BRAD GODA / MANOA VALLEY THEATRE
Jeannie Rogers plays Alice Kramden in "The Honeymooners," a Manoa Valley Theatre production also starring Joe Moore and Pat Sajak.
Celebrity stars Joe Moore and Pat Sajak get ovations just for walking out on stage, but it's clear they're not just walking through their performances in Manoa Valley Theatre's fund-raiser production of "The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes" at Hawaii Theatre.
Moore, in costumes that make him look 50 pounds heavier than he is, even after gaining weight for the show, gives a winning performance as New York City bus driver Ralph Kramden, while Sajak displays depth and versatility as sewer worker Ed Norton. Accept the fact that the two are not trying to play clones of Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, who originated the characters in the mid-1950s sitcom, and they succeed throughout.
"The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes"
» Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre at Hawaii Theatre
» Repeats 4 and 8 p.m. today and 4 p.m. tomorrow
» Tickets are $37, $27.50 and $17.50 (discounts available). Call 528-0506.
Moore gives a rounded portrayal of Kramden as a king-size, boisterous man with a quick temper, loud mouth, weakness for get-rich-quick schemes and big heart.
In one episode he resolves to pass up a badly needed raise "guaranteed" by his horoscope because it also predicts that he'll fall in love with a glamorous woman -- "I don't want to fall in love with anybody glamorous (I'm in love with my wife)," he sputters when Norton gives him the news.
True, Moore plays down Kramden's threats of domestic violence ("To the moon, Alice! To the moon!") so far that it seems he knows his wife knows he's all bark and bluster, and he sounds like he's channeling Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker in some early scenes, but overall, the news anchor's performance is worth the admission.
Anyone who knows Sajak only as the genial host of "Wheel of Fortune" will be amazed by his portrayal of good-hearted Ed Norton. Acting goofy might not be difficult, but Sajak embellishes "goofiness" with a deft blend of slapstick, deadpan reactions and physical comedy that shows Norton is more intelligent and self-aware than he seems at first.
Jeannie Rogers adds a fine performance in the major supporting role as Kramden's no-nonsense wife, Alice.
"The Honeymooners'" pace is slower at times than that of contemporary sitcoms, but the zingers, malapropisms and situations transcend the era that produced them. There's an episode in which Kramden thinks he's been fired, enlists Norton's help in writing an angry letter to his boss, then discovers too late that he hadn't been fired, he'd been promoted to an executive job he's now sure to lose.
Director Jim Hutchison places one of the shallower stories first, saving the one with the greatest depth for last. Sondra Barker (Dorothy), Julie J. Galaty (Blonde Woman), Greg Howell (Mr. Smith), Roger Long (JJ Marshall), Scott Moura ("Professor" Steinhard), Eden-Lee Murray (Jane Tassleman), George O'Hanlon (Fred) and Yvette Ortega-Garrison (Trixie Norton) are consistently entertaining as secondary characters, with Barker, Long, Moura and O'Hanlon adding effective comic performances in several scenes.
Howell (hair and makeup) shares credit with Athena Espania (costume design) and Karen Archibald (set design) for the production's vintage look.