Commentary: Hedda gives a searing Civic review

July 2, 2007

I cede my column this week to Hedda Hopper, a Hollywood gossip columnist. Hopper died in 1966, but she agreed to come back again to review the Indianapolis Civic Theater benefit performance.

HEDDA HOPPER'S HOLLYWOOD-Just detrained in Hoosierland to catch the Indianapolis Civic Theatre benefit. Charlie Morgan played Ed Sullivan in a sendup titled "A Really Big Shooow." Sullivan, your career is safe. Morgan, general manager and vice president of Cumulus radio stations in Indy, was stiffer than Charlie McCarthy. He is so old he has been in radio since before Doris Day was a virgin.

Capra, take a note. If you're looking for extras for your next pic, people in Indiana really like to dress up. (In Hollywood, it is not what you wear, it is how you take it off.) From tutus to togas it was just too-too. Tom Beeler played Brutus in black dress shoes and garters. Tom, if the sandal fits, wear it.

Civic Theatre board member Barbara Bridges and friends Erika Bembry and Pat McDaniel outdid The Supremes. They warbled, "You Can't Hurry Love." Sure. Tell that to Gable and Valentino. Remember, you are responsible for what you do-unless you are a celebrity.

Attorney Henry Ryder did a rendition of Maurice Chevalier singing, "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." Chevalier died in 1972. He has now died twice.

While watching Mickey Maurer's performance as Flavius Maximus private Roman eye in the spoof, "Rinse the Blood off my Toga," I thought he should be treated like Abraham Lincoln. You remember. It was at the Ford Theater-right in the middle of the performance.

A bevy of children acted a scene from "Oliver." Flash to Walter Winchell: Tell your producer friends on Broadway they can save money. Fire the cast and use these volunteers. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.

Hilary Salatich sporting a red wig assumed the role of Lucy Ricardo as a ballet dancer with sidekick Katharine Kruse playing instructor Madame Lamond. Hilary was standing on her toes during the whole bit. Why didn't they just get a taller girl? Last year, Kruse was Julia Child. The part she cooked up this time was even more delicious.

Scoop: Dr. Stan Hillis is a man who knows how to toot his own horn, which most of us in Hollywood do quite well. In this case, it was as Jimmy Dorsey doing a saxophone rendition of hometown favorite Hoagy's "Skylark." Unless it's Carmichael or Cole, you're not going to hear it in Indiana. Flash to Charlie Parker: Melt your horn, Bird. Hillis is better.

And a real surprise, Charlie Sutphin played Fantasio the magician. I thought the only magic performed in the Heartland was making the deep-fried Twinkies disappear.

Artistic Director Robert Sorbera and his professional and technical staff of 12 full-time and three part-time employees produced the whole affair. Sorbera runs more productions than RKO. Civic Theatre is one of the 10 largest of over 7,000 community theaters in the country and it presents an opportunity for community actors and technicians to participate in professionally managed stage productions. Civic Theatre sold 41,000 tickets last year; that's more patrons than Warren Beatty got for the remake of "An Affair to Remember." That was an affair to forget.

This reporter was caught completely by surprise. In Hollywood, benefits are public enemy number one, but here in Lombard country, there was no shortage of volunteers who trod the boards and hammed it up for charity. They understand that arts are vital to the growth of the community and that in addition to fostering excellence in education and enriching the quality of life, the arts stimulate economic development.

Unnamed sources have informed me that the valiant vaudevillians are going to do it again next year. Hoosiers are good people. Don't know why Red Skelton ever left Vincennes.

Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Media Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.comor go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.com
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