Staples Players: The Marvin Hamlisch/Maria Friedman Connection

In 2013, a woman spotted signs for Staples Players’ upcoming production: “A Chorus Line.” She’d never seen the acclaimed show, and called a friend suggesting they go together.

The friend called the high school box office. It was sold out.

Well, she said, if any tickets come up, please let me know. She left her name: Terre Blair.

She should have used her full name: Terre Blair Hamlisch. As the widow of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of the 1975 Broadway musical, Players could have found her 2 seats.

Fortunately, Terre and her friend got tickets. She had seen plenty of productions of her late husband’s show. She expected to see these high school students put on a high school show.

Instead, she says, “I felt like Dorothy in Oz. Everyone — the actors, the dancers, the pit orchestra, the directors — was so talented. It blew me away. It was as good as any regional troupe I’d seen.”

Staples Players’  “A Chorus Line,” in 2013. (Photo by Kerry Long)

She was so impressed that at the end of the production, she walked — without telling directors David Roth and Kerry Long — onto the stage. She introduced herself, and said she was producing a birthday celebration for her late husband in New York, with Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey and Donna McKechnie.

Then she invited Players to join her there.

The young actors jumped up and down.

Terre realized they thought they’d be part of the audience.

No no no! she clarified. “I want you to perform there.”

Three months later, Staples Players were on stage at the Hudson Theater. “They brought the house down,” Terre recalls. You can read all about that day here.

Joel Grey poses with the Staples Players cast and directors. (Photo by Kerry Long)

But that’s not the end of this story.

These days, Terre is helping organize a benefit concert for Orchestra Lumos (formerly the Stamford Symphony). The September 24 event stars Maria Friedman. The English actor and director will recall her work with 3 of the greatest composers of all time: Stephen Sondheim, Michel Legrand and (of course) Marvin Hamlisch.

The music director is the electrifying Todd Ellison. His Broadway conducting, composing and arranging credits include “La Cage aux Folles,” “Spamalot,” “42nd Street, “How to Succeed …” (and many more).

Also on stage: Current and former Staples Players.

“These are incredibly talented kids,” Ellison says of the Players troupe. “And the people devoted to these kids are making sure they get the best of the best.”

Staples Players prepare for the September 24 benefit. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Vocalists are Ross Lekites (“The Tina Turner Musical”), Lewis Cleale (“The Book of Mormon”) — and Staples Players alums Camille Foisie and Nick Rossi.

Friedman is working with the current Players, before their appearance.

“She’s bringing them into the fold,” Terre notes. “Lumos is all about community, and keeping the symphony world alive. The kids understand that community.

“This benefit concert is now in the hands of the next generation. They’ll help pass along the wonders of Sondheim, Legrand and Marvin Hamlisch.”

All proceeds from the September 24 Maria Friedman benefit go to the Lumos Education Fund, to help schools that lack music programs.

“As music and theater programs are being cut, look at what Staples has,” Terre says.

“We are so lucky to have it, and have it supported the way it is. Culture and the arts are not a luxury. They’re necessary, for all ages.”

And Staples Players are lucky that when Terre Blair Hamlisch called seeking 2 tickets to “A Chorus Line” nearly a decade ago, they found them for her.

(“Orchestra Lumos Presents Maria Friedman in Concert” is set for September 24, 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theater in Stamford. Click here for tickets and more information.)

(“06880” reports on all things artistic, cultural and Staples-related — among everything else. Please click here to support this blog.)

3 responses to “Staples Players: The Marvin Hamlisch/Maria Friedman Connection

  1. Wonderful story. I’m working closely with Maria’s sister, the legendary producer Sonia Friedman, on Tom Stoppard’s new Broadway play Leopoldstadt, first performance tonight – I recommend everyone go see this incredible play. I’m also working on Maria’s production of Merrily We Roll Along, coming to NYC later this year. And I’ll be going to the concert and can’t wait to see the Staples kids! Best, Tg

  2. Feel fortunate for how Terre Blair Hamlisch and Maria Friedman support the arts in general, and this event alongside the talents of Todd Ellison, Ross Lekites and Lewis Cleale.

    Maria Friedman has eight Olivier Award nominations covering a wide range of accomplishments, including for acting in a half dozen roles and her sublime direction of Merrily We Roll Along in 2013. She is directing a limited engagement of “Merrily” in December and January that stars Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez.

  3. 2 things : 1. I saw that Staples Players “A Chorus Line” and it blew me away too. One of their very best productions in a long line of outstanding shows . And I saw the original too , in 1984, with McKecknie, Lopez, all of them. Our production brought tears to my eyes.
    2. Today Maria Friedman will be live, on my radio show , on AM 600 , 107.3 FM or at 10:30 AM, to talk about this upcoming concert. I’m looking forward to chatting with her and invite you to tune in.
    Dan, I don’t know how you know everything , but you do. Thx for all you do to inform us. Lisa