Daring, desperate and damn funny a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of Gone With The Wind, and some of the problems encountered, form the basis of Limelight Theatre's first production of 2017. Written by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Ron Hutchinson and directed by Carryn McLean, Moonlight and Magnolias is loosely based on the fact that, in 1939, Gone With The Wind producer David O. Selznick shut down production after three weeks of filming because he was unhappy with the screenplay.
With his reputation and bank balance on the line, Selznick enlists his trusted friend Ben Hecht as a somewhat reluctant script doctor possibly the only person in the US not to have read the novel. New director Victor Fleming is poached from the set of The Wizard of Oz and the three are locked in Selznick's office with nothing to eat but a stockpile of bananas and peanuts to sustain them.
What follows is a hilarious clash of egos as they try to complete the script within five days with Fleming and Selznick telling the story and acting out the roles with Hecht typing up the screenplay. The play's title comes from a line in Gone With The Wind when Rhett Butler says "You can drop the moonlight and magnolia, Scarlett!"
In Moonlight and Magnolias, Gone With The Wind director Victor Fleming (Andrew Govey, centre) and producer David O. Selznick (Tim Fraser, right) are unhappy scriptwriter Ben Hecht (Chris Juckes) hasn't read the book.
When I read the script I was hooked," Carryn said. "The humour and issues of the day, such as anti-Semitism and treatment of African-Americans in US history, interested me. "These issues are still relevant in the US and other parts of the world and are delivered in a thought-provoking way that does not lecture. And, of course, the humour is biting but very funny.
The appeal of directing the show also comes from the fact Margaret Mitchell's book was an instant bestseller and the movie itself was a huge success, winning 10 Academy Awards, and is one of the much-loved films of the 20th century."
After joining Patch Theatre in 1967, Carryn became a founding member of Stirling Players in 1970 and has appeared in numerous plays with the company over the years. She was made a life member in 2000 and has also directed No Time On, Saving Ardley, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Two Weeks with the Queen.
With Limelight Theatre, Carryn has stage-managed several shows including 42nd Street, Crazy for You, Half a Sixpence, Sunset Boulevard and Gaslight, also directing The Darling Buds of May in 2015. "In Moonlight and Magnolias, the real challenges are for the actors," she said. "The roles are very demanding but I have a superb cast that will deliver a fantastic show."
Moonlight and Magnolias sees producer David O. Selznick (Tim Fraser, left) and director Victor Fleming (Andrew Govey) act out various scenes including a birth in a desperate bid to come up with a screenplay for Gone With The Wind.
Andrew Govey plays Victor Fleming. "He was pulled off The Wizard of Oz set with just two weeks to go but when he arrived to direct Gone With The Wind he didn't have a screenplay to work with!" he said. "Attempting to act out various scenes with the producer, to help the screenwriter come up with a script, leads to hilarious consequences. The main challenge is mimicking the character of Melanie giving birth while also acting the part of Prissy, a 12-year-old slave girl who claims to possess birthing expertise."
Acting on and off for the past 30 years, Andrew first performed as the lead boy in the Pied Piper of Hamelin in the UK. Since moving to WA, he has appeared with the Old Mill, Stirling and Limelight Theatres in numerous productions, scoring acting awards for roles in The Late Edwina Black, Sailor Beware, In Camera, Abigail's Party, Cash on Delivery and The 39 Steps. "Moonlight and Magnolias appealed because it's about the re-writing of one of the best known movies of all time and, in a first, I get to play a real character instead of a fictional one," Andrew said.
Moonlight and Magnolias plays at 8pm February 23, 24, 25, March 1, 2, 3 and 4 with a 2pm matinee February 26. Tickets are $21, $18 concession and $15 children book at www.limelighttheatre.com.au or on 0499 954 016 between 9am and midday, Monday to Friday. Limelight Theatre is located on Civic Drive, Wanneroo.
Christine Smith plays plays Miss Poppenguhl in Moonlight and Magnolias, the long-suffering secretary of producer David O. Selznick (Tim Fraser).