May 20, 2016
Are you ready to be transported back and forth between the early 1970s and the late 1930s - early ‘40s at the Rockaway Theatre Company’s upcoming Stephen Sondheim musical, Follies (opening June 3 and running for 10 performances over three weekends - get your tickets ASAP – 718-374-6400)?
I had no knowledge of the play until I was given a small role as a party-goer in the opening scene. Thinking I would be on and off the stage in an instant I found out that I and most of the other partygoers have to remain on stage for almost the entire first act. I always thought that watching a play from on stage with the actors instead of looking up from an audience seat would be a unique experience. Now I am getting my chance.
Some of us try to hang out at the “bar” pretending to be getting a bit tipsy – though I think I will smuggle in the real stuff – method acting.
Follies is a complex story of a reunion of former performers at the Weisman Theatre in New York which over decades morphed from a music hall into a porn palace and in 1971 is about to be torn down and turned into a parking lot. The theater owner decides to hold a first and last reunion of the members of the Weisman Follies. Simple story, right? Not. In some flashbacks the younger versions of the actors come forward and then fade back into their older incarnations. This is not done with makeup but with a rotating cast of actors who must exhibit exquisite timing.
Directors Peggy Page and Michael Wotypka must manage one of the largest casts in RTC history with almost 50 cast members. The dressing room will be intense. Being on stage may be the least crowded place to be. Anyone who comes to RTC musicals knows that the singing voices will be top notch. But this musical is not only about vocals but also is focused on dancing. It is not so easy to find great dancers at a community theater, but of course the RTC never does anything half-assed. Not only is there some great dancing, but the costumes are as much a star of the show as any characters. And speaking of – the AA (always amazing) Susan Corning who not only plays a lead role, she also handles the costumes along with Kerry O’Conner. Believe me, even if you hate Sondheim music – as some people are wont to do – the dancing and costumes alone are not to be missed.
While Michael Wotypka handles behind the scenes issues, watching Peggy Page work with the massive cast, both as a group and holding individual actors is a wonder. She is all over the place – and might as well move into the theater. Peggy (who also manages the RTC box office) is a force of nature as she cajoles, nudges – gently or sternly – and demonstrates such a high level of organization and competence I want her to give us a third choice by running for president – but not until after the June 19 (Father’s Day) performance of Follies. Norm blogs at ednotesonline.org
May 27, 2016
Taking part in rehearsals for the upcoming Rockaway Theatre Company’s production of Follies makes me want to dance. Don’t worry, I won’t.
As I reported last week, as a party-goer at the 1971 reunion of the former showgirls and their past and current boyfriends, I get to see much of the show from the stage. With Nicola DePierro Nellen as dance master, the production numbers are fabulous. Nicola actually managed to coach me in the shows where I had to dance well enough to not trip over myself – and believe me; she had to be VERY patient.
Nicola started with the company when she was just 16, dancing in musicals and the Rockaway Cafes. She recruited her mom, Phyllis, who in addition to being a grandma to Nicola’s year-old daughter, Shea Irene, loves to dance as well. The RTC has been lucky to have them both on stage and off as dedicated participants. Both are hair stylists and are often asked to assist backstage to get the proper look to actress’ hair before going on. Nicola also teaches dance at Tomasina’s Dance Studio in Broad Channel. I’m getting tired just thinking of how busy she is.
Nicola seems to take on the challenge of teaching such a large cast of dancers with relish. She taught many of them to tap in RTC Workshop classes. And boy do these ladies, who cover a wide variety of ages (no details upon penalty of being stepped on with tap shoes), tap up a storm in one of the more spectacular production numbers. Nicola’s pride is evident in her crew which consists of so many dancers who have to work so hard and practice on their own. You may even recognize a few of your neighbors dancing on stage. Don’t share this secret but you might even find a certain Wave publisher hoofing away on stage. Since I see Susan Locke at rehearsals every night I better finish this piece to meet deadline, which I miss most of the time.
RTC fans will be out in force for Follies so if you have not yet attended an RTC show that often rivals professional productions, don’t miss Follies!! Opening night is Friday, June 3, at 8:00 p.m. and will run for 10 performances over three weekends, including an added Thursday evening, June 9.
Visit www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org or call the Hotline: 718-374-6400 to reserve your seats now.
Norm blogs on education and political issues at ednotesonline.org, where you can find out who his favorite presidential candidates are.