With such a close proximity to Chicago, Naperville, IL is not often thought of as a major theatrical hub, but if BrightSide Theatre has its way, Naperville will become synonymous with quality professional theatre. Founded in 2011 by Julie Ann Kornak, Tin Penavic & Joe Messina, BrightSide's mission was simple: to "Enlighten, Educate, and Entertain through comedies and inspirational stories from across the globe." As they enter their third season (which will also feature the shows 'Bleacher Bums' & 'Cabaret'), BrightSide has chosen to open with a show that will delight movie lovers everywhere, Ron Hutchinson's 'Moonlight & Magnolias.'
Based on the true story of the moment that saved the once doomed film production of 'Gone With the Wind,' 'Moonlight & Magnolias' tells of the fabled five day period in which producer David O. Selznick shut down production to fix everything he felt was going wrong. He fired director George Cukor & pulled Victor Fleming off 'The Wizard of Oz' to come and right the sinking ship. He & Fleming then exiled themselves in Selzinck's office along with hotshot screenwriter Ben Hecht to fix the script. Armed with a typewriter, an endless supply of bananas & peanuts, and, in Hecht's case, no knowledge of the source material, these three men would craft the script to one of the greatest films ever made.
'The stuff I find most fascinating,' recounts the show's director Greg Kolack, 'is the stuff that seems the most far fetched is based in truth.' This is Kolack's first show with BrightSide, though he has worked as a director in and around the Chicagoland area for 'longer than I'd care to admit,' he says with a laugh. Kolack has known BrightSide co-founder Kornak for a long time, and when approached to potentially direct a show this season, he found that both he and BrightSide had the same show on their radar, making it an ideal first collaboration.
BrightSide co-founder Penavic is also performing in the show in the role of Hecht, and has similarly harbored a desire to bring the show to suburban Chicago audiences, particularly those who may not be familiar with the movie. 'Some of the cast hadn't seen the film, and so we got together at the start of the rehearsal process and ate southern barbeque, drank mint juleps, and watched all four hours of "Gone With the Wind."' Through this, the cast was able to bond and appreciate the show on a deeper level, though everyone involved makes it clear that an intimate knowledge of the film is not required to enjoy the show. 'People who know the movie will get a lot of the smaller jokes,' says Kolack, 'but you don't have to have seen the movie to enjoy the show.'
Actor Michael T. Black is playing the role of David O. Selznick, and admits that he was somewhat unfamiliar with Selznick prior to his accepting the role, but his research gave him a deeper appreciation of the man behind the masterpiece. 'This was really the beginning of the end of the era when the producer really controlled every aspect of a film's production.' 'Selznick would have done it all himself if he could,' he adds, which is where a lot of the show's humor comes from, in the forced collaboration of three 'control freaks.'
Kolack's collaborative nature as a director has helped to shape this production into something that all involved seem incredibly proud of working on. 'A director's job is not unlike that of a coach. He can't hit the home run or pitch a shutout or steal second base, but his job is to keep it all together,' Kolack says, echoing the themes of the show's, admittedly more forced, collaboration. 'Everyone wants to feel like they had a lot of input on what they've done.'
The show, which also features Jeff Gamlin as Victor Fleming and Linda Cunningham as Selznick's put-upon secretary Miss Poppenghul, is sure to delight audiences of all sorts, regardless of their familiarity with 'Gone With the Wind,' and its farcical nature is something that will most definitely appeal to those less acquainted with the film. Regardless, the show proves that BrightSide Theatre is committed to bringing quality shows to the more than 140,000 residents of Naperville without having to travel to the city.
'Moonlight & Magnolias' runs from August 30 – September 15, 2013 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm, at The Theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall at North Central College, 31 S. Ellsworth Street in Naperville. To order tickets, you can call the theatre box office at 630-637-SHOW (7469), or visit www.brightsidetheatre.com