The duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were the genius songwriters behind several hit Broadway musicals with many of their numbers going on to become standards in the Great American Songbook.
This Madkap Production of “Falling for Make Believe” at the Skokie Theatre purports to be “The Real Story Behind the Music of Rodgers and Hart,” but might more accurately be called the real story behind the suffering of Lorenz Hart.
In recent years Hart has been widely known to be an alcoholic though this reality was skillfully avoided during his lifetime and at the time of his death, as alluded to in this version of events. His homosexuality was also a tabu topic in the mid-century “don’t ask don’t tell” era, but is front and center in this updated retelling of his life by Mark Saltzman.
It is notable to mention that Saltzman began his career writing for Muppets creator Jim Henson and in an interview caused a stir when he suggested that he had created the popular characters of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple. He has also written a number of successful movies, and he demonstrates in this well written production that he knows how to tell a story and handle dialog.
The story pivots around the character of a gay farm boy from Pennsylvania, Fletcher Mecklen (Nate Hall) and his on-again-off-again relationship with Lorenz Hart (Sean Michael Barrett), known as Larry to his friends.
I could not find any reference online to an actual Fletcher Mecklen and therefore assume he is a vehicle for representing the more private, and indeed, hidden side of Hart’s life.
The story suggests that this secret pressure and his inability to openly receive love is perhaps the seminal reason behind Hart’s psychological turmoil.
It is likely a potential factor in his alcoholism, as well as possible drug addiction which is suggested here through the character of Doc Bender (Donaldson Cardenas), a sometimes talent agent and former dentist who tells us that he keeps his license up to date in order to keep his prescription pad valid.
Sean Caron portrays the long-suffering business partner Richard Rodgers who works tirelessly to keep Larry on the straight and narrow in order to keep him working but also to protect his reputation and later his legacy.
Mandi Corrao as Vivienne Segal is basically their on-call chanteuse. Cheryl Szucsits rounds out the cast playing three minor roles but is given the honor of singing “Falling in Love with Love” which features the title lyric “Falling for make believe.”
The production features a number of notable Rodgers and Hart tunes such as” Bewitched” (a/k/a Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered), “The Lady is a Tramp, ” “I Could Write a Book” and “Where or When.”
DETAILS: “Falling for Make Believe” is at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in Downtown Skokie through Oct 16, 2022. Running time is about 90 minutes including a short intermission. Tickets can be purchased online at SkokieTheatre.org or by calling (847) 677-7761.
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