Over The Moon

Previewed 9 October 2001, Opened 15 October 2001, Closed 1 December 2001 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major new production of Ken Ludwig's backstage farce Over The Moon in London starring Joan Collins

The new moon of television in the 1950's saw a long dark night for many of the theatre touring companies in the small theatres of the USA. Old troopers George Benson and Charlotte Benson leading their frazzled troupe through a third rate Cyrano de Bergerac and an equally tatty Private Lives in Buffalo, New York, realise their careers are definitely on the wane. What they need is a big break - and when they hear that Frank 'It's a Wonderful Life' Capra is planning to attend one of their shows, the married thespians see this as their last chance for real stardom. Unfortunately the Moon Over Buffalo that night is a full one, brining the high tides of both romance and madness as Ken Ludwig's Broadway smash backstage farce unfolds at lunatic speed.

Charlotte, long suffering wife of philandering George is subject to the attention of smooth talking lawyer Richard. Charlotte's mother Ethel, is hard of hearing (apparently) but that only seems to have sharpened her tongue while George himself has been broadening the repertoire of the company's ingenue Eileen by getting her pregnant. Meanwhile the couples daughter Rosanlind, who has quit show business, arrives backstage to introduce her fiance, a star struck television weatherman. Tensions understandably run high as privates lives spill over into Private Lives and the five person Cyrano de Bergerac nose-dives as everyone looks for their big break.

The cast stars Joan Collins as 'Charlotte Benson', Frank Langella 'George Benson' (up to 3 November 2001), Michael Cochrane as 'George Benson' (from 5 November 2001) and Moira Lister 'Ethel' with Paul Bentley as 'Richard', Sarah Waterbridge as 'Roz', Robert Finch as 'Paul', Cameron Blakely as 'Howard', Emma Barton as 'Eileen' and John Tallents as 'Actor'. Directed by Ray Cooney with designs by Tim Goodchild and lighting by Brian Harris.

This production was originally called by it's Broadway title of Moon Over Buffalo, but a month prior to this London West End opening, due to percieved confusion in British audiences minds regarding what 'buffalo' meant, the producers decided to change its name to Over The Moon. The original Broadway production, starring Carol Burnett opened in October 1995 and run for nine months.

"[Ken Ludwig's] subject is the demise of theatre in the new television age of the 1950s. But his play, probably rightly, is steam-rollered by Ray Cooney's expert direction of a slam-doors-and-run-around farce. I never cracked a laugh in the first act, as Collins and Langella, the distinguished Broadway veteran making his West End debut, pussyfoot about as bad substitutes for Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper. But the second act explodes, just like Noises Off, in a mix-up of backstage and onstage confusion. Moira Lister, not to be outdone by Joan, a mere stripling in comparison, flashes her fine, slender legs as a French maid in a white pinny and black tights. Collins looks cheerfully oblivious to the mayhem, Langella acts up a melodramatic storm and Cameron Blakely as a starstruck TV weatherman who is engaged to their daughter, gives a blissful demonstration of contained farcical fury." The Daily Mail

"This is Ken Ludwig's backstage farce about two past-it actors in a Fifties rep company threatened by the arrival of TV and their own imminent obsolescence. The lead ham is played by Broadway star Frank Langella - making his West End debut - and Joan is his co-star desperate to be noticed as there is a bigshot movie director in the audience... The first 60 minutes of this go painfully slowly and it's quite clear Joan's not going to bother to act. You also begin to wonder what made Mr Langella a Broadway legend. Then, thank God, in the second half things begin to cook. Director Ray Cooney gets the show's trousers down, doors start to slam, stakes are raised and the laughter builds... Langella does the old drunk actor routine a treat and Moira Lister - Joan's senior making a slendid comeback - is magnificient as a French maid in tights. There's some lovely nonsense, too, from Cameron Blakely as the weatherman wannabe son-in-law who gets mistaken for director Frank Capra. How everyone gets away with it by the final curtain I just don't know, but somehow they do." The Express

"As Charlotte the (superannuated) starlet, an old trouper who will never let a stage direction get in the way of her best profile, Joan Collins has found the perfect vehicle for her lack of talent. And though her acting technique is somewhat limited (she can either sting, smoke or strut, but only one thing at a time and with a concentration that obliterates any suspicion of spontaneity), she more than makes up for it with ballsy confidence and stylish frocks... Set in the Fifties when the theatre is losing out to television and on its last legs, it's a calamitypacked day in the life of a family theatre company touring with two tatty productions, Cyrano de Bergerac and Coward's Private Lives, in rep... Early on in the play, the stonedeaf wardrobe mistress, Charlotte's mother, played to the ironic hilt by Moira Lister with absolutely spot-on comic timing, mutters something about her son-in-law: 'The man is a walking ham. They should stick cloves in him and serve him with pineapple.' If you like ham, you'll love Over The Moon. This hunk of pork has been marinaded in liquor, rolled in honey and mustard, cut in great chunks and dished out with lipsmacking relish. Theatrical vegetarians (and I spotted a few on the opening night, looking po-faced and faintly queasy) will choke on it. If you take it in the frivolous spirit intended - the Joan Collins ham fest - you won't be disappointed. The director, veteran farceur Ray Cooney, knows exactly what he's doing, and he could afford to do it faster. This may be disposable theatre, but it's a harmless geriatric celebrity special." The Mail on Sunday

Over The Moon in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 9 October 2001, opened on 15 October 2001 and closed on 1 December 2001