It's been 10 months since Tavares Community Theater has drawn a theoretical curtain on a show, and they'd hoped to do so in their own space, but it's not to be in the time of COVID, it seems; they're hoping to open in 2022. Meanwhile, they'll show in whatever space is available; this weekend, 'Say Goodnight, Gracie', the one man show covering the life of vaudeville/radio/tv legendary comedian George Burns opened in the Lake County Historical Museum in downtown Tavares.
The space used created some obvious technical issues - it's simply not a theater. The main open area is two stories, with tile floors, fantastic internal architecture, and beautiful wainscoting. It's also a tremendous echo chamber without the electrical flexibility to dim the lights in the room. The fact is - you can't complain about these kinds of problems when you have someone willing to allow you to put a stage in the middle of their floor.
The only other...quibble I might mention is the appalling lack of recognition the world now has for some of the Founding Fathers of Radio and TV comedy. George Burns passed in 1996, and twenty five years later, few people under the age of 40 even recognize his name. Similarly, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Bob Hope - the list goes on and on; these innovators and proponents of laughter are footnotes now to a generation more comfortable with TikTok videos than old time radio shows. And that's a shame.
George is portrayed by Shelly Whittle, and it should be said that Whittle has absolutely done his homework. While bearing a slight resemblance to Burns, Whittle's vocal nuances and mannerisms absolutely brings George to life; it's quite amazing and well worth seeing.
The script covers much of Burns' life I wasn't aware of, and if you know who George Burns is/was, it behooves you to attend. There's two shows left in the run - don't miss it!
Grade: A- , family friendly but for a niche audience