The Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake is as much about celebrating 20th century plays in general as much as the specific body of work composed by Shaw himself – especially where Shaw’s contemporaries are concerned. Moss Hart (1904–1961) was one such contemporary, celebrated in his time and one of the main players in US theatre at the height of his career. A more comedic playwright than Shaw’s typical style, Hart’s plays serve as a more exuberant and light-hearted counterpoint to more determined (but still playful) Shavian plays such as Pygmalion.
Light Up the Sky – Timeless classic created in 1948
Light Up The Sky, which first premiered in 1948, was one of Moss’ final plays before he transitioned fully into screenwriting and directing, and it remains one of his most skilfully composed plays and a perfect fit for a festival honouring the sensibilities of Shavian theatre – that is, an equal share of wry social examination and loving characterisation.
Satirizing Theatre Politics
The play itself is awash in the sensibilities of the world of stage and theatre in the 1940s, centring on a troupe of New York theatre-types gathering in Boston to meet with the leading lady of what is expected to be a lavish success of an opening night. Of course, things go wrong. It’s a satire of Broadway-esque foibles that, thanks to Moss’ intimate knowledge of the world of theatre, retains a strong and energetic sense of humanity and intelligent humour.
Lighting Up Niagara-on-the-Lake
The 2015 production of Light Up The Sky is playing in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Festival Theatre – a lavish and expansive theatre that compliments the play itself as a love letter to the theatre industry of the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a fitting venue for one of the most prolific yet under appreciated playwrights and musical directors of the early-mid 20th century.
The 2015 Shaw Festival line-up is a massive array of plays, big and small, that represent some of the best works of the 20th century. Compared to acclaimed classics like Pygmalion, Moss’ Light Up The Sky could be easily overlooked. But for Moss – himself director of the first production of My Fair Lady, the spiritual successor to Pygmalion – not only has his work earned a place at a festival honouring Shaw, and also deserves to be seen in its own right as a stellar example of classic comedy and wit.
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