Sunday, August 13, 2017

Memo From the RTC: “The Producers” - Leftovers

Published Aug. 11, 2017 in The Wave,

Memo From the RTC: “The Producers”  - Leftovers
By Norm Scott

Well, it’s over. Ten sold out performances with many standing ovations and accolades ringing throughout the peninsula calling the Rockaway Theatre Company production of The Producers the “best show ever” and “better than the Nathan Lane/Mathew Broderick Broadway production.”

Being in a position to see the show so many times gave me an appreciation of the beautiful structure of the script as one scene flows into another to build a farcical story line. Ultimately, this is not just a play mocking Hitler and the Nazi Party, but also a buddy story about two guys (a Jewish Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?) who are as different as you can imagine who ultimately come to love each other – and Ulla too, even though the unlikely Bloom is the one who ends up with her. (I can’t tell you how many people made the point that Catherine Leib should be on Broadway.)

The timing and interplay between actors Jeremy Plyburn and Craig Evans, who were new to each other and the RTC, was remarkable. There is also the love story between Roger De Bris, the always amazing Erech Holder-Hetmeyer, and Carmen Ghia, as  Brian Sadwoski who goes over the top as an actor. As cast member and teacher Janet Miserandino (nun and old lady) says of Brian who is her boss, “We don’t see this Brian at our school.” And then of course the love affair between the pigeons and Franz Liebkind where John Panepinto brings down the house with every appearance. When Adolph the pigeon raises one wing (with a Nazi armband) in a salute, rolls of laughter. Even if you went in squeamish about all that Nazi stuff I didn’t see any signs of over sensitivity – though I did read that two tourists were arrested in Germany for doing the Nazi salute, which is illegal there (for somewhat obvious reasons). Almost the entire cast would be in jail there. I wonder if The Producers itself is a play that cannot be performed in Germany. We did have a German dancer and singer in the show from Stuttgart  (Veronica Bochynek – and I imagine some of the Mel Brooks over the top satire might have caused some discomfort. 

Many people in Rockaway don’t believe that it is possible to have Broadway quality performance in our community or are just not  interested in the theater. On my own block I know only two households that come to RTC productions. Well, given the scarcity of seats the past three weeks, we couldn’t fit them in anyway – as for extending performances – the burden asked of the entire crew, performers and production team – working without pay after months of rehearsal—is just too much.

Sunday’s final performance was a bittersweet event. People who have worked so hard for months have seen the fruition of their efforts – in this case bringing joy and laughter to the thousands of attendees. Catherine Leib (Ulla) in thanking the backstage production team (which also includes some of the actors) said in Sunday’s final pre-performance meeting that they made it possible for the performers to bring this joy to people and to fulfill their own dreams of being on stage.

Sunday’s show ended around 5PM. Everyone was told they had to clean up the dressing room, store all costumes, clean out their cubbies, etc. to make room for the next show coming in before they would be allowed to eat at the cast party (catered by Thai Rock). When I left around 8:45, the stage still had about 30 cast and behind the scenes members dancing and carrying on. They didn’t want it to end. After all, the cast and crew become like a family over so many months and breaking up is hard to do.

We were treated to delicious desserts from our own local
Jannicke's Amazing cake
Cakeline, Inc. which donates delicious cookies and cakes to every performance. And also from one of our performers, Trinidad-Tobago native Jannicke Steadman-Charles whose mom
Denise and Jannicke
Denise Eversley (my dance partner in La Cage) was also in the show and had her first speaking part. (Her other daughter Renee Steadman-Titus who has graced so many of our shows had other commitments.) About half way through the party, Jannicke unveiled her fabulous creation, cake looking so good honoring The Producers (see photo), we almost didn’t want to ruin it but eat it we did and it was beyond delicious. Jannicke is a professional baker who works at the Institute of Culinary Education and if you are looking for unique desserts you can contact her at:

The breakdown and construction team under the leadership of Tony Homsey is its own little family –  involved in every single show and gets to work with all the directors. Besides myself, Cliff Hesse (master of all trades who acts and paints and designs sets), Frank Verderame (when he is not playing with his dogs or writing novels and plays), Roger Sarmuksnis and recently, Scholars Academy 15 year old junior Steven Wagner, who is eager to learn all aspects of theater from acting to set construction.

Elephant Man set going up
This past week we (sadly) took down the set and put up the basic set for Elephant Man, opening Sept. 15 and running for only two weekends – get your reservations in - you know that the increasing popularity of the RTC will fill seats. Hotline: 718-374-6400.

Let me end this series of columns with my personal thanks to Director John Gilleece and Producer Susan Jasper for thinking of me for the part of the judge, a small 9-line role – yes, I kept my script in front of me just in case. I get to send the boys up the river, though I will admit that before passing judgment, having the beautiful Ulla making eyes at me as an attempted
Here comes the judge
bribe to let her hubby and his partner off, I was pretty tempted at the final performance to say “You are free to go.” (John and Susan would have loved that.) In my version of alt-history, Ulla runs off with the judge.

Norm sends the NYC Department of Education up the river daily on his blog,


Anonymous said...

Norm, I like when you write blog posts separate from education news and stuff. Maybe consider having a separate blog, just for that, if you can handle it? : )


ed notes online said...

I did used to use the Norms Notes blog but dropped trying to do that years ago.