Therry Dramatic Society
The Arts Theatre
Until 01 Sep 2012

Review by Aaron MacDonald

I have a real issue with shows that have names like “Moon Over Buffalo”. It has no instant name appeal – it seems like the only people it will attract are a) a company’s regular subscribers and b) people who already know the show. I’m not saying that people judge a book by its cover, but – wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying, because that’s exactly what people do.

It’s especially egregious in this case; when it went to the West End it was renamed “Over The Moon”, which sounds a lot more interesting. I’m sure the joke was hilarious 60 years ago when “Moon Over Miami” was a thing, but – wait, this show was written in 1995? Bad playwright! Bad! Go sit in the corner!

Buffalo’s plot is forgettable (and not really that important) – thanks to the talkies, a mom-and-pop theatre company is going out of business, and they and their staff have one last chance to make it big in Hollywood when a big-shot producer comes to their show.

John Koch and Maxine Grubel play the company owners and main stars; Lana Adamuszek and Ben Todd their ingénues; Karen Burns their daughter. They give good, if a little inconsistent, performances – some scenes rip along, with snappy dialogue and hilarious gags, but others fall a little flat and drag. Still it’s hammy-hilarious as hell; that’s what you expect walking in, and you aren’t disappointed.

Christopher Leech, Myfanwy May and Joshua Coldwell, as a lawyer, mother-in-law and son-in-law-to-be respectively, are really great here in cameo roles – playwright Ken Ludwig has given them excellent gags, and they regularly walk on stage, steal the scene and then disappear in the blink of an eye.

After the interval the show really hits its stride and drops into “Fawlty Towers” levels of slapstick door humour and surreal cringe comedy, but depending on how forgiving you are with your jokes, it can be a haul until then.

The set, by Nick Spottiswoode, is excellent; people in amateur theatre obviously have a great working knowledge of crappy backstage areas, and one such place is lovingly reproduced here. It has about a dozen different entries – and the rapid fire, missed-you-by-that-much door comedy is one of the highlights of the show.

“Moon Over Buffalo” takes a while to get its wings, but when it does, it soars.