Tag Archives: David Roth

Unsung Heroes #264

For over 60 years, Staples Players have entertained, touched and inspired audiences. Some shows are fun and funny; others, thought-provoking or  provocative.

Over the years, we’ve grown to expect spectacular quality: acting, singing, directing, choreography, sets, costumes, lighting, the pit.

We always rave about Players’ productions. But we sometimes take them for granted.

“Guys and Dolls” — the 7th time they’ve put on that musical — closed Saturday night. It built on the tradition of previous versions, and all the other successes.

But it sure wasn’t easy.

Henry Carson — the senior playing Nathan Detroit — was laid out by flu just before the show opened. Freshman Will McCrae stepped spectacularly into the breach. (His late grandfather — Jack Lemmon — would have been very proud.)

Will McCrea as Nathan Detroit, and Jackie Peterson as Adelaide. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The next day, understudies Graham Griffin (also a 9th grader) and junior Finley Chevrier took the stage, in other roles. A spot operator was also out sick.

In the week between opening and closing, nearly 2 dozen of the cast and tech crew caught whatever was going around. By the final performance, all but one had recovered. The show went on — fabulously.

But without its regular pit orchestra conductor.

Staples music teacher Carrie Mascaro was ill. Her colleague Luke Rosenberg — the school’s choral director — stepped up big time. He learned the score, then led 14 musicians in a flawless performance.

Luke Rosenberg took over as pit director last weekend. (Photo/Dan Woog)

The show must go on. And it did.

How about one more standing ovation for:

  • The understudies who got the call, and quickly responded
  • Their replacements, who had to instantly adapt too
  • The costume crew, who did incredible work before the show, then kept working as actors took on new roles
  • The tech crew, which never gets enough praise — and their creative boss, Jeff Hauser, who made sure set designer Jordan Janota’s imaginative vision was brought to life

“Rockin’ the Boat” — on the great “Guys and Dolls” set. (Photo/Kerry Long)

  • Choreographer (and expectant mom) Rachel MacIsaac Myers, whose wonderful work continued with each new actor
  • Luke Rosenberg, a true professional who stepped into the big conducting breach with virtually no notice
  • Directors David Roth and Kerry Long, who solved problem after problem, and weathered storm after storm, by modeling the show biz tradition that everyone involved will remember the rest of their lives.

“Guys and Dolls” — the 1950 show — is all about luck.

“Guys and Dolls” — Staples Players-style — had plenty of bad luck. But every person involved, on stage and off, came through a winner.

Congratulations, guys (and dolls). You’re our “06880” Unsung Heroes of the Week.

PS: Missed the show? check out the highlight reel below. It’s an easy bet: This will be the best 8 minutes you spend today.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Let us know! Email 06880blog@gmail.com)

(“06880” entertains — and, hopefully, inspires and provokes — you several times a day. To support your hyper-local blog, please click here.)

 

Lucky 7 For Staples Players’ “Guys & Dolls”

“Guys and Dolls” holds a special place in David Roth’s heart.

The Broadway classic was the very first show he staged at Staples High School, after being named Players director in 2000.

Nine years later, when he revived the show, his and co-director Kerry Long’s daughter was born on opening night — just 17 minutes after the curtain rose.

“Guys and Dolls” holds a special place for other Players directors too. It debuted in 1973; was reprised in 1983 (as a summer show), 1985 nd again in 1993.

When the curtain rises on November 11, the seventh production will make it the most popular in Staples Players history.

“Oldest Established” with the Gangster Ensemble. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“It’s such a great show!” Roth notes. “It’s got wonderful characters and great dancing. It’s funny. It’s been called ‘the best musical ever written.’ Audiences love it, and kids love working on it.”

“Guys and Dolls” is as perfect for Roth today as it was when he took Players’ reins 22 years ago. Back then he wanted to build 2 strong bases: actors and audiences.

Now — after COVID — he’s rebuilding both.

