Taconic Stage's THE REAL (DESPERATE) HOUSEWIVES OF COLUMBIA COUNTY MUSICAL Plays the Laurie Beechman, Now thru 3/28

"The Real (Desperate) Housewives of Columbia County Musical" by Carl Ritchie (book, lyrics, director) and Wayne Moore (music) is a Coward-esque evening from the Taconic Stage Company upstate, which it took by storm in the summer of 2011. Thinly guised as the confessions of four 40-something women on reality TV, this four-character musical spotlights the culture-clash between spoiled, egocentric "weekender" women and their working class "townie" counterparts in a rural upstate community. The show has no reason but to delight, which it does with savvy performances, high-heeled lyrics and the poison of its cocktail-party chit-chat dialogue. To share it with a wider audience, Taconic Stage Company will present the piece in its NYC debut tonight, March 7 through March 28 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd Street.

The show's songs lampoon such subjects as sexual fantasies toward your caterer, the tendency of "Cidiots" to look down their noses (what's left of them) on the year-rounders and the bragging rights you get for Dutch ancestry if you're from an old local family--a form of retaliation for the weekenders' scorn. We learn from "Don't Fool Around on Your Broker" that it's easier to dump your husband than your real estate agent. In "Get a Little Work," a Maid lampoons her employer's plastic surgery by giving herself a facelift with duct tape. The cast features Meg Dooley, Lisa Franklin, Constance Lopez and Diedre Bollinger.

Carl Ritchie, who is Artistic Director of Taconic Stage Company in Copake, NY, wrote the compact tuner two years ago. Ritchie is a Canadian-born playwright/director who moved from NYC to his weekend home at Copake Lake in 2002. He has a flamboyant wit and a unique eye for local color. A few years ago he was elected to a four year term on the Copake Town Board, where he also served as Police Commissioner (he quips, "My first vote as an American was for myself."). This musical sparkles with the acute wit of an insider who has witnessed the crossfire of savvy urbanites and country people upstate and lived to write about it.

Taconic Stage Company presented the piece at The Lighthouse Marina Dinner Theater on Copake Lake, NY through the summer of 2011. Peter Bergman (berkshirebrightfocus.com) wrote, "In the hands of clever wordsmith Carl Ritchie you have a blast." Gail Burns wrote in Gailsez.org, "Ritchie has written a boffo script and lyrics and the ladies deliver the goods." Marion Hunter wrote in The Columbia Paper, "This Taconic Stage audience came prepared to laugh, and they responded to everything with non-stop, unfettered enthusiasm."

Carl Ritchie (book & lyrics, director) was born in New Brunswick, Canada and began his career as a child actor. After playing Oliver in a 1000-seat venue in his hometown, he insisted--at age 11--on moving 1000 miles away to Toronto to pursue an acting career. He had his own apartment there at 14. Subsequently, after living as a teen in Burma and graduating from high school in the Himalayas, he attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Ritchie has acted, written and directed for theaters worldwide, from Rangoon to Soho. He is author of over 20 plays, which have been performed in over 100 theatres in the US, Canada and as far away as New Zealand. He has written two other musicals with Wayne Moore, "Senior Moments" (Taconic Stage, 2010) and "I Know I Came Here for Something," (Taconic Stage, 2009, Las Vegas and L.A. 2010-13). He contributed material for the widely performed British revue "Fascinating Aida" (2009-2010). His award-winning Quebec productions include the long-running "La Cousine Germaine," which ran through the summer of 2011 in a 700-seat theater east of Montreal. His comedy "Family Values" ran four months at Irish Arts Center in 1996-7, was optioned as a sitcom and is currently being performed in French in Canada as "Sacree Famille!". He polished the screenplay of "The Ladies Room," a film starring John Malkovich and Lorraine Bracco. His whodunit farce, "Any Body Home," written with Elise Dewsberry, was published by Dramatic Publishing in 1999. His last production at West Bank Cafe was a pair of one-acts, "Stoop" and "Ladder" (1993). Concurrent with this project he is workshopping a new musical in Los Angeles, "Love Bytes", as book writer, with music & lyrics by touring artist Ann McNamee and "vocal coach to the stars" Roger Love.

