Live theatre is all about risk. It's in the moment. If a line is missed or a flub occurs in motion picture filming, no big deal; a re-do. In live theatre, however, actors lay it all out there. That's what makes it so exhilarating...and important.
Producer / director Jeff Santoro of the Delaware All State Theatre has led such a life over decades of performing. Three years ago he left the comfortable and nurturing nest of Delaware Children's Theatre and its iconic director Marie Swajeski to strike out on his own and create his own signature.
Jeff and co-producer Deb Johnson 'parented' the organization to give elementary, middle, and high school theatre "geeks" the unique opportunity work on a large-scale musical production in partnership with the world famous DuPont Theatre. Full-time students (up to age 19) from across Delaware and the immediate surrounding area are eligible to participate either as a performer or behind the scenes in a technical capacity.
The first show, “Les Mis” was a slam dunk and huge hit; every child with a voice and Broadway aspirations yearned to be in that cast. The audience could not believe that caliber of performance came from school aged kids. Last year's “West Side Story”, an American classic, drew critical raves. One performer closed that show and his next gig was in the chorus of the Broadway revival of “Bye Bye Birdie”.
So, gentle readers, Aisle Say urges you to support this year's production of the multiple Tony award winner with the unsettling, wince-inducing title, “Urinetown”.
Dismiss the title from your mind. It is irrelevant to the hysterical comedy and melodic tunes that will unfold in front of you.
And now we return to risk management. Santoro knew what he was getting into with the choice of the show. Why, you ask? Why not the safe “Sound of Music” or “Annie'?
Santoro knows that live theatre is about challenge. There is oppressive financial risk as well. In magnum opus understatement, the director says “It's very different from our previous productions” he says. “No serious music or themes. It's a comedy. Something we haven't tried ever, which is definitely a challenge for the student performers. Doing comedy well is an art form, and I am excited to say that the kids and teens are doing a brilliant job and will deliver lots of laughs!”
“Urinetown” was conceived by writer Greg Kotis, when as a poor student traveling in Europe, he encountered a pay-per-use toilet; funny in itself. It's a satirical musical comedy, taking on the legal system, capitalism, social responsibility, politics and bureaucracy...all issues Americans rail about today.
Aisle Say attended a rehearsal last week. I have a bit of knowledge and experience in this arena and can state he has the most accomplished band of talented kids I've ever witnessed.
They come from all over. The numbers from Cab Calloway lead the list but Brandywine High, Mt. Pleasant, McKean, Sallies, Padua, Tatnall, Sanford and a half dozen other schools are represented.
Kudos to DuPont Co for partnering in Jeff Santoro's vision.
Only 4 performances. June 18-26. For tickets DuPontTheatre.com 302.656.4401