Though Roth and Long have directed “Guys and Dolls” twice before, this is an entirely new show. The set designer, technical director, choreographer and musical director are all new.

Roth says the set “is not to be believed.” Designed by Jordan Janota, and overseen by tech director Jeff Hauser, it features vintage light-up signs.

“Rockin’ the Boat” — on the great “Guys and Dolls” set. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Of course — this being high school — the cast is entirely new too. “New actors always make roles their own,” Roth explains.

The teenagers — born more than half a century after the show debuted, and not yet alive the first time Roth directed it — knew of the show, he says. But most had never seen it.

“They’ve been excited since the beginning,” he adds. “They’ve embraced these bigger-than-life characters.

“And Kerry and I are excited to expose them — and younger audiences — to a classic show like this.’

Fugue for Tinhorns with Jayden Saenz, Finley Chevrier and Sebastian Gikas

“Guys and Dolls” is 72 years old, but it always seems fresh and new. It was revived this month at Washington’s Kennedy Center, and will run next year in London.

It’s been produced 4 times on Broadway.

Seems like the Great White Way has a bit of catching up to do with Staples Players.

(“Guys and Dolls” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, November 11, 12, 18 and 19, at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on November 12, 13 and 19 at 3 p.m. Click here for tickets, and more information.)

ENCORE! Choreographer Rachel MacIsaac is about to deliver her second child. What are the odds that — like Lucy Roth — it too will be born on opening night?

(“06880” is almost as entertaining as Staples Players. Please click here to help support this blog.)

Sarah Brown (played by Madelyn Spera) and Sky Masterson (James Dobin-Smith). (Photo/Kerry Long)

209 Brothers Grimm Stories, In 60-Odd Minutes

The last time Staples Players performed in the Black Box Theater was 2019. When COVID hit, the intimate space near the large auditorium closed.

The seats have been cleaned. A set has been built. This Thursday and Friday (May 12 and 13, 7:30 p.m.), audience will laugh out loud at “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.”

David Roth and Kerry Long direct the Black Box show. Traditional fairy tales are turned on their heads in fast-paced fashion: an acting troupe tries to combine all 209 stories in a little over an hour.

Familiar tales like Snow White, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel are here. So are more bizarre, obscure ones like The Devil’s Grandmother and The Girl Without Hands.

There’s plenty of audience participation — and the audience is PG. Click here for tickets.

Drew Andrade and Mel Stanger as Hansel and Gretel, in “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

But wait! There’s more!

Playrers’ 20th annual One-Act Play Festival is set for May 28 (5 p.m., 8 p.m.) and May 29 (5 p.m.). Roth’s directing class students stage their own shows — including casting, costumes and set design — and young actors to show their stuff, in a series of 10-minute plays. Comedy, drama and more come in rat-a-tat fashion, in the Black Box theater.

This is the first One-Act Festival in 2 years.

Players’ Black Box season concludes with “At the Bottom of Lake Missoula” (June 9 and 11, 7:30 p.m.).

This Studio Theatre production, directed by seniors Chloe Manna and Chloe Nevas, is completely student-designed,

After losing her entire family in a fatal tornado, a college sophomore embarks on an unimaginable journey. To separate herself from her grief, she transfers schools and isolates herself, but her sadness and guilt over their deaths linger.

When a classmate makes an attempt at conciliation, Pam finally realizes that healing need not be a solitary endeavor.

Tickets for the One-Act Play Festival and “”Lake Missoula” will be available soon, at StaplesPlayers.com.

“Disney’s Descendants” Rises On Staples Stage

As Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long searched for a spring show that would feature plenty of actors, and engage young audiences — more important than ever, as the troupe emerges from many COVID-imposed restrictions — they did not have to look far.

Caley Beretta — a 2010 graduate and former Players president — now works as manager of creative development for Disney Theatrical Group. She worked with writer Nick Blaemire on “Disney’s Descendants: The Musical.”

