Review, Theater Pizzazz
“There is a collection of talent downtown on the East Side that is well worth a visit. Your destination is the Theater for the New City, on First Avenue at 10th Street. The attraction is a new musical titled “The Folk Singer.”
One element of the talent lies behind the scenes: the musical’s writers: Tom Attea (book and lyrics) and music (composed by Arthur Abrams). Their contemporary story focuses on a group of young folk singers who — inspired by the relevant songs that were created and made popular decades ago by such singer/writers as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan — decide to mount their own folk-song festival to spotlight up-to-date concerns.
Says Attea: “I wanted to create a work that would comment on today’s times, using new folk songs with contemporary substance.” Directing “The Folk Singer,” including its musical show-within-a -show, is Mark Marcante.
The performance begins in a small café, where five young folksingers decide to create their own new songs and perform them. As they prepare, the walls of the café part to reveal a raised stage representing a park bandstand, where their performances – augmented with a fine four-piece band – then take place. As the principals sing, images representing the subjects of the songs appear on a screen above the stage, enhancing the power of the lyrics. For several numbers as well, the cast’s own performances are projected overhead, for added intimacy with the singers….
The cast is a talented group. They are Mary Adams, Matthew Angel, Larry Fleishman, Olivia A. Griffin, Micha Lazare, Andy Striph and Nick McGuinnness. The park band consists of Arthur Abrams on piano, Ralph Hamperian on bass, Art Lilliard on drums, and, on lilting violin, Susan Mitchel.” — Peter Haas, Theater Pizzazz
THE FOLK SINGER tells a story of a young musician who wants to write songs as relevant today as those of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were in their heyday. Working with like-minded local musicians, he and the others compose new songs and stage a folk festival for the 21st century, with the hope of reaching a wider audience through social media.
“I wrote the book and lyrics to THE FOLK SINGER in order to create a character-based work for the theater that would comment on today’s times,” explains Tom Attea. “I believe that, given the severity of the problems in America and around the world, new folk songs would be expected to have a greater presence than they do. The centerpiece of the show, ”A Folk Festival for Today,” provided the occasion to write lyrics with contemporary substance.”
Set design is by Mark Marcante, with lighting design by Alexander Bartienieff, sound design by Alex Santullo, and prop design is by Lytza Colon. Danielle Hauser is the assistant director.
Tom Attea (book and lyrics) has written thirteen other produced shows, beginning with Brief Chronicles of the Time, which was presented as a showcase by The Actors Studio, where he was a member of The Playwrights Unit for 10 years. Since then, he has written the book and lyrics for ten musicals and two plays that have been presented by Theater for the New City. Tom received a TNC/Jerome Foundation emerging playwright grant and is a member of The Dramatists Guild.
Arthur Abrams (composer) began his frequent collaboration with Tom Attea at The Actors Studio, while working with director Charles Friedman on the revue Brief Chronicles of the Time. His last two collaborations with Tom were the musicals An American Worker and Heather Smiley for President. A ballet score by Abrams, The Velveteen Rabbit, was given its first performance in July of 2016, at the Hartt School of the University of Hartford. Abrams also composed and directed music for the Yiddish Theater documentary film, “The Golden Age of Second Avenue,” often shown on Public TV. He has been honored with numerous awards, including a DAAD music fellowship to Mannheim, Germany, a scholarship to the Orff Institute at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and a “Meet the Composer” grant for the score of The Golden Bear. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
Mark Marcante (director) has directed Rizzante Returns From The War, Benny’s Barber Shop, Promises Best Kept, British Music Hall, Strangely Wonderful and One Director Against His Cast, written by Crystal Field, which premiered in Italy. He worked and toured with The People’s Theater Company, Theater East and The Guthsville Playhouse. Mr. Marcante was the theatrical and technical consultant for the Arts Connection. He is a graduate of Kutztown University, studied and performed Commedia Dell’arte with Alessandro Bressanello and Michael Conenna from the T.A.G Theatre of Venice. This is his twelfth collaboration with Tom Attea and Arthur Abrams.
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