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Say Goodnight Gracie

If anyone personifies the history of entertainment in America in the 20th Century it's George Burns, having joked his way with his wife and partner, the inimitable Gracie Allen, to the top of the marqee in Vaudeville, Radio, Film, Television, and even a solo stint on the Billboard charts. So, it's a natural that a multi-talented writer like the Grammy, Emmy, Edgar, and Tony Award-winning (as well as Billboard-topping) Rupert Holmes would be attracted Burns' material.

The result is Say Goodnight Gracie (winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best play in 2003, and nominated for both the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for the same honor), now running at the Stage Theatre at the Denver Center.

Photo of Frank Gorshin as George Burns
Frank Gorshin as George Burns
Photo: Carol Rosegg
Given Burns' well-known mannerisms and delivery, there are very few actors who could deliver a 90-minute one-man-show and leave everyone convinced that they had indeed experienced a presentation just as George would have done it. But that is precisely what master impressionist and actor Frank Gorshin did on Broadway, and continues to do with this road show.

As all the greats with this arcane talent, Gorshin transmogrifies into his subject, causing us to imagine that maybe there was something to Burns' playing the Almighty in the Oh, God series of films, and that perhaps he has found a way to revisit the living, much as various avatars are purported to have done.

Okay, as someone who had watched a lot of The Burns and Allen Show as a kid, back when there were only three channels, I could tell at times it wasn't George, but the cumulative effect was such that by the time Gracie passed away, I was moist-eyed like the rest of the audience.

As the title suggests, much of George's story and his success was tied up in Gracie. George's style of "illogical logic"—"My eggs are so big it only takes eight to make a dozen."—didn't work when he said it. But when Gracie delivered what George wrote, audiences couldn't help but laugh.

Though Gracie never appears on stage—except in some of the historical photographs and films that are occasionally and effectively used to illustrate George's memories—her voice, recreated by acress Didi Conn, is heard during strategic scenes with great effect.

George's most endearing qualities were that he was humble and funny, and his story captures this. From the Palace to the Paramount lot, from his friendship with Jack Benny to his Oscar for The Sunshine Boys, from Oh, God to I Wish I Were 18 Again, this show has it all. If you enjoyed George and Gracie then, you'll love them now.

Say Goodnight Gracie runs through August 15th. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows

 

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