The comedy features songs from the Disney Channel original “Descendants” fantasy adventure film, and its sequels. (If you don’t have a young kid: The plot lines involve the teenage children of Disney characters Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar and Cruella de Vil,)

“Descendants: The Musical” came out near the beginning of the pandemic. So it did not go through the usual pilot process, in which school drama troupes try it out, then offer feedback for producers to tweak. (Staples Players has done that before, most notably with “Newsies.”)

Beretta offered the untested show to her alma mater. Players will be the first group to use live orchestrations.

It will also be the first to host a production team from Disney. They’ll see the show, complete with an audience.

Staples Players ensemble in “Did I Mention?” (Photo/Kerry Long)

But that’s not the only connection between Disney, “Descendants” and Staples.

Last week Blaemire and Beretta came to Westport. They described the creative process to Players, answered questions, watched the actors perform 2 numbers, then worked with the cast on specific scenes.

In addition, a camera crew interviewed several Players, for Disney to use in marketing.

Caley Beretta and Nick Blaemire, on the Staples stage. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Blaemire described his parallels between the fairytale storyline, and serious social themes like belonging, heritage, citizenship, and the complexities of good and evil.

Blaemire and Baretta inspired the young cast and crew, as they prepared for the opening curtain April 1. The show runs for 7 performances, the first 2 weekends in April.

“Descendants” has been fun — and challenging — for Roth, Long, choreographer Rachel MacIsaac and technical director Jeff Hauser.

“So many times, we do plays that have been done so many times before,” Roth explains. “The chance to do one that no one has seen is rare, and exciting. We are staging scenes completely on our own. That’s very energizing.”

“The Evils.” From left: Chloe Manna, Ben Herrera, Quinn Mulvey, Jayden Saenz).(Photo: Kerry Long)

Sets, dancing and stage movements are not the only things they’re figuring out. The song “Goal” takes place during a sports event — but it’s a sport that does not exist.

Roth and Long created it entirely from scratch. Then they choreographed, and fit it on the stage.

“The kids and adults are very excited,” Roth says. “We like the story line, the music, and taking iconic villains to a new level.”

Roth praises the set too, designed by professional Jordan Janota. The show moves between 2 worlds, offering a different set of challenges to the tech crew and lighting designers.

Roth and Long’s goal was to find a show that appealed to their actors, and young audiences — both of whom have missed the rhythm of regular Players shows during COVID.

Beretta delivered, big time. Walt Disney would have loved this story.

(“Disney’s Descendants: The Musical” will be performed on April 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., and April 2, 3 and 9 at 3 p.m. Click here for tickets. Proof of vaccination and/or testing is not required. For the protection of the cast and crew, masks are encouraged in the auditorium.)

Staples Players ensemble in “Rotten to the Core.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

 

“Grease” Is The (Staples Players’) Word

David Roth and Kerry Long love “Grease.”

The Staples Players directors watch the movie often. Their high school students do too.

It evokes not just nostalgia for the 1950s — its setting — but for the 1970s too, when the classic movie was made.

The music, theme and ensemble casting make it the perfect vehicle for Players’ return to the stage. “Grease” marks the troupe’s first major mainstage show since COVID struck, just hours before the opening night of “Seussical” in March 2020.

The curtain rises this week. Roth says his actors are excited for the show — and so is the town.

“Everyone knows ‘Grease,'” Roth says. Some remember the original Broadway production; many more know the movie that followed.

“Greased Lightning” (senior Ryan Porio, center). (Photo/Kerry Long)

But — as always — Players puts their own spin on it.

“A lot of people think it’s about a girl who has to make herself look sexy, to be attractive to a boy,” Roth says. “But we delved into the history. Who were the greasers and the Pink Ladies in the ’50s? They were the forerunners of people who fought for women’s rights.”

