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Puttin' On the Ritz

Manalapan, FL

June, 1996
Florida Stage Company

J. Barry Lewis and Lynnette Barkley, Directors
Bruce Helander, Set Design
Erin Stearns Amico, Costumes
Photography by Sig Bokalders

Sheldon Patinkin conceived this piece and used Irving Berlin's music to weave the story of three couples and their tribulations. Barry Lewis and Lynnette Barkley used a theme of "the movies" to tie the production together. The first act was the pre-World War II era, from Berlin's start. The second act, all in evening dress, represented Berlin's post-war years and his success in movies.

The backdrop is a collage of pieces found on the covers of Berlin's original scores. Part of the challenge of this piece was lighting the set and the performance space with only sixty 2.4 kW dimmers, two switch boxes, a limited inventory, and a limited budget.

The first act performance of Midnight Choo-Choo. This was part of the old-time movie sequence and caught the flavor of the black and white films. Throughout the performance we focused on the performers, without losing the sense of the larger setting.
An intimate moment in the second act.

Florida Stage has a highly educated theatre audience. Many are retried from the New York area and are familiar with Broadway productions. For the finale, Puttin' on the Ritz, the company entered down the aisles. When they reached the stage, chuckles rolled up from the front of the theatre because the cast wore red, high-top, tap sneakers. When the tap dancing started, it brought the house down!


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