At the Palace, a comedy
Palace Professional takes a chance on a nonmusical
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
The upcoming farce Noises Off is the first comedy the Palace Theatre is producing with its regional professional company, according to Carl Rajotte, artistic director. (As in, the first in its recent history after the venue was reopened. The Palace originally hosted Vaudeville acts in the 1920s and ’30s.)
“It’s a play within a play,” Rajotte said. In Noises Off, a group of actors is putting on a sex comedy called Nothing On. The audience sees the last dress rehearsal in the first act of Noises Off, when the troupe can’t get through the show, Rajotte said.
A two-story set revolves for the second act so the audience can watch what happens backstage during the performance — “That’s where all the love triangles play out,” Rajotte said. Because actors must stay silent backstage, all kinds of “he-said-she-said” plays out without any talking, he said.
“It’s like learning a whole physical script without dialogue,” Rajotte said. It’s demanding for the actors and rewarding to perform (he’s acted in the show), he said.
During the third act, the set swings back around, and “this is where everything goes down the drain,” Rajotte said. Understudies come on. Actors are drunk. There are bruises.
Are these farcical dilemmas realistic?
Yes, he said. In particular, actors relate to what happens in the second act, Rajotte said.
“In every show there’s always two different shows going on – one on stage and one backstage,” he said.
The Manchester nonprofit is also a presenting house for music, stand-up comedy and other performances. The Palace normally produces about six professional musicals each season. About seven years ago, the Palace produced classic dramas, but this is its first straight comedy, Rajotte said.
“I’m known for the big dance musicals,” Rajotte said. A comedy is kind of an experiment for the Palace (which heeded audience requests and produced Cats again this fall), he said.
Some companies will choose a straight play over a musical because it can be more cost-effective — you don’t have to pay musicians, for instance. But with a two-story, revolving set, cost-savings didn’t factor in to the Palace’s choice of Noises Off.
“I don’t think Noises Off is a big name for non-actors,” Rajotte said. But it’s one of his favorites, and the Palace is trying to get the word out that it will be one of the funniest things people have seen, he said.
“I think everyone is looking for something different in entertainment, so I hope they take the chance and come out,” Rajotte said.
The ensemble cast includes Palace resident artists Rebecca Peterson, Jessica Moryl and Nate Sawyer. Among the other actors is one whose experience includes a Seussical the Musical national tour.