R. Bruce Connelly* stars as George Burns
This is the hit Broadway play that invites you to spend a hilarious, heart-warming evening in the uplifting company of the world’s favorite and funniest centenarian. George Burns, who spanned one hundred years of American entertainment history, is now miraculously alive and kicking in a stunning tour de force. Say Goodnight, Gracie was Broadway’s third longest running solo performance show and was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award for BEST PLAY and won the 2003-04 National Broadway Theatre Award for BEST PLAY.
Please note that this play does not have an intermission.
Generously sponsored by:
R. Bruce Connelly* (George Burns) in his career has worked in burlesque, vaudeville, television, movies, drama, pantomime and musical comedy. Among the roles he has played are J.M. Barrie, P.T. Barnum, Max Bialystock, Max Prince, Paddy Bell, Felix Unger, Pseudolus, Willie Clark, Sheridan Whiteside, Uncle Vanya, Murray Burns, Dr. Einstein, Dr, John Watson, Andrew Wyke, Finian McLonergan, Harold Hill, Guildenstern, Trinculo, Bottom, Puck, Feste, Scapino, Roger Sherman, Snoopy, Barkley, Barney Cashman, the Stage Manager, the Man Going Back, the Reverend Crisparkle, the Reverend Mother, the Mule of La Mancha, eight roles in The Matchmaker, ten roles in Greater Tuna, the Devil, Jesus, and now the Man who played God, George Burns.
Directed by: Michael McDermott
Stage Manager: Michael McDermott*
Assistant Stage Manager: Holly Price
Set Design: Dan Nischan
Lighting Design: Marcus Abbott
Sound and Projection Operator: Gaylen Ferstand
Costume Design: Kari Crowther
Hair Design: Joel Silvestro
* member of Actors Equity
Please join us for an opening night reception with the cast of Say Goodnight, Gracie on Friday, October 31st following the 8:00pm performance.
R. Bruce Connelly stars as George Burns in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” on stage at the Ivoryton Playhouse October 29 – November 16
Say Goodnight, Gracie is a solo performance starring Playhouse favorite R. Bruce Connelly. We caught up with Bruce during rehearsals and asked him about this challenging role.
What research did you do to prepare for this role?
To be able to watch the old Burns and Allen TV shows is great research. Antenna TV shows two Burns and Allen episodes every night and I watch those every single day. George was in his 50’s and 60’s at the time of these TV shows and it’s interesting to study his vocal placement and physicality from these performances. Also, his cigar action and hand gestures. You get a real flavor for his relationship with Gracie, as well – his stillness and the way he worked with her is mesmerizing.
Also, I purchased the George Burns TV Specials that were produced about 20 years after the The Burns and Allen Show. It’s important to study how all his mannerisms changed in 20 years. This play is a solo performance of George Burns at age 100 so I had to study the gestures and facial expressions of each decade of his life. And, of course, clips on the internet allow you to see the Friars Club Roasts and interviews with him and that helped me understand how he aged.
One book that I found useful was “Gracie, A Love Story” that George Burns wrote about Gracie. That book introduces you to the woman that he described as “smart enough to become the dumbest woman in show business history”.
I have performed this role before at Seven Angels in March 2013 so I was already familiar with his childhood and early life. That production was directed by Semina DeLaurentis. She has a very good ear and would listen for the local regionalisms in my voice and guide me into George’s specific accent. I learned how to place George’s voice into my throat – work the tempo of his voice.
This time, the director is Michael McDermott. Michael and I have performed several times together and this is my first time being directed by him. He’s very detail oriented; he has immersed himself in all that was George Burns and has helped me take the script to an even greater depth with this production.
George Burns had an amazing career – what aspect of his life is most intriguing to you and why?
The Burns and Allen Show ran from 1950 – 1958
I did not know that he wrote Gracie Allen’s material! I loved Gracie Allen – I have a deep appreciation of the characters and the cast of The Burns and Allen Show – it was wonderful fun. When you see someone as funny as Gracie Allen, you assume it’s coming from that person – not the writers. But it was George Burns doing the writing. It’s fascinating to me that this man said “I did nothing, Gracie did everything”. He said, “The less I did on stage, the better the act went – I got so good at doing less and less people didn’t know I was on stage at all”. He always said that Gracie had the talent and she did all the comedy but George was a brilliant straight man and a brilliant writer.
