” famous and extremely funny with her honest, quirky delivery and unforgettable voice. At first it was George who was supposed to be the funny guy. But he soon discovered that the routines he had written came across better with Gracie being the funny girl and he the straight man. We can all thank God for that.
His best friend was Jack Benny and it’s a delight to hear the many stories about their friendship and their trying to crack each other up.
Growing up watching Jack Benny and Burns and Allen I was particularly taken with the performance and how well put together the show is. It brought back so many fond memories of laughing in front of my TV set in the 50’s.
For those of you who might not have ever heard of these people I can only hope that you will race down to the St. Luke’s Theatre to find out about them and become new fans of George Burns and Gracie Allen. And for all of you who want to hear again one of the most famous catch phrases ever – “Say Goodnight Gracie” – you’ll have a great time remembering and reliving those good old days.
85 minutes without intermission. Staged by William Franzblau
www.saygoodnightgracie.net Photo: Scott Myers
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