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John Gilleece and Community Board 14’s José Velez.
Over the past few weeks, I covered the remarkable 40-member cast of the Rockaway Theatre Company production ofNewsies(which closed August 4), working my way up in age from the youngest.
The teens were covered two weeks ago and last week the twenty-somethings. Now I’ve reached the final crew, the thirties to the seventies, or the alta cockers. With so many young people in the cast, Director Gabby Mangano balanced things out with a sprinkling of (mostly) mature gentlemen.
Fred Grieco (Nunzio/Roosevelt/_ policeman) has been an RTC mainstay for years and he was called upon to play three important roles. He schlepped in from Staten Island for months. The lure of the theater is strong and Fred always answers the call.
Founder/artistic director John Gilleece (Seitz) and soul of the RTC took on a small role which was a bit unusual for him. It was clear that John was so proud of Gabby, his protégée directing her first main stage production, and he wanted to be there for her all the way. Rumors are that John, despite being in his seventies, will be returning to directing next season, which promises to have some wonderful shows – but if I tell you I’d have to kill you.
Dana Mongelli, Fred Grieco and Brian Sadowski (l to r) from the Newsies cast.
Cliff Hesse (Bunsen) from Brighton Beach, also in his late seventies, a core member of the RTC and active on all fronts from stage construction crew to painting to scenery design. His knowledge of all aspects of the theater including historical is invaluable.
I, Snyder, was the third septuagenarian in the show – and I think the youngest. I still managed to find the energy to hit Crippie with his crutch, which elicited a comment from someone I met who sat in the first row: you missed him by a mile – thank goodness. I was supposed to be very evil in the show but I don’t think I scared anyone, though one lady on the way out hit me on the head and said, “Meanie!”
Brian Sadowski (Pulitzer) is a 40 something from Brooklyn is really the scary one. He’s made his mark in every RTC production he has been a part of over the past three years. A powerhouse performance as the evil Pultizer. Brian’s voice is amazing and I can imagine how he uses it when he is in the lunchroom of the elementary school where he is an Assistant Principal.
Rockaway’s own José Velez (Goon) has been in numerous productions over the years and was a fellow card player with me as Murray the Cop in the Odd Couple, the first time I was ever on stage. It was a pleasure to work with him again even if he does manhandle me on the way to jail. Jose is also very active in Rockaway community affairs as a member of the Planning Board.
The youngest of this crew is thirty something Nicolas Baytler (Weisel/Jacobi/Mayor/Stage Manager), a Baltimore native who lives in Rockaway and was making his debut at the RTC, his first performance since high school. Nick attended Frank Caiati’s acting class last fall and got the acting bug. That Director Gabby Mangano trusted him with 4 small but crucial roles is a sign that the boy has talent. He will be appearing in the upcoming Great Gatsby opening September 21.
By 10 a.m. on August 5, the day after the play closed, Tony Homsey and his stage crew had the set down and were busy building the set for The Great Gatsby. They worked on Wednesday, Friday and this past Monday. When I last left them they were busy building a model car for the show, but were still trying to figure out how many miles to the gallon it will get.
Norm posts all his RTC and School Scope articles on his blog, ednotesonline.com.