Some recent columns in The Wave on the show. And some photos.
|My Texas wife - married for 30 seconds|
|One of the casts leads|
|Nicely Nicely, Bennie Southstreet|
|The Hot Box Dancers - take off those minks|
|Nathan Detroit, Big Julie|
|Mimi and friend|
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
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 ednotesonline.org
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
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
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
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.