In 1959, he says, America was “the era of ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ The traditional American home was expected to have the wife stay home looking pretty, wearing an apron while preparing a meal for her husband and children.”

However, he adds, “We feel that the greasers and, more importantly, the Pink Ladies are rebelling against this traditional mold of femininity.

“Our actors understand: Sandy doesn’t randomly end up with these people. She chooses Danny and the Pink Ladies. Somehow she finds her people, and becomes true to herself.”

The production is “really fun. It’s got all the singing and dancing everyone loves. It’s definitely PG,”: although it is not “squeaky clean.” With a large ensemble cast, many actors get a chance to shine.

“Summer Loving” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Despite the allure of “Grease,” Roth and Long were not sure if audiences would embrace a return to indoor theater.

They have. Ticket sales are brisk. The shared experience of sitting in the theater, knowing the words to every song, is alluring.

“People are anxious to get back to the real world,” Roth says.

Whether that’s the world of 2021, or the 1950s.

(“Grease” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, November 12, 13, 19 and 20, at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are set for Sunday, November 14 and Saturday, November 20 at 3 p.m.. Tickets may be purchased online here, or in the lobby 30 minutes prior to the show, if available. All audiences must provide proof of vaccine [a photo is fine] or proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours prior to the show. Arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime. Masks must be worn at all times.)

“Magic Changes” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Taber And Brittany Stage A Players’ Proposal

When Taber Onthank was a Staples High School sophomore, and Brittany Uomoleale was a freshman, they dated briefly.

Both were talented Players actors. They shared the stage in “Children of Eden,” “Urinetown,” “The Wiz,” “The Laramie Project” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Brittany Uomoleale and Taber Onthank, as Staples Players actors … (Photo/Kerry Long)

As they got older, their feelings for each other grew. Things got serious following — appropriately — “Romeo and Juliet.”

… and high school sweethearts.

But after graduation in 2008 Taber headed to the University of Miami, to study music. Brittany majored in theater at Michigan. They visited each other at school, and got together on breaks in Westport. Still, Taber says, “we lived our own college lives.”

Taber stayed in Miami to play music. Brittany headed to Los Angeles, to act. Though farther apart than ever, Brittany says, they grew closer.

Taber moved west. He now writes songs for other artists and ad agencies, and has a recording studio in Santa Monica.

Brittany (known professionally as Britt Baron) was on several seasons of “Glow”; a new Netflix horror film is due out this summer. She’s done voiceovers for video games, and much more.

Brittany and Taber live together. They have a dog together. They spent a lot of time together during COVID. They talked a bit about marriage — nothing definite though.

But a while ago, Taber bought a ring.

Taber Onthank and Brittany Uomoleale, today.

They get back east a couple of times a year, to visit family and friends. Before their most recent trip, Taber told Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long his idea: He’d like to propose to Brittany at Staples. On stage — “where it all began.”

The directors were thrilled.

Roth enlisted recently graduated seniors. Some will attend Michigan; many will study theater. The plan was for Brittany to talk to them about acting as a career. Then they’d go on stage, for a “group photo.”

Brittany — who, Taber says, is “very hard to surprise” — thought something was up. But when she walked into the Black Box Theater and saw a group of students, she launched into her talk.

The new alums — who were all in on the ruse — “nodded along as I gave advice,” Brittany says. Hey, they are really good actors.

Soon, she walked on stage. Taber was there — lit dramatically, thanks to recent grad Brandon Malin.

Taber — uncharacteristically nervous — proposed to Brittany. Players watched from the wings. One girl cried.

The proposal …

Neither Brittany nor Taber remember much. Both call it a “surreal, out-of-body experience.”

… and the aftermath. (Proposal photos/Kerry Long)

But it was also very, very special.

“I hadn’t been in that auditorium in years,” Brittany says. “Our lives in L.A. are very different from our lives then. That seems so long ago — but on stage, it seemed like nothing had changed. That’s where we did so much together, where we made so many good friends, and where Taber wrote and performed a song for me.”

