Hooray for "Parenthood"
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 • 5:39pm
It's great to see top-notch theater being performed in northern New Jersey. It’s even better if an original musical conceived, written and produced by that company makes that giant leap across the pond and starts getting critical acclaim Off Broadway.
That is exactly what has happened with Rated P… for Parenthood. The show, with book and lyrics by Sandy Rustin and directed by Jeremy Dobrish (both Maplewood residents), was originally produced by Midtown Direct Rep, a theater company run by Rustin and Dobrish and comprised of theater pros living in the South Orange/Maplewood area. MDR has been in residence at the beautiful South Orange Performing Arts Center since June 2010. Lustin describes how the concept of MDR came about:
“Ondine Landa Abramson was the Executive Director at SOPAC. She hired Jeremy Dobrish to direct a SOPAC gala in June 2010 called Small Town, Big Talent. Jeremy invited me to perform along with a bunch of other Maplewood/South Orange performers. By the end of our rehearsals, we were all looking at each other wondering why there was such a gorgeous theatre in our midst ... and no theatre being performed there?! So, that Monday, Jeremy and I met with Ondine and pitched her a resident theatre company at SOPAC comprised of local Broadway talent. She said ‘yes.’ And we were off!”
Less than two years into its existence, MDR has hit a homerun with Rated P. The show is currently playing at the Westside Theatre in midtown Manhattan and has received rave reviews. MDR has been developing quite a “rep” in the North Jersey theater community, but the success of Rated P has really put this young troupe on the map.
The genesis of Rated P took place about a year and a half ago. “Parenthood is a funny business,” Rustin says. “In 2005, when my older son was born, I took a step out of show biz for while. I wasn't interested in doing 8 shows a week any more. But my need to be creative was still quite strong, so I began to write (mostly during nap time). Any good comedy writing teacher will tell you ‘write what you know.’ So, as a new mom, I started writing about parenthood. Before I knew it, the idea for Rated P was born.” So she hooked up with a couple of composers (college friend Dan Lipton and his writing partner David Rossmer) and got to work.
“When we began the theatre company, the first draft of Rated P was not yet written,” Rustin continues. “But we had an opportunity to do a reading of a new musical at SOPAC, so Jeremy encouraged me to finish the show and do it! So... we did! Audiences responded so favorably that we decided to continue working and present a workshop presentation of the material in January 2011. Again, we had a wildly supportive response. So we raised a whole bunch of money and performed the show for 4 sold out performances over Mother's Day Weekend 2011.” The response to those performances was overwhelmingly positive, and the show opened at the Westside last month.
Rustin has drawn on her personal experience as a parent to create this show. Now, watching the success of her show, she sounds as proud as if it were one of her children. “This was truly the ‘little show makin' it to the big time’ dream!” she says. The show is also giving North Jersey theater something to be proud of. Visit Telecharge.com, call (212) 239-6200 or stop by the Westside box office at 407 W. 43rd St. to purchase tickets.
Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, is very active as a school clinician and is Artistic Director of Elefante Music & School for the Performing Arts.
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