Alan Safier is a man of many voices and faces, from politicians like Spiro Agnew, scientists like Albert Einstein, presidents like John Adams, authors like Truman Capote and even assassins like Charles J Guiteau who succeeded in killing President James Garfield. With a range that spans Dr. Seuss to Shakespeare, including a seven year stint as the middle dog in Kibble ’n Bits commercials, Safier is up for any acting challenge, like the one in which he spotlights the mean spirited grouch Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” now renamed “Humbug!” or “Joseph’s Gospel,” that ventures down a biblical path to a manger in Bethlehem.
An actor, singer, producer and voice over artist of commercials, Safier started being funny in his eighth grade school days, entertaining as the class clown doing imitations of John F. Kennedy. Soon his repertoire grew to include Jimmy Stewart, Carol Channing, Henry Fonda and Orson Bean. He chanced to meet Bean when they both showed up to audition for the same voice-over gig. Bean was “a nice guy, who was flattered by my imitation.”
With Sheldon Harnick of “Fiddler on the Roof” fame, a good friend, he mentioned one day over lunch that he was looking for a good holiday show. Harnick remembered that years earlier he had penned the book and lyrics with Michel Legrand’s music to “Humbug!” Although written for a full cast, Harnick offered to let Safier adapt it to a one man show, with Safier playing 27 characters and singing a dozen songs. Cleverly pre-recording film clips, he’s able, for example, to sing a duet with Marley’s ghost on a 12 foot high screen. As Safier explains, “It gave me a whole new appreciation for the genius of Charles Dickens.”
Alan Safier seems to gravitate to one man shows. He recently premiered in a John Dowie work “Joseph’s Gospel” in Buffalo, a play recommended to him by a Protestant minister he met. He flew to London and met the playwright, securing the U.S. rights. While slightly irreverent, with a contemporary feel, it tells the Bible story at the barn in Bethlehem from the father’s perspective.
For the past eight years, he has toured the country in a definitely gentler and more humorous role. Just hand him a silvery head of hair, a pair of blackrimmed glasses and a trademark cigar (one he never actually smokes) and that favorite comic centenarian George Burns will be ready to visit. From Thursday, March 10 to Sunday, March 13, Alan Safier will become George Burns, in Rupert Holmes’ engaging play “Say Goodnight Gracie” at Nelson Hall, at Elim Park, in Cheshire.
Safier’s agent got him the audition when the actor then in the role had throat surgery and admits he almost didn’t go. “I didn’t feel I was good enough, but a friend persuaded me to try and now I can’t imagine not playing George. It’s actor heaven to be out there by myself. I read everything written about and by him so I can literally get inside his skin." Using film clips and a little song and dance, and holding his favorite stogie, Safier spends an hour and a half convincing God that he should be allowed into heaven.
For Safier, the show is an act of love. “Everyone knows George and Gracie. The audience enjoys lots and lots of laughter as well as a few tears. Occasionally there’s a teenager in the front row who was dragged to the performance and quickly becomes entranced as if he’s hearing from a lovable grandfather. After the show, he’ll tell me he’s going to go home and google the star. I enjoy introducing the Burns to a new generation of people.”
For tickets ($36, seniors $29, children $12), call Nelson Hall at 203-699-5495. Performances are today at 2 p.m., Friday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Come discover how Georg Burns, a song and dance man back in Vaudeville days, met a dizzy and pretty Irish lass named Gracie Allen and created an act for the ages. You’ll learn the secrets to his longevity of a 100 years and how when he grew up, after decades in show biz, he was a hit playing the big man upstairs, God himself. Alan Safier is pleased to make your acquaintance as the man of the century.