The stage was also where — more than a decade ago — Long took what Brittany calls a “stunning” photo of the couple — as actors. They had not yet started dating.

During and after the proposal, Long again took photos. “We came full circle,” Brittany says.

She and Taber give great props to Roth and Long — and to the Players who helped make the proposal work.

“They were so sweet and cute,” Taber says. “They’d already graduated. They were done. But they came back on a summer day, to help with this.”

Staples Players, back in the day. Brittany Uomoleale and Taber Onthank are in front, 3rd and 4th from left. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The couple has not set a date for their wedding. They don’t even know which coast it will be on.

But that — like the rest of their lives together — is in the future. Right now, Brittany says, “I feel so lucky. Players gave me my career, my best friends, and now my fiance.”

Not to mention, a very cool proposal story. One they can re-en”act” for years.

Staples Players Return! Curtain Rises Thursday.

The big New York news: Broadway is opening up soon.

The bigger Westport news: Staples Players are opening up sooner.

The nationally renowned theater troupe takes to the stage next week — Thursday through Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 — for a series of hilarious mini-plays by David Ives.

It’s their first time in front of a Staples audience since “Mamma Mia!” in the fall of 2019. COVID canceled “Seussical” a day before its spring opening last year. Gone too were a summer show, fall mainstage, various Black Box productions, and 2 years’ 1-Act Festivals.

The actors and tech crew kept sharp with 7 creative, well-received radio shows. But they were itching to perform a live audience.

And those live audiences can’t wait to have them back.

The production is called “Words Words Words … and Music.” Director David Roth describes Ives’ 7 short plays — and 2 other mini-musicals, plus additional musical numbers (with live musicians) — as “a little bit wacky. It’s like watching ‘Saturday Night Live,’ if every sketch worked.”

From left: Camille Foisie, Colin Konstanty, Samantha Webster and David Corro in “The Almost In-Laws.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

How wacky?

Remember the idea that 3 monkeys typing into infinity will eventually produce “Hamlet”? Ives imagines the monkeys talking at their typewriters.

One play follows 2 people in a conversational minefield. An offstage bell interrupts every false start, gaffe and faux pas — but the actors can’t hear it.

In one of the musicals, a man introduces his fiancée to his parents, who are … elves.

You get the idea.

Chloe Manna and Ben Herrera talk things out. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Roth and co-director Kerry Long had seen the plays before. They’d wanted to produce them for a while. This is the perfect opportunity.

Every senior — the veteran actors who missed out on so much — has a moment to shine. Familiar faces include Jamie Mann (fresh off his Netflix “Country Comfort” appearance), Camille Foisie and Samantha Webster (stars of “Mamma Mia!”), Sophie Rossman and David Corro.

They stayed active — and stretched their creativity — with Players’ radio plays. But they (and their directors) are thrilled to be back on stage.

“The kids are ecstatic. Every step — auditions, read-throughs, tech week — has been like old times,” Roth says. “They got back into the routine very quickly.”

Sophie Rossman, Benny Zack and Samantha Webster take their star turns. (Photo/Kerry Long)

All COVID protocols are being followed. Actors wear special masks, with clear plastic that allows their mouths to be seen.

Rehearsals take place in small groups. Three-quarters of the cast is fully vaccinated.

Only 300 tickets — less than 1/3 of the auditorium’s capacity of 960 — are being sold for each performance. There will be empty rows between each one with people; empty seats separate each pod of ticket-buyers. Every armrest is wiped down between shows.

A number of Players will pursue theater in college. They’ve already learned their most important lesson: The show must go on.

(“Words Words Words … and Music”) will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and May 22 at 2 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information.)

 

Players’ Next Radio Show Will Be “Marvelous”

For over 60 years, directors and upperclassmen have passed Staples Players’ traditions and lore on to underclassmen.

After all, they — including directors David Roth and Kerry Long — were once freshmen and sophomores too.