Wayne Moore (composer) wrote "There's No Place Like Hollywood" for Stella Adler Theater in L.A. He wrote "Senior Moments" and "I Know I Came Here for Something" with Carl Ritchie. His TV and film credits include music for HBO's cartoon "Frog and Toad are Friends," PBS' "Frontline," the film "Be Well" with Milton Berle, and two Emmy-nominated shows, "Down for the Count" and "Whatever Happened to Childhood?" He has provided specialty material for Debbie Reynolds, Michael Greer, Liz Torres, Rose Marie, Holly Woodlawn and many others. He recently worked on the musical, "I Love Lucy - Live," a hit in Los Angeles and Chicago.

All of the four actresses have one foot in NYC and one foot upstate:

Meg Dooley has appeared in plays and musicals upstate, where her credits include Bertha in "Boeing Boeing" at Theatre Barn; Mother Lord in "High Society," Mrs. Higgins in "My Fair Lady," and Sister Sophia in "The Sound of Music" at Mac-Haydn; and Sally in "Follies," Rosemary in "Picnic" and Judith Bliss in "Hay Fever" at the Ghent Playhouse. In NYC, she is a member of the Blue Hill Troupe, one of the oldest Gilbert and Sullivan societies, and a frequent participant in readings, workshop productions and cabarets. But her favorite role is the uber-bitch, Melody, in "The Real (Desperate) Housewives of Columbia County."

Constance Lopez originated the roles of Natalia Pushkin in "Pushkin-A Poet's Search for Honor" (Westbeth) and Pauline in "The Widow and the West Indian Workman" (Harlem Theater), both Off-Broadway. She is active in commercials, industrials and film. Upstate, she is the resident choreographer and co-founder of The Two of Us Productions and RARE, Inc. in Copake. She also teaches and directs children's theater, including the Seymour Smith Drama Club and a summer musical theater workshop with Debra Jo Hughes at Hudson Valley Academy of Performing Arts. Recent roles include Mother in "Ragtime" and Diana in "Next to Normal."

Lisa Franklin has appeared in "Hairspray" and "South Pacific" at Albany's Park Playhouse and "Legally Blonde," "The King and I," Meet Me in St. Louis" and "The Sound of Music" at Mac-Haydn Theatre, among others. She has also appeared in productions of Schenectady Light Opera and in "La Boheme" and "Die Fledermaus" in Wuerzburg, Germany. She holds a Master's Certificate in Opera from Conservatory of Music in Wuerzburg and a Master of Music in Opera from Binghamton University in conjunction with the Tri-Cities Opera, where she performed in "The Magic Flute," and "Lakme." In NYC, she played Velma Von Tussle in a zesty performance of "Hairspray" at FSF Theatre in Flushing. She is also a pianist.

Diedre Bollinger has appeared in straight, musical and children's theatre, improv, cabaret, choirs, litigation and police training programs, erotica readings, murder mysteries, puppetry, voice work, industrials, and films. She has an androgynous quality and has appeared in "trouser" roles as Mephistopheles in "Doctor Faustus," Marley in "A Christmas Carol," Robin in "Robin Hood," Starkey in "Peter Pan" and Off-off Broadway as Melville in "A Tanglewood Tale." Her "skirt" parts include Mrs. Martin in "The Bald Soprano," 'Senora' Satan in "Don Juan in Hell," Jessie in "'night, Mother" and Virgin Mary in "Butterfingers Angel." In Carl Ritchie's productions, she has played "skirt" parts in "Senior Moments," "I Know I Came in Here for Something" and "Grace and Glorie."

Musical Director and Pianist John Moran has over 120 productions to his credit including "Damn Yankees" with James Handy, "Mame" with Leslie Denniston, "Aida" with Trevor Eaton and "West Side Story" with Lanny Mitchell. He has toured extensively in the United States and Europe, at venues ranging from Disney Land to the American Embassy in Switzerland. He has performed with the Yale Whiffenpoofs and Harvard Crocodillos, as well as such artists as Eddie Condon, Lionel Hampton, Max Kaminsky, and Pete Seeger.

Costume design is by Joanne Maurer. Sound is by Stephen Sanborn.

The production runs tonight, March 7 through March 28, 2013, playing Thursdays only at 7:00 PM. Doors open at 6:00 PM for dinner or drinks. All performances take place at the Laurie Beechman Theatre at West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42nd Street. Presented by Taconic Stage Company. Tickets $25.00 (plus $15 drink or food minimum). Box office: Brown Paper Tickets, 800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/291419. Running time: one hour. CRITICS ARE INVITED on or after TODAY, MARCH 7.

Pictured: Constance Lopez, Meg Dooley, Diedre Bollinger, Lisa Franklin. Photo by Michael Molinski.

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