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Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | On opening night of “Moonlight and Magnolias” at the Old Globe last Thursday, parking in Balboa Park became – for the first time in my memory – literally impossible. Every space in every lot was full. When one-third of the sold-out house hadn’t arrived by 8 p.m., the curtain was delayed for 15 minutes. (I finally parked across the bridge at Fifth and Nutmeg.) The evening proved worth the hunt and the hike.

This is another enchanting Old Globe original, on its way to Broadway and likely to be a smash hit. I haven’t seen a theater audience as intent and responsive from start to finish since the Old Globe’s “Dirty Rotten Scandals” last year. That show went on to fame.

“Moonlight and Magnolias” opens with a brilliant idea and never lets down. It is a consistently appealing, elegantly performed and very funny view of David Selznick’s conception and production of the movie version of “Gone With the Wind.” (You know it’s a big evening when the Old Globe’s Jack O’Brien, now one of the most honored directors in American theater history, is showing a visiting producer around, and both are watching the audience’s reaction to every line, jotting notes.)

An incidental footnote: This show spares audiences from the tiresome proliferation of f-words that clogged “Dirty Rotten Scandals.” It employs only one four-letter word, so far as I noticed, and it is one that finds the audience so expectant that the word erupts from theatergoers in the audience as it is being spoken onstage. Maybe there’s a temperance lesson here: The prudent use of vulgarities works better onstage when it is reserved for appropriate occasions.

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