This year, COVID did more than cancel mainstage, Black Box studio and One-Act  performances. The pandemic also jeopardized those cultural connections.

The nationally renowned troupe adapted to the loss of live theater, with a series of radio shows. They’ve produced 7 — musicals, comedies, thrillers — to great acclaim.

Most of the roles went, naturally, to juniors and seniors. Because the casts were smaller than major shows, underclassmen missed the chance to get a foot on Players’ impressive ladder to the stars.

Roth and Long also missed something: the chance to get to know a new generation of students. For the past year, Roth — who teaches theater at the high school — says that all he sees in class are “kids with masks, or in little boxes on my laptop.”

Providentially, as the directors discussed doing a radio show for 9th and 10th graders only, they found the perfect vehicle.

Roth and Long run a 6,000-member Facebook group for theater educator worldwide. A woman from Australia posted a play she’d written: “The Marvelous Mellow Melodrama of the Marriage of the Mislaid Minor.”

“It’s one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read,” Roth says. “No one’s ever heard of it. But it’s a fantastic send-up of over-the-top dramas.”

It airs this Friday (March 26, 7 p.m.). Audiences worldwide — including the playwright in Australia — can hear it on wwptfm.org.

The “Marvelous” cast of freshmen and sophomores. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Students sent audition tapes. The cast of 24 — the largest by far for a Staples radio show — jumped quickly into the project. They’ve been aided by Jasper Burke, a senior who is a superb dialect coach, teaching every accent from upper-class British to Irish to Cockney.

The directors added 10 more actors. They’ll produce classic radio commercials.

Roth and Long have gotten to know the underclassmen well. Five assistant directors — all seniors — pass along Players’ traditions and rituals, just as they would during a mainstage.

As with other Players radio shows, all actors will be fully costumed.

You won’t see those costumes, when you click on wwptfm.org this Friday. But for the next 3 years, you’ll see those freshman and sophomore actors grow on the Staples stage.

And then they’ll pass all they’ve learned as Players on to the generation that follows.


Ben Herrera and James Dobin- Smith fight for the heart of Quinn Mulvey (in red), as father, Henry Carson, tries to save the day. (Photo/Kerry Long)

 

 

“Little Women”: Big Players’ Radio Show

Who doesn’t love Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — the “Little Women” of Louisa May Alcott’s bestseller?

Now you — and the next generation of fans — can love them the new old-fashioned way: through Staples Players’ radio theater.

The high school’s groundbreaking drama troupe performs “Little Women” this Sunday (February 28, 6 p.m.). It’s free via livestream, at www.wwptfm.org.

The musical is followed immediately by a repeat airing of Players’ previous radio drama, the riveting 23-minute thriller “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

The “Little Women” cast. Front row (left to right): Claire Baylis, Samantha Webster, Maizy Boosin, Chloe Manna, Lulu Dalzell. Rear: David Corro, Alex Watzman, Colin Konstanty, Anushka Rao, Lene Pantzos, Camille Foisie. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“(Co-director David Roth) and I both love Little Women,” says co-director Kerry Long.

“It’s such a warm, feel-good story. But it also has some wonderful characters that were really contemporary before their day. We are so pleased that the success of the recent movie version made this story popular with our students; they love exploring these characters.”

She notes that though many people are familiar with both the book and the movie, no one has heard “Little Women” on the radio.

Roth appreciates that the show explores themes of familial loyalty, at a time of increased family togetherness.

Senior Samantha Webster (Jo) says, “The March family sticks together through hardship and personal exploration. The siblings go off at times to find their own passions and create their own lives, but they are always connected to home. It really demonstrates the strength of familial love and the bond it creates. I also think it is such a beloved story because the relationships as they are portrayed in the script feel very genuine.”

