I have visited the Asheville, North Carolina area about twelve times in the last twelve years and each time I’ve wanted to take in a play at the Flat Rock Playhouse in Hendersonville, about 30 miles south of Asheville. But every time I had a trip planned, there wasn’t anything playing at the theatre that I was interested in. This time I planned a trip around a performance I really wanted to see. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about the Flat Rock Playhouse itself.
There are actually two theatres. The original Flat Rock Playhouse is south of Hendersonville and was “born” in 1952 when Robroy Farquhar and his Vagabond Players made it their home. It’s next door to another historic site in Hendersonville, the poet Carl Sandberg’s home. The architecture is reminiscent of its summer stock beginnings back in the 1940s. Today the facility has been completely updated with state-of-the art lighting and sound and seats 506 patrons.
2012 marks their 60th season. From dramas to comedies to musicals, the Flat Rock Playhouse has done it all. Their 2012 season included Nunsense, Guys and Dolls and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There’s even a series of shows for young audiences.
The newest theatre is in historic downtown Hendersonville and opened in 2011. It’s a very intimate setting, only about 250 seats set up in a horseshoe around the stage. If you can get a front row seat, that’s the best way to see a play there. But if you don’t, all seats have a good view. We were lucky enough to get front row, center seats and they were terrific. This downtown venue is where I saw the play, Say Goodnight, Gracie.
Say Goodnight, Gracie was written by Rupert Holmes. I had a massive crush on him in the 1980s when he was well-known as a singer/songwriter and had the hit single “Escape,” otherwise known as “The Pina Colada Song.” I even wrote him two fan letters, both of which he answered…but I digress.
Say Goodnight, Gracie is a wonderful production. It’s a one-man show about the life of comedian George Burns and his relationship with his partner and wife Gracie Allen. George Burns was portrayed perfectly by Joel Rooks. He’s been playing this role for a long time, starting on Broadway in 2002.
I’ve always loved George Burns, from his early TV show to his film appearances. Joel Rooks embodied George Burns so well it was like he had been reincarnated. He had Burns’ mannerisms and voice down pat. The story was both funny and sad, but always entertaining and included the audio recorded voice of actress Didi Conn, (Frenchie in the movie Grease) who played the voice of Gracie Allen. She, too, was perfectly cast.
Now that I’ve been to the downtown Flat Rock Playhouse, I definitely want to go back. It doesn’t matter what’s playing. I think I’d like to see just about any performance that the state theatre of North Carolina has to offer.
Dates of Visit: May 2012
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