Have you ever been in a 'little theater' production? Ever done high school
drama? Well, even if you haven't you will still love "Waiting for
Guffman". It helps if you have been one of the many subjected to insipid
directors, hammy over-actors or hideous choreography, but it doesn't matter
if you were cast, crew or audience; the spark of recognition will ignite
gales of laughter when Corky puts on a lavish musical review commemorating
the 150 years of Blaine, Missouri.
Corky is Christopher Guest, the genius who brought us his quirky humor in
"National Lampoon Radio Hour", "This is Spinal Tap",
and "Cold Turkey". As the director, writer and composer of "Waiting
for Guffman", Guest mirrors Corky St. Clair, who also directs, writes,
composes and choreographs Blaine's sesquicentennial event. Guest is one
of those workhorse actors/writers who show up in "A Few Good Men"
in order to pay the bills so they can direct satirical films like "The
Big Picture" starring Kevin Bacon. And he pulled together a cast and
crew of similar minds/careers. Eugene Levy co-wrote the outline for "Waiting"
in which he and Guest encouraged the actors to improvise. Then Levy took
the role of Dr. Pearl, a small-town dentist who loves showbiz. You will
immediately recognize Catherine O'Hara as McCauley Culkin's mom from "Home
Alone" I and II, but as the wife of travel agent Fred Willard she really
gets to cut loose in an audition featuring 'Midnight at the Oasis'. I asked
Fred Willard about the audition scene and he told me that originally they
"were just going to do a Taster's Choice commercial because that is
the sort of thing my character would have thougtht was really classy, but
Guest wanted us to do the song because he went to school with the guy who
wrote it." So the two are unevenly woven together!
As the high school music teacher who is miffed that the town fathers chose
Corky to do "Red, White and Blaine", Bob Balaban gives a fine
understated performance of jealousy. The poster girl for indie movies, Parker
Posey, is Dairy Queen counter girl Libby Mae Brown. "It was Parker's
idea for her to sing the Doris Day song 'Teacher's Pet' for the audition,"
Willard admitted. As a travel agent who has never left Blaine, Willard
steals every scene he is in. You will surely recognize him from his TV
appearances: as his own evil twin on both "SCTV" and "Lois
and Clark", married to Martin Mull on "Roseanne", a priest
on "Golden Girls" (as Frank Bonner's brother), Orville Wright
(as Frank Bonner's brother) in "A.J.'s Time Travel" and as Frank
Bonner's brother on "WKRP in Cincinnati".
"Waiting for Guffman" is an ode to the hopes and dreams of every
performer and a send-up of every bad performance around. "We are not
making fun of community theater, make sure you tell them that," Willard
repeated twice, "we are making fun of bad performances which can just
as easily be in professional theater too. There are plenty of good performances
in amateur theater. I'd love to see my first scene from "Golden Boy"
that I did on a stage in a couple's apartment! Probably funnier than what
I did in the movie!" Well, what made it on the screen is plenty to
keep us laughing. Rated R, Castle Rock
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