2014-03-21 / Columnists

Memo From The RTC:

How To Survive Three Shows in 24 Hours
By Norm Scott


Backstage with the cast of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” at the Rockaway Theatre Company. Backstage with the cast of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” at the Rockaway Theatre Company. After months of work, the RTC production of “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” opened last Friday night in shipshape condition, followed by both a Saturday matinee and evening performance, with servings of pizza in between. Phew! Sunday was a day of rest.

As I wrote last week (link www.rockawave.com/news/2014-03-14/Columnists/ Dispatches.html), corralling such a large and diverse cast (high school, college students, people with full and parttime jobs, retirees like me, etc.) is not an easy task.

But Director John Gilleece and Producer Susan Jasper pulled it off superbly; not without some nudging (Susan has a Ph.D. in nudging).

Working with John and Susan, both retired teachers from Leon Goldstein HS, is quite an experience. Wonderful support with more than a dollop of tough love and an expectation of excellence and a sense of accountability to the entire production.

It was Susan who called me in early January about appearing as a singer and dancer in the show. When I told her I couldn’t do either and also had a bad back, basically she told me to get my ass down there, pronto.

So I limped in and John immediately put me on the stage with Matt Leonen (Jenkins in the show) to walk by the gorgeous Nicole Mangano (Hedy) and ogle her. By the time I got across the stage my backache was gone. I recommend everyone come to the show and ogle Nicole, whose performances as a singer and dancer through the years have wowed me. She’s better than Advil for back pain as she puts on a wonderful comic performance. A few of us were in the wings ready to go on at one point just as Nicole was nailing a vocal with such perfection, we all looked at each other. This girl can sing. And act.

Matt, who is a local Rockaway resident and a recent college grad with a theater minor, has been one of my go-to guys when I’m in trouble. His knowledge of the theater and his sense of timing and movement plus his knowledge of stagecraft is superb. We can expect big things from Matt in the future.

Having appeared in only one previous production, the 8-character “The Odd Couple (TOC),” this was quite a different experience – both easier and more difficult. I had quite a few lines in TOC and always felt under pressure to deliver the line so the other actors had their cues. In this show I only have four lines – which believe it or not I often missed in rehearsals. Mostly, I have to be at certain spots at certain times throughout the show. I’m also expected to dance and sing (or mouth the words) in the big production numbers like “Coffee Break,” “A Secretary is Not a Toy,” “Believe in Me” and “Brotherhood of Man.”

This is where Musical Director Richard Louis-Pierre and Choreographer Nicola DePierro came in. Each of them worked with the various groupings at different rehearsals. Rich did wonderful work on the solos and duets but also on getting the group harmonies where, though I can’t carry a tune, I actually got a clue as to how the music in a show evolves. Rich has been an RTC mainstay for many years. Whereas I could fake the singing part, the dancing was very tough and I’m still trying to remember what step goes with what words. Nicola, who works at The Hair Den in Breezy and has also been a part of the RTC crew for many years, put up with all my moves in the wrong direction and I no longer feel like a total embarrassment.

Needless to say, I have been wowed by my fellow cast members and I hope to write more about this remarkable group of people.

One of the most impressive is 25-year old John Panepinto who plays the lead, J. Pierpont Finch-Ponty. John is fairly new to RTC, though he has appeared in a few productions, usually in character roles. This is his first lead role and he just blows it away, singing, dancing and acting. John also takes the lead in leading – bringing a wonderful sense of solidarity to the cast on and off-stage. He is one of the most impressive young men I have met. John is from Brooklyn and was never in Rockaway until he came to the RTC. Watch the interview I did with John between shows on Saturday (vimeo.com/89264613).

There are seven shows left (March 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30thcheck times) and don’t miss this performance – I saw Matthew Broderick in the role and John is better – just don’t tell Sarah Jessica Parker. See a sample of the wonderful female cast tapping to “Cinderella Darling” I posted their performance from both Saturday shows (vimeo.com/89258541). Watch this and just try to stay away.

Wave Editor Kevin Boyle and I have discussed a regular column focused on all aspects of the RTC, front and backstage. If we decide it is a GO, look for them to appear around the times when RTC is doing productions, with occasional updates in between.

Norm still does education blogging at ednotesonline.com

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