It’s Only a Show Review – Paul Linke’s Tribute to Charles Nelson Reilly

Poster for IT'S ONLY A SHOW - Photo courtesy of Ruskin Group Theatre
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Did you ever hear the saying about living the life of Reilly?” Paul Linke and the real Reilly – Charles Nelson Reilly – together crafted the acclaimed solo play, “Save It for the Stage,” a production that was later immortalized in film as “The Life of Reilly.” So who exactly is the legendary Charles Nelson Reilly, and how did he influence Paul LInke?

Paul Linke – Photo by Austin Highsmith

An American actor, comedian, director, and drama teacher, Reilly achieved notice through his comic roles on stage, film, and television. In fact, he won the Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He was also a popular panelist on Match Game, guested more than 100 times on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and was featured in popular sitcoms.

Paul Linke – Photo by Austin Highsmith

Born in 1931 in the Bronx, his early interest in the stage emerged in his fascination with puppetry as a child. Early on, he wanted to become an opera singer and studied music; later he would direct a number of opera productions. In the 1960s, he appeared regularly on television in sitcoms, variety shows, and TV game shows. In the 1970’s, he honed his skills as a television and theater director and became a respected acting teacher. In 2000, seven years before his death, he revealed that he was gay in his popular solo stage show.

Paul Linke – Photo by Austin Highsmith

Mid-career, Reilly met Paul Linke, and the two collaborated professionally and became close friends for over a decade. Linke readily admits that Reilly inspired and mentored him. It was only natural that Linke and Reilly together would develop IT’S ONLY A SHOW, Linke’s solo performance which became a warm tribute to his friend, with whom he worked for nearly a decade as co-author and director of “Save It for the Stage.” Directed by Edward Edwards, IT’S ONLY A SHOW is a funny, poignant memorial on Charles Nelson Reilly and the profound influence that Reilly had on Linke’s personal and professional development.

Paul Linke – Photo by Austin Highsmith

Director Edwards helms the solo show with compassion and an eye towards humorous moments in life, as well as Reilly’s indomitable spirit and impact on and encouragement of contemporary performers. Clearly, Linke’s link with Reilly was seminal in his life and aspirations. Linke is an excellent raconteur who holds the audience in the palm of his hand while he tells everyone about Reilly, a man he knew and respected – a man who pushed the boundaries for gay actors in the “closet” days.

IT’S ONLY A SHOW runs through February 2, 2024, with performances at 5 p.m. on January 20, 27, and February 17, 2024. The Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets range from $20 to $30 (seniors/students/Guild members/ groups of 6+ discounted $5 per ticket). For information and reservations, call 310-397-3244 or go online.

1 Comment

  1. See this play! It’s a winner on all levels. Paul is the best when on the stage sharing his life with an audience. He is truly a master of his craft.

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