Looking Back on the Spring Tonic May 8-9, 2009
(This message is prepared for your review if you were there, for your information if you had to miss, and as a historical record of the great things going on each week with Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter members. —Ye Ed.)
The Tonic was Friday May 8th at 8 pm and Saturday May 9th at 2 and 8 pm in the Annandale High School Auditorium. This was a new venue for the show. Stage was a little small and the big chorus and great set “filled” it. The guys report it was a “live” stage tho for singing.
“A Harmonizer on Broadway” was sort of a take off on many musicals from the theater world – a novice arrives in NYC and is lost and gawking at the tall buildings and is shocked by the unusual people, but is befriended by a nice cab driver and even the Mob guys make him a success.
Ken White was the “star” and sang and danced his way into the hearts of the audiences at all three shows. The Indian taxi driver was Troy Hillier, recast from earlier Tonics with his accent and humor. The mob “Don” was played by Gary Mankin who did a great job. He was always accompanied by his body guards Scipio Garling and Rick Wagner – and was always announced on the stage by soft violin music. It was a good gag that got laughs all weekend. Chris Huber was “singing Vinny, the Producer” who took orders from the Don. Ben Nelson made his theatrical debut with this show as the Young Tough Guy both in the opening scene and later with dialogue in the second scene.
Background things like the violin music and the intro to two or three numbers were a great addition. One song, prerecorded by the chorus was a reprise of “One” from “Chorus Line” as done by the great Harmonizer front row with top hats and all the foot work. And the prerecorded intro set up for “Music of the Night” was one we have used a lot over the years.
The show stopper might have been the return of “New York, New York” with the front row chorus line routine. It got a standing ovation each nite – even Friday nite’s audience was yelling and cheering all evening long. And you gotta mention the great performance of “Summertime” on the Saturday nite show!
Ken Fess and Mick Stamps worked hard as co-producers for this one. And they have been at it for months. They also were stage managers and had as stagehands the help of Joe Cerutti Sr. and a group of guys from the Manhattan Chapter, who came down for the weekend to support us. Cool.
The script was from Scipio Garling and Noah Van Gilder. The show program too. It was designed as a folded subway brochure. No ad sales. Lots of color.
There was a lot of quartet singing on this show. It was the swan song for BACHELOR PARTY – Fasano, G. Tepe, Rub, Reynolds. The chapter gave them a rousing Standing O at the afterglow after they sang a Cole Porter medley (arranged by John Hohl) they had learned.
CRUNCH TIME, with our Eric Wallen on bass, was hot and sounded like they are working for their run at the International contest this summer. Both FRiDAYS! (Spriggs, Caldwell, Ives, S. Murane) and DOWNTOWN (Fuller, Fedarko, Stoll, Flynn) have Harmonizers in the quartet and sang on the show as did FOUR MAN VOCAL BAND, an all Harmo quartet that has been around for years (tho we don’t get to hear Lazear, Bates, Walker, Cureton very often). They did the Victor Borge “phonetic punctuation” bit and got a bunch of laughs on the show.
Our guest quartet was BIGTIME! from the Big Apple Chorus. They are noted for their “mob or gang” routines – and so they fit right into this year’s Tonic script. CAMERON STATION sang in the show to help tell the story and won the audience each time.
The set was pretty neat this year – some fun street scene additions like the newspaper stand, the manhole construction fence, the entry on each side of the stage to parts of the NY Subway, a rolling hot dog stand, a taxi stand, and even a taxi to drive around stage. The taxi was huge on the little stage and got some laughs as it was moved around. The set for songs from “Music Man” was neat too and featured both BACHELOR PARTY (who did some of the songs they had done recently in their appearances in DC) and the librarian, played by Gayle Connelly. Dennis Ritchey did a majority of the set construction. Bill Stewart did the news stand and helped a lot with props. Producer Fess himself built several items including the porch for the librarian’s solo.
The audience side of the show had some new wrinkles too – guys from Big Apple were dressed in their chorus uniforms and were at the front door welcoming everyone. I saw several signs around town posted by the chapter team. The FRIENDS of HARMONY raffled a quilt made by Kim Fess and several cookie arrangements made by Tom Hutton’s sister. President Sandy Stamps and her helpers awarded the prizes at intermission from the stage. The FRIENDS were also the ushers for this new auditorium.
Back stage there were dressing rooms for the show principals and each quartet got a room. Pretty classy! No snacks this year – just water – because of school rules. That is why FRIENDS group could not sell refreshments at intermission. (Ye Ed hears that there were a lot of guys following CAPS games when they were not on stage.) Chorus manager Klostermeyer kept all in line.
As usual, there were old friends in the audience that we don’t see often like Connie Sanders and Bill Heyer. Ben Horen came to cheer for his tap dance student, Ken! Some former members popped up like John Stauffer with his family, en route to TX for a new military assignment. And Warren Fieffer who lives in VA but a long way from Alexandria. Dick Weick was in the front row – good to see him out and about.
There was a traditional Afterglow on Saturday nite at a pizza buffet place on Rte. 236. Lots of food and a full house. By midnite, everyone had their food and drinks and were ready for the quartets to do a song or three. Sam McFarland was mc for this event. Mike Schwartz was organizer. It was one of the largest afterglows in years with close to 150 attending. (There was not the traditional cast gathering on Friday nite after that performance.)
Gotta give credit to the sales force and marketing guys for the show headed by Dean Rust as business manager and assisted by Scipio Garling and John Pence. The chapter used a lot of new things like Facebook and 4-color posters and postcards to promote. The crew worked hard at going to other chapters, other Alexandria musical groups and set up a sales table the at the recent barbershop prelims contest in Reston. Dean Rust put up the signs we saw all around town along the roads!
The center section was pretty much sold out for Friday and Saturday nites but there was room for more in the balcony and side seating areas. Steve Murane was ticket coordinator. Terry Jordan worked at the will call desk at all shows. And the Kauffmanns and Martin Banks helped staff the ticket table too. Bill DePuy was house manager. Joel Golden helped too.
As mentioned above the show had a lot technical details, so Scott Kahler and Dixie Kennett earned their pay for designing the sound and lighting. Ian Poulin helped Scott too and students from the school worked both lights and sound for our team.
Gotta mention some of the costumes guys found to use in the street scene – Kauffmann was the cop giving Ritchey, the bum, a jab with a nite stick to keep moving, Kelly on roller blades as he directed a song, Cameron selling Krispie Kremes, Schwartz playing a violin, some businessmen, some joggers, some construction workers, some military guys and a bunch of sports enthusiasts. There was no priest and no cowboy tho!
A highlight of the show had to be the great singing by the chorus with full stage presence routines on a lot of numbers. Chuck McKeever, Gary Plaag and Terry Reynolds were instrumental is getting the visual package done and rehearsed. The body thrusts in the tag of “Mr. Cellophane” were a hit. Each of the assistant directors had a song to do – Will Cox, Tony Colosimo, Chuck Hunter, Mike Kelly. Director Joe kept it all flowing and knew when to press for more during the weeks of rehearsal leading up to the show. The integration of the Ken White’s solos with the chorus singing was well done. And the interp and special inflections made the music clear and believable. (Neat that Ken’s parents came down for the Saturday nite show. His dad, Whitey, as they call him in his Pittsfield, MA, barbershop chapter, got Ken into barbershop as a kid.)
Until next time – editorjack!