‘Hollywood Arms’ tells Carol Burnett’s story
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media February 28, 2013 10:32AM
Helen (Annie Hanlin) shows Nanny (Jeannine Collins) a newspaper in "Hollywood Arms," an Albright Theatre show. | Courtesy of Albright Theatre
♦ March 1-16
♦ 100 N. Island Ave., (third floor of the Batavia Government Center), Batavia
♦ Tickets, $10-$13
♦ (630) 406-8838
Updated: February 28, 2013 4:31PM
Three generations of women on welfare living in a one-room apartment.
It could be today, but it is, in fact, the story of one of the most famous comedians of all time.
The Albright Theatre Company presents “Hollywood Arms” by Carol Burnett and Carrie Hamilton March 1 to 16. Show times are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays at the Albright Theatre in Batavia.
Inspired by Carol Burnett’s life story, “Hollywood Arms” is directed by Veronica Krystal of Bloomingdale.
“I grew up watching a lot of the Carol Burnett and the pre-Carol Burnett era of Hollywood, and something really drew me to her story and how very humble her beginnings were, and how she grew up to be the Carol Burnett in the end,” Krystal said.
The play takes plays when she had left Texas with her mother to move to Texas to become a famous writer. Her nanny takes her to Hollywood to live with her mother, and they are living on welfare in a crummy one-room apartment in the Hollywood Arms apartment building, she said.
“It’s a classic rags-to-riches story,” she said. “The first act is when she is probably 11, 12, 13 years old, and the second half is when she is just off to college and she goes to New York for the first time and starts going to auditions. You don’t see much beyond that.”
For those looking for a fun rom-com, this isn’t your play.
“This is a pretty solid dramedy,” Krystal said. “It’s got some light-hearted moments in it, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy.”
People will be drawn to the play not only for the name recognition but because of the interest in her beginnings, she said.
“Everyone knows who Carol Burnett is, and people might have heard, ‘Oh, she didn’t have the best of beginnings,’ but to see it played out … I mean, her mother was an alcoholic, her father was an alcoholic, they both died when she was still pretty young and she grew up with her nanny raising her in a very broken household, and to really see that nitty-grittiness that she started with to become what we all know she is now … it will be interesting for the audience to see that,” she said.
There are 10 people in her cast who are all doing “really well” with the material, she said.
They have built an extensive set and costumes, since the first act takes place in 1941 and the second act takes place in 1951.
“I love those looks. It was really fun to work on that,” she said.
In addition to being entertained, audience members can expect to see a recognizable story.
“It’s a pretty relatable story of this young girl that’s got these not-so-great surroundings, but her dreams and her hopes go well beyond her immediate reality,” she said. “It’s that classic, ‘If I can do it, you can do it’ story.”