Saturday, August 5, 2017

Memo from the RTC: The Producers – Eat Your Heart Out If You Missed It



Published in The WAVE, Aug. 4, 2017
www.rockawave.com

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Memo from the RTC:  The Producers – Eat Your Heart Out If You Missed It
By Norm Scott

Last week I raved about the six leading performances by Jeremy Plyburn (Bialystock), Craig Evans (Bloom), John Panepinto (Franz Liebkind), Brian Sadowski (Carmen Ghia), Erech Holder_Hetmeyer (Roger), Catherine Leib (Ulla) of the Rockaway Theatre Company production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
But this just scratches the surface. I’ve lost count of the number of cast members. The dressing room often looks like a subway car at rush hour as people race in and out for their scenes, many costume changes, or stage crew duties (everyone has to do some scenery moving in an elaborate schedule set up by Jenna Tipaldo, our 20 year old stage manager supreme (who also does the light cues in many performances). There are so many excellent performances supplementing the Big 6, I would have to use the entire WAVE to mention every performer.

I laugh at every joke and cheer at the end of every song and dance even though I’ve seen umpteen times – most of it from the wings, peeking between the curtains in the back of the theater or from the booth upstairs because I have stagehand duties -  moving the French doors when we set up and take down the office, which happens about a million times a show. So I end up running back and forth between office scenes so I can see snatches of the show. (Of course I never get to see the one scene I am in near the end, nor the scene before it since I am setting up to move my prop.) I’m often joined by other performers in the back of the theater who can’t stop laughing. And when we are backstage we are also laughing.

Before one show a theater goer asked me if Jodee Timpone was in the show. “She sure is,” I said. “And you will see Jodee as you’ve never seen her before.  Jodee, playing the part of Hold me-Touch, shows her heart/s is/are in the right place.

Producer Susan Jasper says in her program Notes, “If you have not seen or heard anything to offend you by Intermission, you probably slept through Act 1.” Some of the funniest, and possibly most offensive scenes relate to the LGBT community. A large group from the local LGBTQ social group, Out Rockaway wearing their tee-shirts, attended and I hear there was a lot of laughter coming from their quarter. No pickets - yet. And few people - maybe one guy – walked out due to homophobia.
The audiences have been as responsive as any in the past, some saying this is the best one ever.

I won’t get into some details of the play so those who come the final weekend see the surprises for those who didn’t see the movie or the play. I do want to mention a few behind the scenes people. I’ve talked about the directorial leadership of John Gilleece who has managed the entire project wonderfully. Audiences have been raving about the professional choreography by Nicole DePierro-Nellen. Watch those tap dancers and the synchronicity of complex dances. The opening sequence recalls Fiddler on the Roof. And the chorines in the office scene doing that Rockettes matching kick-line and see how many of them swap into old-lady land tip tapping their walkers. And that solo dance by Ulla – ooh, la, la.

Music Director Rich Louis-Pierre is one of the RTC indispensables, not only leading the band, but playing a small part in the play and doing the sound design while working with the sound technicians Michael Caprio and the heroic Daniel Fay. Danny is a local and a recent college grad who actually got a job in the industry and gives up much valuable time to be at the shows when he can.

There’s the complex lighting by Andrew Woodridge, the RTC lighting guru, who also makes the pigeons do their thing, which got an ovation at last Sunday’s performance – watch Adolph salute. Andrew hasn’t developed the technology – yet – of having them fly around the audience and crap on their heads, but maybe one day.

Dan Guarino, president of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, who is not in the show but volunteered to assist with the stage crew and is my partner in moving the French doors without killing anyone, and has done yeoman service.

I’ll have more next week in my final piece on this show (after which I will take a little RTC break). This Monday, I join master demolisher Tony Homsey in taking down the set before working with his twin, Tony the master builder, to put up the set for the upcoming Frank Caiati directed Elephant Man.

When not destroying sets, Norm uses his pen as a sledgehammer on the NYCDOE, UFT Leadership, the Democratic Party, and charter schools on his blog at ednotesonline.com.

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