Theater for the New City Presents The Capitalist Ventriloquist
"The Capitalist Ventriloquist" is a new musical comedy about dynastic hedge funds, the demands of billionaire investors, misguided parental expectations, and the struggle of the son of an imperious hedge fund owner for self-determination. He's a mathematical whiz-kid whose father expects him to report directly to work after graduate school and create a trading algorithm that will protect the firm against lightning-fast computer trades, which sway the market to perplexing and perilous extremes. But the son's inner voice since childhood tells him he'd rather be a ventriloquist - specifically, a singing ventriloquist.
The son's alter ego is his dummy, Randy, who longs to be in show business but whose acerbic quips prompt the son to say, "Sometimes you sound just like my father."
After graduation, the son dutifully takes his place at the fund. But instead of crunching numbers, he engages in stealth rehearsals with Randy behind closed doors. His father is in an especially touchy spot, because the boy is engaged to the daughter of his biggest investor, who only keeps his money in the losing fund for her sake. The girl loves our hero, but she's not too keen to walk down the aisle with a ventriloquist. Worst of all, the dummy is awfully easy to kidnap or maybe sell on line. The son's only allies are his father's secretary, who secretly admires him, and a wily talent agent who, remarkably, can't exactly be bought.
"The Capitalist Ventriloquist" is the seventh collaboration among Tom Attea (book and lyrics), Arthur Abrams (score) and Mark Marcante (director) and the trio's second with Angela Harriell (choreographer). The foursome last assembled for "Living in a Musical" (TNC, 2010). It was a romantic musical comedy about a song-and-dance man, an admirer of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, who lives in an imaginary world of the classic American musicals but tumbles for a girl from the rock-and-rap world. The Village Voice (Leslie Minora) pronounced it "... as appealing and enjoyable as the vintage glass bottles of Coca-Cola in its lead character's fridge," adding, "Naturally wholesome but nonetheless hilarious, 'Living in a Musical' is plain and simply charming."
At The Actors Studio, Attea and Abrams enjoyed a ten-year apprenticeship with Charles Friedman, the original director of the stage classics "Pins and Needles," "Sing out the News," the musical version of "Street Scene," "Carmen Jones" and other shows. At that time, Friedman had been collaborating with Oscar Hammerstein, who had died. The trio collaborated on the revue,"Brief Chronicles of the Time," which premiered at The Actors Studio in 1982.
Tom Attea (book, lyrics) has had seven musicals with Arthur Abrams presented by TNC, which also produced one of Attea's plays, "Life Knocks" ("Great humor and ebullience ... good, genuine laughs ... Attea's talent as a playwright is evident." -- Kessa De Santis, PunchIn International). Attea has received a TNC/Jerome Foundation emerging playwright grant and is an active member of The Dramatists Guild. He first came to TNC at Abrams' urging to contribute skits for a revue Attea would name "It's an Emergency, Don't Hurry," on the theme of the world's lethargy in responding to urgent issues. Mark Marcante was the director. Attea went on to write a musical a year with Abrams, all of which were directed by Marcante. Attea says of the theater's artistic director, "Crystal Field deserves credit for being a steady champion of us and of all people who write for the theater and hope to make a distinguished contribution. She has been kind enough to be a steady champion of mine. In fact, I don't know another person in the Off-Broadway venue who is as supportive of emerging talent, and I don't know, in this competitive and political world, if I could have found another artistic director or theater as inviting and supportive as the one she administers. She is to creators of theater every bit as great a mentor as Lee Strasberg used to be for actors at the Studio."
Arthur Abrams (composer) has been pianist for the Martha Graham Dance Company and Merce Cunningham and for various venues including The Waldorf. His awards include a DAAD music fellowship to Mannheim, Germany, a scholarship to the Orff Institute at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria and a Meet the Composer grant for the score of "The Golden Bear." His theatrical scores include "The Golden Bear" and "Sketching Utopia," both with book and lyrics by Laurel Hessing, directed by Crystal Field; "Master and Margarita" from the novel by Bulgakov, adapted by Jean Claude van Itallie and directed by David Willinger; and "The Open Gate," based on the novel, "The Manor" by Isaac Bashevis Singer, adapted and directed by David Willinger. Abrams was composer, pianist and music director for "The Golden Age of Second Avenue," a documentary film about the golden age of the Yiddish Theater produced by Arthur Cantor. The piece is often shown on PBS. (In the film, he accompanies Molly Picon.) He was music director and pianist for the recent Lambs Club presentation of "Yankel in America" starring Theo Bikel.
Mark Marcante (director) is Executive Production Director of TNC and a prolific designer, actor and director there. This is his seventh production with Tom Attea and Arthur Abrams., with whom he has collaborated on "It's an Emergency, Don't Hurry," "Life Knocks," "Lincoln Plaza," "Abstinence," "Dropping in on the Earth" and "Living in a Musical," among others. His other TNC directing credits include "British Music Hall," "Ruzzante Returns from the War," "Benny's Barbershop" and "Strangely Wonderful." He also co-directed "One Director Against His Cast" with author Crystal Field. Marcante hails from Pennsylvania and worked as technical supervisor and workshop instructor at the Allentown Arts Center. As an actor, he has appeared in TNC's award-winning Street Theater ensemble since 1986 and played leading roles in several critically acclaimed productions at TNC.
Angela Harriell (choreographer) joined the team for its last show, "Living in a Musical." She is director and choreographer of TNC's popular annual "Nutcracker: Rated R" and founder and choreographer of the cabaret dance troupe, The Love Show. Her choreography has been called witty, moving, unique and theatrical with narratives that are simultaneously autobiographical and universal. Richmond Shepard (Seven Lively Arts) wrote, "the brilliant Angela Harriell... could be the next Susan Stroman." A graduate of Fredonia University, where she received The Graduate Scholarship for Ballet, she has worked with Elisa Monte and David Brown dance, Randy James Danceworks and taught ballet at Binghamton University. Her work has been seen at The Flea Theater, HERE, The New York Burlesque Festival, White Wave Dance Festival, The Philly Fringe Festival's Late Night Cabaret, and at different nightclubs throughout New York. Cointreau and Vogue magazine have commissioned pieces from her. Her work has twice been presented at special galas at the National Arts Club.
The actors are Kevin Melendez as the ventriloquist, Grace Morales as the fiancee, David Slone, Esq. as the hedge fund owner, David Zen Mansley as the fiancee's father, Julie Smith as the ventriloquist's mother, Bob Homeyer as the agent and Laura King as the secretary. The ensemble includes ChrisTina Johnson, Jason Jacoby, Natalia Saltiel, Kayleigh Shuler, Lucas Thompson and Madison Turner.
Set design is by Mark Marcante. Assistant director is Jonathan Weber. The dummy is designed by Lytza Colon and David Zen Mansley. Costume design is by Susan Gittens Hemley. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff. Sound design is by Steve Mc Mulllen and Alex Santullo. Stage manager is Tashika Futch and ASM is Natasha Velez.
The musicians are Annie Lebeaux (Piano), Art Lillard (Drums) and Will Woodard (Bass).
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, presents "The Capitalist Ventriloquist" October 6 to 23, 2011. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $10; the box office number is (212) 254-1109 and you can buy tickets online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.