Berlin, 1928: World War I is over and Germany is, for a short time, the cultural and cosmopolitan center of Europe. Guests at a once-grand hotel are looking forward to the future, but they don’t know that the U.S. stock market is only one year from crashing and immense social changes are just around the corner. The guests—a fading prima ballerina, a fatally ill bookkeeper, a handsome but destitute aristocrat, a cynical doctor, an honest businessman gone bad and a typist dreaming of Hollywood fame—are the core cast of characters in “Grand Hotel,” the summer musical presented by students in the Fine Arts Department of Santa Fe College.
Performances of “Grand Hotel” will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 23-25 and May 30-June 1, 2019, in the Fine Arts Hall at the Northwest Campus of Santa Fe College, 3000 NW 83 Street, Gainesville. There will also be a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 1.
Tickets are $15 for adults; $9 for seniors, children and University of Florida students; and free for Santa Fe College faculty, staff and students with college identification cards. For ticket information, call the Box Office at 352-395-4181 or visit the Fine Arts ticket website at:
Based on a 1929 novel and play by Vicki Baum, “Grand Hotel” was a feature film for MGM in 1932. The 1989 Broadway production won five Tony Awards including best direction and choreography by Tommy Tune.
“Nostalgia is the first word that comes to mind when I think about this musical—nostalgia for a lost time and a strange fascination with formerly beautiful places that have decayed,” said Theatre Professor Russell Schultz, who is directing “Grand Hotel.” “The characters are part of the old order, a class-driven society of haves and have-nots stuck in the void between the old and the new. Watching the play is like seeing photos of people on the Titanic because the characters think everything’s going to get better, but we know that’s all about to change and things are not going to end well.”
Music major Avery Wallace (piano/percussion and bassoon) plays the Baron, a titled hedonist with no money whom Schultz describes as “freewheeling, like Errol Flynn” and “the glue” that holds the plot and characters together.
“I’m having the most fun playing someone who takes risks doing things I’d never do,” Wallace said, “and I’m most challenged by the score—the singing and vocal demands.” Described by family members as “a natural ham,” Wallace said he “was bitten by the Broadway bug in fifth grade” and grew up watching musicals such as “Easter Parade,” “Mary Poppins” and “Singing in the Rain” with his grandparents. He performed in theatre productions in middle and high schools and plans to earn a degree that will enable him to teach music to students at all levels from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“Part of our job as instructors is to challenge our students,” Schultz explained. “In this play, all the student actors portray characters who are older than the cast members, so that’s a good push. All classes of society are represented and there’s melodrama, romance, high-energy dancing, hopes and dreams. The characters are people you can root for because you recognize yourselves in them.”