Finally: “The Producers” hits the NFCT stage

Pictured above: Dance rehearsals for “The Producers” were underway on April 19.

As the world shut down in March 2020, the North Fork Community Theater geared up for a long-held dream – a production of Mel Brooks’ ridiculously elaborate musical “The Producers.”

It had taken a long time for the theater company to secure the rights to perform the play, but live theater was on the banned list at the height of the pandemic.

After two years of thinking just two weeks into the future – maybe we’ll reopen in two weeks, then another two weeks, then another, then planning smaller drama productions that were less likely to fill the house – the theater is now set to open its doors on May 12 for its first musical production since before the world turned upside down.

And this show, bets director Mary Motto Kalich, is the perfect antidote to the stress of these trying times.

“The Producers,” based on the 1967 film of the same name, is the story of a broke Broadway producer whose new accountant convinces him to find investors for a production that is guaranteed to fail, enabling him to keep the money he’d raised. But they don’t quite get what they expected with their show, a cartoon of Nazis called “Springtime for Hitler.”

“It’s a buddy comedy. It’s almost their love story,” Ms. Kalich said during a recent choreography rehearsal as the Mattituck theater room filled with tap dancing. “It’s ridiculous, silly, fun and joyful. We all need it. Presales are higher and earlier than ever. That’s the power of this show. It’s almost never done, because it’s a behemoth.

With 26 actors playing an average of about five other supporting roles, 150 props to follow, and costumes so elaborate that an ensemble member has nine costume changes, chaos was controlled in the theater three weeks from the evening of opening. But everyone seemed happy to be there.

“We have a strong team that is dedicated to taking full ownership of their share,” said Ms. Kalich. That team includes choreographer Alyssa Kelly, prop master Stephen Ness, who has been ready for this production “since the dawn of time,” said Ms. Kalich, Vanessa Price’s costume designer, stage manager Rowland Hautsch and musical director Dina Mondello.

Mike Hipp, a frequent NFCT stage presence who also did the set design for this show, will play Leo, the accountant played by Gene Wilder in the film, while Nick Motlenski plays producer Max, the film’s Zero Mostel character.

This production was originally cast in March 2020, just before the first Covid shutdown, which forced the actors into online rehearsals, where they did their best to learn the dance steps and songs and started performing. their replies. But it was not to be.

While many actors return, some, like Mr. Motlenski, are new to the cast.

“It’s the role of a lifetime,” said Ms. Kalich. “He had a previous commitment two years ago, but now he can play the part.”

Julia Cappiello was an 18-year-old freshman when she was cast as Ulla, the Swedish actress the duo hire as their secretary to help them run the production.

“I feel more confident in the role,” she said as she prepared to take the stage for dance rehearsal. “Two years ago, we kept saying, well at least we’ll know the songs…at least we’ll have done the blocking” for the show that never happened.

But Ms. Cappiello has made the most of the pandemic, getting involved in every drama production the theater has put on over the past two years, even directing a virtual production of “Clue” with a cast of actors from around the world. of university age returning from school without a theater outlet for their talents.

Associate producers Michael and Emilie Corey, longtime supporters of the theater, will serve as guest producers for the opening night, May 12.

In keeping with the spirit of community theatre, each performance will have a guest producer from among community leaders, who will play the role of prison guards.

On opening night, Thursday, May 12, Michael and Emilie Corey of The Corey Foundation, longtime benefactors of the theater and actual associate producers of this show, will do the honors as guest producers.

“They helped launch this show because a show like this is not in our budget,” Ms. Kalich said.

Other guest producers include CAST Executive Director Kathy Demeroto, Paul Romanelli of Suffolk Security and the Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation, Jeff Strong of Strong’s Marine, Long Island Wine Council Chairman and Paumanok Vineyard and Palmer Vineyards Kareem Massoud , Lori Cohen of North Fork Women, Jill Schroeder of JABS, Amy Loeb, CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center, and Stacey Soloviev.

“They come from all parts of the community and all different networks, and they’re all excited to be on stage for two minutes,” Ms. Kalich said. “Theatre is about involving the community. They have to come here and put on a costume and rehearse their lines. It helps us build community.

The theater, which underwent a major overhaul of its basement rehearsal space, orchestra pit, lighting and stage just before the pandemic, is currently working on an auditorium redesign campaign. Renovations to the downstairs bathrooms are currently underway.

The theater has a $100,000 donation right now.

During a recent rehearsal of “The Producers” |. photo courtesy of Mary Motto Kalich

“The next level is aesthetics,” Ms. Kalich said. “The seats were old from Westhampton Air Force Base – they were done with them in 1982. We have volunteers who tighten the bolts on them every week.”

Volunteers are currently sprucing up the theatre, sanding and touching up paint in anticipation of the community returning to their theater this year, and a plan is underway to renovate the lobby area where spectators enter. theater.

The theater’s annual Building on Tradition gala will take place on Saturday, June 11 at Veteran’s Beach in Mattituck, with a matinee and evening session. The members of Youth on Stage will present a review of some highlights of their work, ahead of their summer production of “Rent,” which begins July 21.

“We sell tickets to pay for the shows, and then we fundraise for the building,” Ms. Kalich said. “The pandemic has been a difficult time to start fundraising. Art is very important and necessary, but not at the same level as what happened in the last two years.

“The Producers” opens Thursday, May 12 and runs through Sunday, May 29, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available online at nfct.com or by calling the box office at 631.298.6328.

—BHY

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