The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








The cast of A Wing and a Prayer. Courtesy photo.

See A Wing and a Prayer
Where: Executive Court Banquet Facility, 1199 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester
When: Wednesday, Dec. 31, at 7 p.m., and Thursday, Jan. 1, at noon
Tickets: $50 for New Year’s Eve dinner, $35 for the New Year’s Day luncheon
Contact:, 669-7469

Dramatic new year
Majestic Theatre’s A Wing and a Prayer Dec. 31, Jan. 1

By Kelly Sennott

For a dramatic new year, the Majestic Theatre has A Wing and a Prayer by Craig Sodaro planned for either side of 2015. 

One dinner theater showing happens New Year’s Eve at 7 p.m., and the next is on New Year’s Day at noon, both at the Executive Court Banquet Facility in Manchester.
“We started doing this about 15 years ago because people kept saying to us, ‘Why don’t you do something on New Year’s?’ And last year was the first year we did something on New Year’s Day as well,” said Rob Dionne, Majestic Theatre artistic director/founder and director of this production.
The event is a “mini-fundraiser” for the company, and Dionne encourages viewers to attend in place of or in addition to traditional New Year’s plans — the show ends at approximately 10:30 p.m., with plenty of time to travel elsewhere before midnight.
A Wing and a Prayer is a mystery that follows a man, Rev. Longacre, during a small church potluck supper held to broach the subject of starting a building fund. Church members trickle in — some with vegetarian lasagna, others with devil’s food cake, but Annie, the church secretary, enters while hiding something under her coat. 
It’s not the only suspicious occurrence; Rev. Longacre has been receiving anonymous love letters, and Lillian, the richest woman in town, who never goes to church, announces she’s selling her $1.5 million worth of jewelry to benefit the church. However, her precious jewels go missing during the dinner and force Rev. Longacre to test out amateur sleuthing skills learned through multiple mystery novels. 
The sets are simple — the stage isn’t gigantic, but the smaller space provides an intimate atmosphere and puts more emphasis on things distinctive about the production. For instance, there’s constant “fourth wall” breakage; audiences, if they like, can come onstage or chat with performers before or after the show, or during intermission.
“The audience interaction is as much or as little as you want. Actors do mingle through the audience, and there are a couple of opportunities to pull from the crowd, but [audience members are] free to interact at their own pace. There’s no pressure,” Dionne said.
For actors, it’s a unique experience.
“You break that fourth wall and get to meet your patrons and know who they are,” said Chad Boutin, who plays church member Dale Drinkwater. He’s acted in a number of Majestic productions, including The Curse of the Hopeless Diamond and The Act of Murder.
The actors need to know how to think on their feet, and they need to know their characters very well.
“We train people in improv,” Dionne said. “I have them do a series of exercises so that they’re ready for any scenario that pops up within the course of the evening.”
One of those exercises: character conversations. During pre-performance workshops, actors sit in a secluded room together and interact about a topic while in character. This enforces not only their own character, but also their characters’ relationships with the others in the show. Other exercises involve simulating audiences — one actor will be “up” while the others play audience members and try to throw that person off.
“At first, I was really nervous the first time I had to do an audience interaction piece. It forces you to really get to know your character,” Boutin said. “The audiences seem to really connect with it. Sometimes, it’s as though they truly believe you are that character, and it’s hard for them to realize otherwise.”
This smaller space also emphasizes another distinct production factor: the food. During the show, attendees will munch on a salad, entree and dessert provided by the Executive Court. Wednesday’s entree is a pan-roasted stuffed chicken with roasted apples, spiced pecans and dried cherry dressing on a pool of sage shallot veloute. The New Year’s Day entree is a sliced ham dinner with raisin sauce.
This play marks the company’s second time at the Executive Court facility since the announcement of the Chateau’s closure, but Dionne still expects a full audience. He encourages potential show-goers to snag tickets as soon as possible; they need a head count before that night, so pre-registration is required.
“As a general rule, Majestic audiences are typically people who are coming to the theater to have a good time,” Dionne said. 
As seen in the December 25, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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