Published Nov. 17, 20117 in The WAVE.
Memo From the RTC: Final Weekend For Ever After of Rockaway Café: Let’s Talk Vocals
By Norm Scott
Sometimes I wonder how anyone who lives in Rockaway and in neighboring communities somehow don’t manage to find their way to Fort Tilden to see the shows put on by the Rockaway Theatre Company, whose slogan is “Bringing Broadway to Rockaway” and has been doing so for 20 years. The current and final Rockaway Café ends this weekend and closes the season on the RTC which began last January and will begin the 2018 season with the children and teen plays this February/March, followed by adult plays May through November 2018.
Last weekend audiences were once again wowed by the 45 songs and 12 choreographed dances, a showcase for the enormously talented people associated with the RTC, both on stage and behind the scenes. How so many people can sing so well when I can’t warble a note is beyond me. Last week I wrote about the dynamic vocal and dance performances of Erech Holder-Hetmeyer and Maria Francesconi-Schirippa and I heard members of the audience upon leaving comment to both, “When are you going to be on Broadway?” There are so many more people to talk about when it comes to the vocals.
Longtime wonderful RTC vocalists since they were teens, Nicole Mangano a super “White Rabbit”), Catherine Leib (“Skyfall”), and Matt Smilardi (“Come Together”, “Empty Garden”) are back and their voices keep getting better. They are joined by the amazing voice of Renee Steadman-Titus and her sister Jannicke Steadman-Charles. Watch Nicole, Renee and Jannicke do their Supremes rendition. And Jannicke delivers even though competing with animated birds in Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”
One of my long-time favorite singers is Jacquie Caruana who in Café 2012 blew the walls down with her rendition of “I Will Survive.” Jacquie has some solos and also teams with Phyllis DePierro, Juliette Pannone and Jodee Timpone (who rejects my advances in “Come a Little Bit Closer”) to cover “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” and “Downtown”. This is the first time I have met Juliette who began with RTC as a teen and has returned to the RTC after a long absence. Another former teen RTC member returning as a grown-up is Nick Compagnone, bringing his guitar and voice to “Home” and Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” where I join the always reliable (front and back stage), Dante Rei as cops who arrest Julio. Both Juliette and Nick are now real estate agents so if you are looking for a house or apartment, come see the show and talk to them after.
If you saw “The Producers” I’m sure you were blown away by the performance of Canadian Craig Evans who made his RTC debut as Leo. In Café he is joined by his beautiful and talented wife Florence in a couple of wonderful duets, including a chance to show their love for each other in “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” How great it would be to see these transplants to Rockaway perform together in a play sometime.
Let’s not neglect the wonderful yutes, 15 year olds Andrew Feldman and Steven Wagner, a dynamic duo as the Blues Brothers in “Soul Man.” Steven is a jack of all trades (even helping Tony Homsey and crew building sets) and Andrew can do just about anything related to theater and if you look into a crystal ball you can envision him as a pro on stage, somewhere. Andrew also does the Beatles but I won’t tell you which one he does.
Twenty year old Myles Rich, fairly new to the RTC (an iron worker who sometimes walks on those high planks on skyscrapers), joins them and another former RTC yute, now in his senior year of college, Antonio Oliveri, in a Four Seasons medley that will blow your socks off. Antonio also has a solo doing the Billy Joel rendition of “Just the Way You Are.” They are joined by the sweet voice of Rob Colon who is the lead voice in the medley and also does “Come a Little Bit Closer.”
Anthony Melendez who broke our hearts in “A Chorus Line” does the Bruno Mars version of “Just the Way You Are” and then brings the house down in “Billy Jean” where he is joined by the yutes in a beautiful dance sequence (more about the dancers next week). And the most popular guy in Rockaway, Jose Velez, brings his voice and large presence to “Purple People Eater” and “Rose in Spanish Harlem.” Longtime RTC mainstays Cliff Hesse and Cathy Murfitt are joined by Brian Sadowski in some delicious Halloween hijinks. Last but never least, the super talented John Pannepinto, who shook the house as the Nazi in “The Producers” lends his voice to “Shake a Tail Feather” and “People are Strange.”
Phew. I probably missed someone but I didn’t want to neglect talking about these talented people. Next week: Dancers and others.
Remaining Performances are Nov. 16, 17, 18 at 8PM and Nov. 19 at 2 PM. Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors. Call RTC Hotline: 718-374-6400 or www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org.
By the way, the RTC will be running an 8 week class on carpentry related to building theater sets run by Tony Homsey beginning Dec. 3 at 12:15. I will be assisting him by passing him the tools. Email email@example.com to register. I will ruminate further on what I have learned in working on the theater crew in my School Scope column either this week or next – I am working close to the bone on deadline. But do check out my blog, ednotesonline.org.