13th Street Rep Launching THEATER BOYS Show and CD

By: Sep. 13, 2014
It's the biggest, most ambitious undertaking in years for the historic 13th Street Repertory Theater, at 50 West 13th Street, NYC. On September 21st, they'll be launching ASCAP award-winner Chip Deffaa's new musical comedy "Theater Boys"-and also, during the run, the cast album for the show.

It's a playful, high-spirited, full-length original gay musical comedy-about actors baring their souls (and a bit more)-while auditioning for a gay musical.
For Edith O'Hara, the legendary 97-year-old theatrical producer who's long run the 13th Street Rep, presenting a gay musical is hardly something new. It was O'Hara who, 40 years ago, produced at the Rep, New York's first big hit gay musical, "Boy Meets Boy." It opened in 1974 at the Rep; O'Hara transferred it the next year to the Actors Playhouse, where it racked up a 463-performance run, before moving on the LA and other cities. It is still getting productions today-the most recent major revival being in London in 2012.

Is O'Hara hoping history will repeat itself? She's not saying. But Deffaa-who's written book, music, and lyrics, and is directing-is grateful that O'Hara and her associate, Producing Artistic Director Sandra Nordgren, have given "Theater Boys" such strong support.

"We have a company of 14, which is a lot for such an intimate house," commented Deffaa during a break in rehearsals. "I'm proud of every one of them: Michael Czyz, Joseph Spitale, Andrew Lanctot, Sam 'Bam' Donnenberg, Philip Louis Calabro, Joris DeGraaf, Danny Coelho, Will Meredith, Taylor Martin, Ben Orlando, Mark Andrew Garner, Hawkins Davis Gardow, Ken Adams."

In addition, Richard Danley music directs; Peter Charney is assistant director; Tyler DuBoys and Alex Acevedo co-choreograph. Kate Solomon-Tilley is stage manager. And Gina Colisimo and Jessee Riehl are aides. Luis Villabon is technical advisor.

Deffaa, who has been developing the show for several years, considers it a work-in-progress. "We'll hopefully continue finessing it throughout our run here this fall." "Theater Boys" is running in repertory at the 13th Street Theater with Deffaa's long-running "One Night with Fanny Brice." And a third show of the prolific Deffaa's, "The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue," will open at the theater November 9th. Edith O'Hara, founder and artistic director of the 13th Street Rep, has long maintained that the theater's mission is to support new playwrights. And the theater has gotten wholeheartedly behind Deffaa.

Jimmy James, who helped work on an earlier version of "Theater Boys" and has been assisting Deffaa behind the scenes, says, "Many of the actors who've helped develop this show have really gone places. I'm sure the same will hold true for some of the newcomers Chip has found for this production. He has a knack for finding unknowns with great potential."

When Deffaa started writing the show-one afternoon out at Crater Lake--he chose then-unknowns Santino Fontana and Seth Sikes to make the first demo recordings; Fontana has gone on to star in such Broadway shows as "Cinderella" and "Act One," and Sikes has assistant-directed Broadway shows like "The Nance" (starring Nathan Lane), in addition to singing at clubs like 54 Below.

he first festival-tryout of the show (and the cast album) starred David Cronin, who's since gone on to appear in regional premieres of "Bare" and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul's "Dogfight." Ricky Schroeder, who's featured on the CD, is currently in the national tour of "Kinky Boots." Co-star Matt Nardozzi has been busy with film, TV, and stage work since working on "Theater Boys" with Deffaa, winning a Young Artist Award along the way.

The new production at the 13th Street Rep is dedicated to Carol Channing, who first gave Deffaa the idea for the show some years ago, in conversations at the Doubletree Hotel in New York. "She's not just one of the most talented musical comedy stars I've ever seen, she's one of the wisest people I've ever known. She's my favorite person in this business," Deffaa says. "And offhand--but hugely insightful--comments of hers prompted this show."

Deffaa insisted he had no time, though, for much of an interview before the show opened. "We haven't a minute to spare until we open. It's always something. There's a million problems to solve. The pants for one character are much too large. Hopefully Ben Orlando, our costume designer, can fix them in time. And the maid's costume really is larger than ideal. Some articles of clothing-maid's costumes, dance belts-need to be exactly the right size, or you might as well not wear 'em."

Will the show include any nudity? "Buy a ticket and find out. My lips are sealed," said Deffaa.
One of the production assistants on the show says audiences may be exposed to a bit of skin, "-and good songs, and good dancing."

The premiere recording will include two Grammy-winning musicians, Vince Giordano and Andy Stein. And will feature Andrew Lanctot, Matt Nardozzi, David Cronin, Keith Anderson. Jonah Mayor, Zack Riopelle, Cody Dericks, Matt ZanFagna and Chris Giordano.

Internationally famous cartoonist Howard Cruse-author of the graphic novel "Stuck Rubber Baby" and other acclaimed works-has designed the "Theater Boys" graphics and logo. Deffaa noted: "I'm very grateful that Howard Cruse-my favorite cartoonist-has worked on this."

The first regional production of "Theater Boys" will be mounted this winter, when Stageworks, under the direction of Don Brown, will present their own production of Deffaa's show, with Drew Smith, Devon Darrow and company, in Rochester. Four members iof that cast will be coming to check out the Rep's production on October 16th.

Deffaa hopes "Theater Boys" will get many productions, in assorted cities, just as such shows of his as "George M. Cohan Tonight!" and "One Night with Fanny Brice" have. "It'd be fun to take this to Korea. They loved my Cohan show there. One Korean theater expert told me, when I was over there, that a gay musical would never work in Korea because-he claimed--'homosexuality is absolutely unknown' in Korea.. But that's not quite true, I learned while I was over there.

"But first we've got to get this production up. And everyone's got to learn their parts--or I'll have to turn it into a one-man show starring either Michael Czyz or Ken Adams; they were the first two to get off-book. They're both so good! After working with a cast of 14, a one-man show would just feel so simple and relaxed right about now. But as soon as this is running, we start work on another big show, ''The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue.' It's all fun, in a breathless kind of way. And I really do enjoy working with these 'Theater Boys.' But if you excuse me, we really need to have a costume fitting for a maid."

For more info on "Theater Boys," go to: www.13thstreetrep.org.


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