Just before sunset on Friday, October 23, I pulled my van into the parking lot of the DeltaPlex Arena, turned on my radio, and waited for the show to begin.
Michael Baumgarten, the second star of our Backstage Bios series, has provided lighting design for many Opera Grand Rapids productions, including The Magic Flute, The Mikado and this year’s Scalia/Ginsburg.
Don’t blame her; theater was in the family. Liz Merriman’s grandfather painted sets. Her grandmother helped with the painting and did props too. Liz’s father and sisters were all actors and her mother did costumes.
Neil Simon is one of the most prolific and enduring American playwrights, beloved for his nostalgia, humor and witty one-liners, even winning a Pulitzer in 1991 for “Lost in Yonkers,” arguably his finest work. Farmers Alley Theatre chose that finest work as their first foray in Neil Simon material, and it’s a wonder to behold.
In an unpublished chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, candy magnate Willy Wonka leads a group of wide-eyed children into the alarmingly named Pounding and Cutting Room. There, a machine slices fudge into small squares. A wire strainer serves to catch any children who might slip, preventing them from being similarly chopped up. “It always catches them,” he reassures the children. “At least it always has up to now.”
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