Webster relishes playing Jo. “She is such a classic character that she has been interpreted and re-interpreted a thousand times. It’s been fun discovering how her attitude fits within my own and creating the character from my perspective. She has a wonderful strength and boldness, and I understand how that leads her to sometimes be stubborn and impulsive. I’ve tried to pay particular attention to both her strengths and faults as both are fairly integral to how Jo behaves.”

Samantha Webster and Colin Konstanty rehearse. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Senior Claire Baylis describes her character, Meg, as a fun role to play because of the many complex layers hidden beneath the surface of her personality. “On the surface, she is the responsible older sister who never takes risks and strives to live a very normal life, but at her core, she loves passionately, fights for her family and loved ones, and sacrifices her childhood so that she can take care of her younger sisters. Her role is challenging in particular because on top of all that, she narrates the entire show. I think audiences will love how relatable each character is, no matter which they identify with. It is a beautiful story about life and what really matters when living it.”

Junior Colin Konstanty, who plays Laurie, says he has “a very interesting personality, which comes out a lot when he’s younger and changes as the play goes on. Because this play takes place over many years, it was tough early on to figure out how Laurie changes and grows as a person. He is also a very complex person and there’s so much to explore. It is a role I will always remember.”

“‘Little Women’ is a wonderful show that people of all ages can relate to. Although it takes place in the 19th century, it has many themes and valuable lessons that are relevant to society today.”

(The run time for “Little Women” is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Music director is Don Rickenback. Click here for the livestream link.)

 

Staples Players: Sorry, Wrong Number!

During the pandemic, we’ve all done a lot of listening.

Podcasts have boomed. Audiobook sales soared.

And — as Staples Players have discovered — there is a huge audience for old-time radio broadcasts.

The nationally recognized drama troupe pivoted last fall to radio shows. Produced virtually on Sunday evenings, they were a surprise — and welcome — addition to our vastly curtailed entertainment calendars.

This spring — the 3rd season in a row without a mainstage production — Players is back on the internet. Four shows are planned, starting next Sunday. It’s time to gather round the radio — well, the laptop — for sure.

The series kicks with “Sorry, Wrong Number” this Sunday (February 7, 5 p.m. — — yes, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl).

Orson Welles called 23-minute thriller  “the greatest radio script ever written.” A woman accidentally overhears a phone conversation about a planned murder. Terror followa quickly, as the plot unfolds in real time.

Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long wanted variety in their 4 shows. They sure have it.

“Little Women” (February 28, 6 p.m.) and “Dracula” (March 14, 6 p.m.) follow. The series concludes with “The Marvelous Mellow Melodrama of the Manager of the Mislaid Manor” (March 26, 7 p.m.), a madcap comedy that will be Players’ first-ever freshman and sophomore-only production, of any kind.

Roth and Long — and their actors and tech crews — love the radio show format. The cast is not tied down to one character for 3 months. They can create multiple personalities — with diverse accents and back stories, and grow rapidly as performers.

Sophie Rossman stars as the woman who overhears a murder plot in “Sorry, Wrong Number.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Musicians and sound effects people have plenty to do. So do costumers, hair and makeup designers, who create special looks for the actors. They’re never seen by audiences, but they help each cast member get into his or her role.

The radio shows are intended to be performed in the Black Box theater — with social distancing, of course. But in the event of a sudden quarantine (as happened last fall), the show can be done entirely remotely.

Each performance is available on www.wwptfm.org. They are not aired on the radio station itself, due to FCC restrictions on commercials. (Highlights of each show include clever Player-produced ads for local businesses.)

Audiences appreciate the format. “People listened lots of different ways last fall,” Roth says. “Some tuned in during dinner. Some turned off the lights, built a fire and listened that way.” The length of the shows — from 23 to no more than 75 minutes — lends itself to those kinds of rituals.

The Super Bowl — this is number LV — is a relatively new American ritual. Decades earlier, Americans gathered around the radio in another communal radio.

Thanks to our new pandemic normal — and Staples Players — we can all do that again.