Sunday, July 26, 2015

Memo from the RTC: Guys and Dolls Reports Plus Selected Pics

Some recent columns in The Wave on the show. And some photos.

Liverlips Louie

Add caption

My Texas wife - married for 30 seconds

One of the casts leads

The other

Nicely Nicely, Bennie Southstreet

The Hot Box Dancers - take off those minks

Nathan Detroit, Big Julie

The Gamblers

The kids

Mimi and friend

Tokyo Mo

Memo From the RTC: The Kids Are Alright 
By Norm Scott
July 24, 2015

The beautiful Guys and Dolls set has been struck and building the set for the upcoming “Little Shop of Horrors” (opening on August 21) has commenced. G&D ran for 10 sold-out performances over 3 weekends. As the fame of RTC productions with its immense talent pool has grown even some long-time patrons had difficulty getting tickets. People lucky enough to see both casts were wowed. My wife saw it 3 times and said the show topped itself every time even as she had to suffer watching me try to dance with the mostly 20-something Guys in all 4 knock-out numbers. The Dolls kept up in their fabulous costumes in their Hot Box routines, especially when they threw down their minks and pearls and just about everything else – leading to howls of delight from the audience. The Guys and the Dolls did come together in the amazing Cuban café dance/fight routine culminating in the breakaway beer bottle smashed on the head of dancer Atsushi Eda who then goes careening all over the stage. Since there had been a few mishaps with the bottle in earlier shows, the cast broke out into applause when it worked perfectly the final weekend, especially since Producer Susan Jasper had been reminding us the props cost $7 a piece. Supposedly made of sugar, some intrepid cast members picked up broken pieces and tried to eat them. They shall remain nameless.

The double cast, mostly ranging in age from 13-mid-twenties, and production crew is so large that trying to talk about everyone would fill up the entire Wave. So let me focus on the impressive teens. You know you hear too many negative stories about today’s youths – or Yutes in the parlance of My Cousin Vinny. Well, just hang around the RTC and see Yutes in action: responsible, team players, considerate, and most of all, incredibly talented.

Thirteen year olds Steve Wagner and Andrew Feldman, who were amongst the stars of RTC’s Lost in Yonkers and vets of the RTC children and teens program, returned to play a variety of roles, at times having to add little mustaches.  These kids are totally into the theater with already large resumes and an awareness that makes me see what I missed as a kid.  And they are so reliable in every way and interact with the adults of all ages so naturally. Andrew travels all the way from Woodmere to be in the shows.

There is no room to talk about all the young lady teens, ranging in age from 15 to 19. When Director John Gilleece entrusted the key role of Adelaide to an 18 year old college freshman, Caitlin Byrne, for half the performances, some people doubted him. Her bravura performance validated his casting choice. She is a grad of LaGuardia HS where she studied voice and playwriting.

Over a few shows I’ve gotten to know some of the other teens. Leigh Dillon, who will be a junior at Fort Hamilton HS in Bay Ridge, has been in RTC shows for years, coming all the way from Brooklyn. She was accepted at the famed LaGuardia HS  but chose Fort Hamilton. Leigh is a quadruple threat. She can sing, dance, act and is a mean trumpet player. And is a delightful young lady.

I’ve been in a few shows with Kayla Ann Healy, Casey Stabiner, and Kacie Reilly, all of whom have an extensive knowledge of the theater and bring so much charm and grace with them, onstage and off. Casey just finished her freshman year at SUNY Purchase studying theater and performance. Kacie just graduated from Scholars and will be attending Marymount Manhattan College in the BFA Acting program. Kayla will be a senior at Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan where she is majoring in drama. All of then are from Rockaway, Broad Channel of Howard Beach.

I’m just about out of room and will talk more about the next age group, the twenties next week and I will post links to some of the video from the show and the boys doing the girls and girls doing the boys dances at the cast party.

RTC has taught me, a lifetime teacher, the value of theater work as an educational activity. The RTC, so influenced by current and retired teachers, is like one big classroom. If I were teaching now I would forget the curriculum and just do play after play in my class. From set design and building, to performing, the kids would learn everything they needed to know about functioning in society. The test would be the performances. But of course I would be in a rubber room for not testing kids to death. And goodness, how could they try to fire me when my salary got too high if they didn’t have tests? Wait a minute. This is an RTC column, not School Scope.

