GALA 33 Celebrates Thirty-Three Years of Memorable Performances

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on September 18, 2015

There are adults with teenage children who have grown up taking for granted that there is a live professional theatre here on the corner of Franklin and First. The Roxy Gala and “Frolic on Franklin,” along with the Downtown Market, make tomorrow a very special day of celebration.

There has been a venue for entertainment here dating back before World War I, the Titanic and the Russian Revolution. It has survived two fires, a tornado and two stock market crashes. It was here before talking pictures, Technicolor, CinemaScope, Greta Garbo, Betty Grable, Elvis and television.

Thirty-three years ago, a group of crazy young people thought they could, with little or no financial support, take an abandoned Art Moderne, circa 1947 movie theater destined for the wrecking ball and make it into an icon.

With so many memorable performances over the last 33 years, most vivid in my memory are Dick Bunting in Nine, Debby Dowlen in The Rink, Linda Ellis Cunningham in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Kerby Joe Grubb’s Hamlet, Jay Doolittle as Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman, Thomas Meaney’s Jekyll and Hyde, Tom King’s witch in Hansel and Gretel, Gregory Pember in The Red Badge of Courage, Cinders Murdock-Vaughan as “The Country Girl,” Leslie Greene as Nora Witzel, Dorothy Dix, Mary Tyrone and any role she has ever played, Marge Lillard in Cabaret, Jaime Lee Kirchner in Children of Eden, Ted Jones in Into the Woods (both times), Michael Spaziani’s Jay Gatsby, Ryan Bowie’s Hedwig, Jill Whittinghill in The Noble Heart, Tommy Winters as Groucho Marx in both Animal Crackers and A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine, Alicia Jayne Kelly in Streetcar Named Desire, Joy Ralls as Juliet, Keith Stoneking in Passion, Stacy Turner’s Evita (playing it with little or no notice), Kris McCarthy in Grease, and Sandra Winters as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

When I was young, I wanted to be rich and famous. I achieved neither.

I even wrote that sentiment on the back of the drawer in my nightstand. Only when I brought the nightstand to the theatre to use it in The 39 Steps did I find it: “Buddy McDonald, the future best actor in the world.”

I did have, at 19, great expectations and grand illusions, like many young people who cross my path each year in the Parks & Rec Summer Theatre program or our Saturday School of the Arts.

But I have achieved more than what I had dreamed of as a child. I have been that secure stepping stone of wisdom and knowledge and been able to lead, coach and teach the art of theatre to a vast number of young people whose dreams I have shaped.

Like Paul Henreid and Bette Davis muse at the end of Now, Voyager, “Why reach for the moon when we have the stars?” I have seen, reached for and helped make some.

See you on the street at “Frolic on Franklin” and/or at Gala 33 tomorrow night!

[John McDonald]

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