By Greg Simay
The John Burroughs High School Drama closed its season with Once In a Lifetime, a knowing and witty look at “the business” whose Burbank/Hollywood epicenter is but a few miles away. The time is the late 1920’s when a the achievement of motion picture sound caused an earthquake in the industry, causing some acting careers to tumble and others to suddenly rise up.
In OIAL, A trio of desperate vaudevillians heads west to Hollywood to start a “school of elocution” for actors having to make their uncertain way from the “silents” to the “talkies”. Their fast-buck journey slams them into many of the industry types—like frantic producers and wide-eyed naifs–that many in Burbank may have encountered professionally.
Last Saturday night’s performance illustrated the actors’ journey: going from humdrum to magical. Act One started out so-so. The mechanics of the acting craft was there. No one in the cast forgot their lines (or at least covered well if they did), and that’s no mean feat when it comes to the play’s many rapid-fire lines. No one left their partner in the lurch. But, the characters had not yet grabbed hold of the actors.
By the end of Act One, that was beginning to change. Perhaps the spectacular set of a swank hotel room (and great costuming) helped put them into the moment. In Act Two, there was definitely more energy, more snap. Real characters were emerging.
By Act Three, the magic fully kicked in. The cast was no longer “acting”. They fully inhabited their characters, and I forgot that the actors were in fact much younger. I got caught up in the story’s hilarious wind up and bring-down-the-house ending.
If OIAL is any indication, the JBHS Drama program is a great success. Fledgling actors come to know what it’s like to make the playwright’s words fly off the page and into an audience’s heart and funny bone. Doing that consistently, from the beginning, play after play, is the work of a lifetime.
“Once In a Lifetime” is an apt phrase for the seniors who are about to exit the High School stage. Yes, on the world’s wider stage, they will go on to other successes and form other bonds. But judging from the “Senior Goodbyes” that were included in the program notes, they take with them
special friendships and treasured memories.
In the words of one senior, JBHS Drama “hasn’t only allowed me to develop my acting skills—as a matter of fact, it changed me as a person”.
Special Kudos to ROBBY MOTZ (playing the trio’s good-hearted fool, George Lewis) and EVAN PHILPOT (playing the manic producer Herman Glogaure) for jump starting the cast into high gear.