Norm rants on education and other issues at

Memo from the RTC: Many Guys, So Many Dolls and Some Cats and Dogs Too
By Norm Scott
July 17, 2015
The Rockaway Theatre Company wrapped up the 2nd weekend of sold-out performances of Guys and Dolls with the proceeds of the July 12 Sunday matinee going to the North Shore Animal League shelter in the Carol Jasper Memorial Benefit performance. RTC Producer extraordinaire Susan Jasper has honored her late family member over the past decade with this generous donation.

The actors kept sneaking out during breaks to the trailer to check out the animals, with one dog making its acting debut by being carried across the stage cuddled in the arms of one of the Dolls, prompting a comment from one of the Guys: I wish I were a dog. I saw at least 3 cats I wanted to take home but I called and Bernie and Penny said they don’t need any more siblings.

This is the final weekend  where we do 4 performances – Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 8PM and Sunday matinee at 2PM - I hear there are lots of seats available for the Thursday and Friday shows while Sat and Sunday may be sold out. The cast party will follow where we know the Dolls will be dancing the Guys’ musical numbers and some Guys will try the Dolls (not me). Can’t wait to see them do “Take Back Your Mink” as they remove their clothes. Could be an ugly sight.

There has been a lot of comment on the double casting of the major roles due to the enormous talent pool. Last time I talked about the blow me away 4 performances of  Adelaide (Nicole Mangano/Caitlin Byrne) and Nathan Detroit (John Panepinto/Matthew Smilardi) roles.

The other leads – Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown (Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons in the film) were also double cast. Michael Whalen, who shared the role of the Devil with John Penipento in last year’s “Damn Yankees”, brings the right touch of  mature charm and danger to Sky while the younger Danny Cruz  (Joe Hardy and Damn Yankees) adds a classic matinee idol flash to the role. As singers and actors their slightly different interpretations makes seeing the show with both casts a must. They both bring top notch singing and acting to the roles and dance with the crap shooters when not in the lead.

And the same goes for the Sarah roles, played by Maria Edwards (with Mike) and Renee Steadman (with Danny). Renee, originally from Trinidad and now residing in East NY Brooklyn, made her RTC debut in Godspell and with her operatic voice is fast becoming an RTC mainstay. If you were just passing by the theater not knowing a play was on and heard her singing you would stop dead in your tracks. Many people coming out of the theater after the show came over to her to say how extraordinary her singing was. So the next night when Marine Park resident Maria Edwards, making her RTC debut,  went on in the role I snuck into the back of the theater. Holy Cow. Oy, oy, oy! How can this little production company known as the RTC attract such awesome talent time and again?

Listen, I can go on and on about the show. The young ladies – the Dolls - from high school juniors on up – are not to be missed. And the Guys – from junior high up to – ME – get wild audience reactions as they dance their way in and out of trouble shooting dice – and also try not to rock the boat in the bring down the house number. Some people coming out actually told me I finally learned how to do the box step – thanks to choreographers extraordinaires – new mommy Nicola DePierro-Nellen (whose mom Phyllis plays a noticeable role in her mink) and Gabrielle Mangano, who I keep pestering with questions about which foot I have to move during “The Oldest Establishment Permanent Crap Game in NY.” We’ve watched Gabby and sister Nicole grow up on the RTC stage.

I’ll close with kudos to an often overlooked the major role played by chief Costumier Kerry O’Conner, who also shares the role of General Cartwright with Cathy Murfitt. Kerry is a den mother to the enormous cast and the numerous costume changes. She helps everyone find the proper costumes and even for a low-end performer like me took so much time in getting me shirts, suits, ties, cowboy boots, string ties, etc. Imagine doing this kind of work for 40 people? I blanched in horror when she found me a green double-breasted suit – I have never worn a DB and didn’t even know how to button it. But the suit grew on me, especially when so many of the Dolls commented on how nice it looked and some Guys told me they had dibs on it for a future show.

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