I’m talking about the audience, not the cast, of American Heartland Theatre‘s farewell production THE BIKINIS, now through August 24 at the venue on the 3rd floor of Crown Center. Don’t get me wrong– the cast was having a ball, too.
BIKINIS is one more evening of uncomplicated entertainment from a theater that’s been spooning it out for 26 years. They’ll be missed.
It’s fitting that Hallmark’s professional theater days would end on such a sunny note. After all, the whole company is based on happy times (okay,there’s a row of sympathy cards in there; but still). And even though our town’s biggest brand has seen better balance sheets,they’ve always done right by Kansas City, pink slips or not,
So it’s fitting that Cathy Barnett – the talented gal who plays crabby card character Maxine– brings down the final curtain on the American Heartland Theatre in an entertaining recherche du temps perdu like THE BIKINIS.
Joined by KC stage stalwarts Molly Hammer, Cindy Baker and Nancy Nail under the sure-handed musical direction of Anthony Edwards, Ms. B wends her way down a whole double D cup full of musical memories– from ITSY BITSY TEENIE WEENIE to THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING and WHERE THE BOYS ARE. There’s a stupid framing story, but you don’t have to pay it no mind.
More memories line the walls of the Heartland lobby— twenty-six years of surprisingly compelling theater (especially when you consider this was a for-profit venture). Sure, they made alot of money on MENOPAUSE, assorted TUNAs and PLAIDs and more than six years of SHEAR MADNESS. But who does A LION IN WINTER or THE LITTLE FOXES to try and make a buck?
Those walls also brought back memories of great performances by actors gone but not forgotten– T Max Graham, Gary Holcombe, Betsy Robbins and Karen Errington. Looming over them all– the smiling face and shining eyes of the late Jim Assad, the great Missouri Rep director who deserved to run his own place one day.
Thanks to Hallmark, he got that wish. I was there, along with Jim, the Hallmark corporate elite and 400 other Kansas Citians, the night Heartland opened back in 1987.
I remember sitting across from Don and Adele Hall, watching them watch the Italian communist playwright’s opus WE WON’T PAY, WE WON’T PAY. When the characters onstage decided to go on strike for better working conditions, I figured Don would shit a brick, but he and Adele remained cool throughout.
So long, Heartland. We’ll miss this lovely theater and all of the shows (and theater jobs) it has meant for the last two and a half decades.