Think of the number of times he had to reinvent himself! From the crippling poverty of his childhood to become such a brilliant comedian is a miracle. Many beloved comedians came out of the Lower East Side of New York at that time; somehow they survived and flourished and became famous. George Burns had an amazing ability to adapt to everything new that came along— vaudeville, radio, movies, television— and then he continued to work in Vegas and making movies into his 90s. Just amazing.
What do you think audiences will be surprised to learn about George Burns?
George Burns and Jack Benny
There are surprises that I can’t reveal – you have to come and see the show – there are so many private things that he shares. Say Goodnight, Gracie is a confession to God. In the show, George Burns has passed away and is alone in limbo. God asks him to review his life and he’s very honest about it. He tells God – and the audience – all about his life from birth to death.
Did you know that Jack Benny and George Burns were best friends? In Say Goodnight, Gracie, you get a lot of stories of things they got up to. Things that will make you laugh. The Jack Benny Program was one of my favorite shows growing up; I enjoy having him for a best friend in this show.
Say Goodnight, Gracie is a love letter from George (and Rupert Holmes) to a very special woman. As a theatre story it’s terrific. As a love story it’s enduring. And it’s extraordinary when you realize that, without Gracie, we probably wouldn’t know who George Burns was! Nothing clicked until he met Gracie but when they found each other and fell in love, the audiences fell in love with both of them. I’m looking forward to bringing that magic and discovery to Ivoryton audiences.
Check back here for more info and photos.
October 15, 2014
Say Goodnight, Gracie
The Life, Laughter & Love of George Burns
Starring Bruce Connelly
at the Ivoryton Playhouse
Ivoryton – Ivoryton favorite Bruce Connelly returns to the Playhouse stage on October 29th, in the hit Broadway show, Say Goodnight, Gracie.
This stunning tour de force invites you to spend an hilarious, heart-warming evening in the uplifting company of the world’s favorite and funniest centenarian, George Burns, who spanned one hundred years of American entertainment history.
Say Goodnight, Gracie was Broadway’s third longest running solo performance show and was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award for BEST PLAY and won the 2003-04 National Broadway Theatre Award for BEST PLAY.
In Say Goodnight, Gracie, George Burns looks back upon his impoverished, plucky youth on the lower East Side of New York… his disastrous but tenacious career in Vaudeville … the momentous day when he meet a fabulously talented young Irish girl named Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen … their instant chemistry, with his flawless timing a perfect mate to her dizzy delivery … his wooing of her, their marriage and their rise to the pinnacles of Vaudeville, Movies, Radio and Television. Gracie’s demise forced George to start from square one in life and in his career, eventually achieving an equal level of success as a solo raconteur and Academy Award-winning actor, portraying everything from a Sunshine Boy to, oh, God.
Say Goodnight, Gracie was written by multiple Tony Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes, whose Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning musical The Mystery Of Edwin Drood and who is also creator and writer of the nostalgic Emmy Award-winning comedy series Remember WENN.
Bruce Connelly* appeared last at the Ivoryton Playhouse as Jim in the summer production All Shook Up. Notable roles include Barney Cashman in Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, Max Bialystock in The Producers, Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Finian in Finian’s Rainbow. Since 1993, Bruce has played Barkley, Jim Henson’s Muppet dog on Sesame Street for which he has been honored fifteen times by the National Academy of Television and Radio at the Daytime Emmy Awards.
Say Goodnight, Gracie is a tender, funny, life-affirming love story … a personal guided tour through an American century in the company of George Burns, a man who laughingly lived and loved each day for all it had to offer, until he finally went “gently into that good night” to forever reunite with his beloved Gracie.
Say Goodnight, Gracie opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on October 29th and runs through November 16th, 2014. Directed by Michael McDermott, the set design is by Dan Nischan, lighting by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Kari Crowther.
Please note that this play does not have an intermission.
Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.
Pictured: Bruce Connelly* as George Burns
Photographer: Rosemary Picarelli
*denotes member of Actors Equity
Members of the press are welcome at any performance. Please call ahead for tickets.
Generously sponsored by Clark Corporation and Essex Meadows
Looking for something to do? Ivoryton Playhouse was voted Best Place to See Live Theatre by the readers of the Shoreline Times! Come and visit Essex and see a show at this Connecticut historic treasure!