Laughs may come easy for the audience, but the actors in Lewisville Playhouse’s upcoming comedy, “Moon Over Buffalo,” certainly have to work hard to earn them. With ill-timed falls, wrestling and three plays from different time periods crammed into one, it’s no wonder why Director Cade Butler said his experienced cast had to move outside their comfort zone for the show.
“For a lot of our cast members who are really good at realism acting, which is typical situations and how characters behave in those situations, this is in many ways opposite of that, so we have to go away from our instincts,” Butler said.
“Moon Over Buffalo” is a popular comedy by Ken Ludwig centering around a pair of married “fading stars of the 1950s,” George and Charlotte Hay. The couple are playing in “Private Lives” and “Cyrano de Bergerac” in Buffalo, New York when they discover famed director Frank Capra will be paying them a visit while looking to cast a new film. What follows is a madcap sequence of events that find George and Charlotte at odds with one another as they both do anything they can to impress Capra while their relationship continues to deteriorate.
“It’s very over the top, so you find yourself really having to kind of step outside of what you’re used to doing so that you can take it to where it needs to go,” Wendi Brozek said of her role as Charlotte. “Once you start, it’s really fun.”
Brozek, a retired Lewisville High School teacher of 27 years, recently returned to the stage after 18 years. “Moon Over Buffalo” will mark her third play since February 2022, but her first comedy since the mid-90s.
“When you finally get back on stage, you kind of find a little bit of yourself that you haven’t seen in a very long time, and it’s really fun to rediscover who that person is and what they’re able to do,” Brozek said.
Her co-star Michael Hollomon, who plays George in “Moon Over Buffalo” finds himself in a similar situation. A theater teacher of 23 years himself currently working at Frisco ISD, the play will mark Hollomon’s return to the stage.
“Going back to the stage has kind of reignited how I do things in the classroom,” Hollomon said describing the “very familiar” connection he’s felt with the cast and crew. “It’s just good to go back to the roots of what we do by applying it in real life, and so having that connection with our students is going to really play an important factor in moving forward.”
Even with their past experiences performing and teaching theater, however, Hollomon and Brozek still feel the challenge of this production, both figuratively and physically.
“For me, personally, I’ve had to borrow some kneepads from my colleagues,” Hollomon said. “It is very physical and it’s very fast moving. Having not done a show since 2005, trying to remember what it was like to be that engaged physically and emotionally through an entire rehearsal process has definitely been challenging, but it’s been well worth it.”
“To take on this type of role in my 50s and realize that ‘oh my gosh there’s a lot to this’ has been a little challenging, but again, a lot of fun to just open up and go a little crazy for a bit,” Brozek said.
Butler, a Frisco ISD administrator himself as well as the play’s director, credited Brozek and Hollomon’s experience and personality outside of theater in the teaching world with helping them deliver a more in-depth performance. He referred to the entire cast’s ability to humanize the comedy as the driving force behind his casting decisions.
“I think what makes (Hollomon and Brozek) even better on stage is how they care for others,” Butler said, noting that he’s worked with both of his lead actors in the education world as well. “It translates. It’s obvious when you watch them perform.”
Brozek and Hollomon explained that their two decades of friendship built through teaching also helped them to show the rapport between George and Charlotte on stage.
“George has made a lot of mistakes. He’s honestly, on paper, he’s not very likable in a sense,” Hollomon said. “He cheats on his wife. He’s self-serving. He’s everything that a woman doesn’t want, yet Charlotte still has put up with him for so many years.”
“He’s also charming. He’s the actor. He can turn on that charm, and he can portray that character well, so I think that’s why people are drawn to him,” Brozek added.
Butler explained that he and the cast wanted to create a show that gave the audience “a little bit more to think about” as they left the theater following two hours of big laughs, something he felt achievable given the talent and chemistry between Brozek, Hollomon and the rest of the experienced cast that includes fellow teachers and even former students of the leads among them.
“The actors and their talent definitely made the show bigger than what it could be. I mean, this show could be fairly simple, very straightforward…if the actors were just really solid on comedic timing, just play to that strength,” Butler said, adding that the “depth that this cast brings to the show” has allowed them to explore those deeper questions behind the character’s motivations and personal feelings in order to help make the audience feel a deeper connection with the characters. “It’s been a really enjoyable process because of the talent of the actors.”
Overall, he said he hopes “Moon Over Buffalo” will catch “our audience off guard a little bit” while giving them an opportunity to escape into a hilarious comedy for a night.
“I leave every rehearsal and I’ve almost got a headache, or my throat is sore from laughing so much, so I’m excited to get an audience in there so that we can feed off their energy and kind of see where that that takes our show,” Butler said.
“Moon Over Buffalo” runs from September 8-24 at the Lewisville Playhouse. For more information, including how to purchase tickets, visit https://www.lewisvilleplayhouse.org/.
This interview has been edited for clarity.