Alfred Uhry’s Romantic Comedy “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” Is Unafraid to Tackle Serious Subjects

From left: Jeff Cheek as Adolph, Debra Zumbach Grannan as Boo, Izzy Burger as Lala, and Donna Rossi-Youngblood as Reba (photo by Stuart Wagner)
From left: Jeff Cheek as Adolph, Debra Zumbach Grannan as Boo, Izzy Burger as Lala, and Donna Rossi-Youngblood as Reba (photo by Stuart Wagner)

From left: Jeff Cheek as Adolph, Debra Zumbach Grannan as Boo, Izzy Burger as Lala, and Donna Rossi-Youngblood as Reba (photo by Stuart Wagner)
From left: Jeff Cheek as Adolph, Debra Zumbach Grannan as Boo, Izzy Burger as Lala, and Donna Rossi-Youngblood as Reba (photo by Stuart Wagner)

Jewish identify and the tensions within the Jewish community, circa 1939, between Jews of German descent and “the other kind” of Jews who called the shtetls (little towns) of Eastern Europe home are the twin subjects of American Jewish playwright Alfred Uhry’s Tony Award®-winning 1997 romantic comedy, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, playing Thursday-Sunday, now through April 24th, on Raleigh Little Theatre’s Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage. There were some rough spots in last Friday’s opening-night performance; but all in all it was a crowd-pleasing production.

Jeff Cheek stars as beleaguered bedding manufacturer Adolph Freitag, who not only much battle business ups-and-downs but must smooth roiled waters on the homefront as his strident widowed sister Beulah “Boo” Levy (Debra Zumbach Grannan) tries to run roughshod over his widowed sister-in-law Reba Freitag (Donna Rossi-Youngblood) in a variety of matters, ranging from the running their joint household to the relative merits of their two very different daughters.

Lala Levy (Izzy Burger) is an awkward, high-strung, and somewhat childish University of Michigan dropout who is obsessed with the hoopla surrounding the premiere of Gone with the Wind a few block away from her Atlanta, GA home. Sunny Freitag (Kate P. Bowra) is everything that her cousin Lala is not — an outstanding student at Wellesley College, supremely self-confident, and a reader of the books of muckraker Upton Sinclair and socialist Eugene V. Debs.

Erich Reinhard as Adolph Freitag’s poor but promising Brooklyn-born assistant Joe Farkas and Brian Jackson Gill as Lake Charles, LA playboy and inveterate practical joker Sylvan “Peachy” Weil provide intriguing love interests for Sunny and Lala, respectively.

Despite illness, long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons and associate director Bunny Safron have pulled this show together rather well. Scenic designer Elizabeth Newton, lighting designer Michael E. Baggesi, and costume and wig designer Vicki Olson also deserve commendations for enhancing the authenticity of the proceedings.

There is definite chemistry between Kate Bowra as eponymous Sunny and Erich Reinhard as her earnest Joe and between the hilarious Brian Gill as Peachy and Izzy Burger as the ditzy Lala. Debra Grannan’s Boo and Donna Rossi-Youngblood’s Reba make excellent antagonists, with Jeff Cheek’s playing the genial peacemaker between his overbearing sister and ostensibly meek but secretly shrewd sister-in-law.

The struggle within the heavily assimilated Freitag-Levy family over whether to embrace their Jewish heritage makes The Last Night of Ballyhoo especially interesting. Raleigh Little Theatre audiences will enjoy this offbeat romantic comedy with bite.

SECOND OPINION: April 13th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by David Fellerath (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars):; and April 9th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Denise Cerniglia: (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the April 8th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click®-winning-romantic-comedy/.)

Raleigh Little Theatre presents THE LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO at 8 p.m. April  15 and 16 and 21-23, and 3 p.m. April 17 and 24 in the Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $20 ($16 students and seniors 62+).

BOX OFFICE: 919/821-3111 or





NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows.


The Play: (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and (Wikipedia).

The Playwright: (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).