FSLT pays tribute to ups and downs of theater in “Light Up the Sky”

FSLT pays tribute to ups and downs of theater in “Light Up the Sky”

“This show is pure effervescence — the theatrical equivalent of champagne and chocolates!”

“It’s a great story with a roller coaster of emotions that we can all relate to!”

“You definitely are in for some laughs with this show! The entire cast has been amazing to work with, and the chemistry is indescribable!”

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this ‘love letter to the theater.’”

So say the actors in “Light Up the Sky,” opening May 30, a play so funny, it’s back on the Fort Smith Little Theatre stage for the third time. This time, Melissa Vitale takes the reins of the 1948 Moss Hart comedy, described by a Denver critic as “a hilarious homage to the Golden Age of American theater, chock full of charismatic personalities, whiz-bang shenanigans and peppy quick-fire dialogue.”

The premise is that it’s opening night of an “important new drama written by young truck driver turned playwright” Peter Sloan (Malcolm Matlock), and a hotel room is filled with temperamental leading actress Irene Livingston (Margaret Montgomery); her brusque and steadfast stage mother Stella (Kim Pierson); Ice Capades producer Sidney Black (John Hall) and his sassy wife Frances (Micki Voelkel), who have invested heavily in this production; plus Owen Turner (Jim Stengel), another playwright who is visiting just to enjoy the chaos.

“I first became aware of ‘Light Up the Sky’ when I was volunteering during a show, watching the scrolling pictures of old shows at FSLT,” says director Vitale. “The name on the picture spoke to me. ‘Light Up the Sky.’ I thought it was an interesting title, so I looked it up. Then I went to our library of scripts to see if I could find an old script — and one was there! I took it and read it. I immediately fell in love with Frances and Stella. They were hilarious.

“Since there was a photo from FSLT, I knew the show had been performed previously, so I looked that up on the FSLT website. It was performed in 1964 and again in 1987. I knew it was time to bring it back to the FSLT stage! I have never seen it performed before, so watching it come to life has been a real treat.

“Audiences need to know that this show is all about the dialogue — it’s fast and funny,” Vitale adds. “If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss a joke and then wonder why everyone else is laughing. It’s witty, and some of the characters are over-the-top, but that is what makes it so fun.”

Jimmy Stengel of Clarksville is a newcomer to FSLT, playing playwright Owen Turner.

“This is my first time acting,” he admits. “I have been on the stage many times as a musician, but this is a whole new experience! I like to shake things up and get out of my comfort zone. Boy, did I! [But] I’m having the time of my life!”

Amber Colwell of Spiro, Okla., is also a newcomer, playing Miss Livingston’s ghostwriter, Nan Lowell.

“Nan is very much like me in some ways,” she muses. “I’ve worked in business settings since I was about 20 years old, and there have been many times that I’ve sat back observing and taking notes — especially in times when you know nothing you can say will reach those in the room. I am drawing on my younger self as inspiration.

“The major components that make this play great are timeless,” she adds. “Humor, drama, emotions and hopefully a happy ending. What more could you want in a play? Plus who doesn’t love a flashback in fashion!”

Micki Voelkel is celebrating her 40th anniversary with FSLT, and says “Light Up the Sky” reminds her “of the screwball comedy style of the late ’30s and ’40s, with fast quips, satire of public figures, and smart dialogue.” It’s still funny in 2024, she says, “because the characters — although their circumstances are absurd — are absolutely real. They may be overly dramatic but are human and hilarious and kind at heart.”

Besides, she adds, her character, the aging queen of the Ice Capades, “has many of the show’s best lines! I love her and would pick her to be my friend in real life!”



‘Light Up the Sky’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. May 30-June 1; 2 p.m. June 2; again June 5-8

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St.

COST — $20 opening night; $13 all other performances

INFO — fslt.org, 783-2966, ext. 2

Categories: Theater