The Peninsula Players campus has been hopping the past few weeks. While the thrilling mystery, “Miss Holmes,” has been enthralling audiences at night, the rehearsal hall has been bouncing with the rhythmic sounds of tap shoes making a merry beat during the day.
The arrival of 10 new company members has our cooks Deb Lambert and Justin Pahnturat thumbing through their recipe books. With all sincerity, thank you both very, very much!
The tasty nourishment they provide our actors, carpenters, dancers, designers, interns, managers, singers and staff not only keep our creative energies up – but also gives the company an opportunity to gather around the table. These meals offer a feeling of comraderie which many co-workers never get to experience. It is one of the many things company members find so special about working at Peninsula Players.
Company members also list among their joys; our annual Christmas in July celebration, the bliss of working in a naturally serene location, the excitement of collaborating with the other talented artists and the annual PITH tournament.
PITH is a game involving teams of two competing to see who can toss 11 rocks into the center hole of a wooden spool first while rotating chairs when the score is divisible by three. PITH is a serious and gentlepersons sport. We sing the national anthem prior to the championship match and the winning team has their names added to the trophy that rests on the mantel of the lodge’s fireplace.
Partaking in these traditions are the production and administrative staff as well as the casts of “Miss Holmes,” which closed July 22, and the cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” New to the Players this season are actors Joe Capstick, James Harms, Drew Humphrey, Meghan Murphy, Mary Nickson, Erin Parker, Jason Richards, Erica Stephan and Dena DiGiacinto. They join Sean Fortunato, Karl Hamilton, Dan Klarer, Tim Monsion, Barbara Robertson, Elizabeth Haley, Greg Vinkler, music director Valerie Maze and director/choreographer Matt Crowle.
This is Matt’s second season with the Players. He directed last year’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” and will make his stage debut portraying Robert, a ghostwriter in the forthcoming comedy, “Living on Love.” Matt is a seasoned singer, dancer, actor, director and choreographer. He has been awarded Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award for the Best Choreography for “Crazy for You” and for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as Hysterium in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Matt and I got to chatting the other day about “The Drowsy Chaperone,” or as he called it “A love letter to the Golden Age of musical comedy.” What follows is our conversation:
Q. The main character of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a huge musical theater fan. What are some of your favorite musicals and why?
A. Actually, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve wanted to work on this show for years. It’s so creative, and hilarious, and the ‘20s style is my favorite era in which to work. I’d also have to say a favorite show of mine is “The Music Man.” That music and story gets me every time.
Q. What do you find fascinating about the time period of “The Drowsy Chaperone?”
I’m so enamored by the buoyancy of the comedy. The writing is so perfect. These lines and jokes always tickle me.
Q. Who are your favorite dancers from Broadway/Hollywood’s Golden Age? Why?
A. I love Gene Nelson. I think he’s one of the most overlooked, creative, athletic dancers of his time. I could also watch Ray Bolger dance all day. What he could do with his body was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Q. Which ‘Drowsy’ character are you?
A. George, definitely George the best man. He’s intense, he’s on a schedule, and he doesn’t like deviating from his carefully sculpted plans.
Q. Is there a musical with which you share a similar fascination with the ‘Man in Chair’?
A. I’d have to say it would be the movie, “Singin’ In The Rain.” There are so many stories of the trials, tribulations, and trivia from the production of that film. Gene Kelly, for instance, was sick as a dog the day they filmed the title number. Debbie Reynolds was 19 at the time. And Donald O’Connor was bedridden for days from the exhaustion of filming “Make Em Laugh.”
Q. What challenges do you face in choreography for “The Drowsy Chaperone?”
A. The hardest routine in the show to choreograph was the bride’s tour de force “Show Off” number. It’s deceivingly tricky to choreograph a three-minute number where there’s never a break in sight gags. I wanted to make it a number that would truly surprise the audience into laughing over and over. But to do that takes razor sharp timing from all the actors on stage at that moment. They have to work as one, and that’s not easy at all.
Q. How is it working with your wife?
A. I adore working with my wife, Erin. She’s a pro, and she’s a terrifically imaginative comedienne. Erin’s my best friend, so getting to go to rehearsal with her is dream come true.
Q. What musical theater role has been your favorite to perform? What is on your bucket list?
A. I’ve gotten to play so many bucket list roles in my career. Cosmo Brown in “Singin’ in The Rain,” Bert in “Mary Poppins” and Leo Bloom in “The Producers” are some of my very favorite experiences. But, if there’s one remaining role I’d love to play, it’s Harold Hill in “The Music Man.”
Q. How long have you been tap dancing? Where did you train?
A. I’ve been tap dancing since I was 12. I grew up training with a wonderful teacher, Judy Heidenreich, in Marshall, Michigan. After college, I spent years training in New York City under the guidance of Ray Hesselink.
Q. Is roller-skating safer than tap dancing?
A. Hahaha!! I’ll tell ya this, you’ll never EVER catch me in roller skates.
To fully appreciate that last question, you will have to join us by the bay for a performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which opens July 25 and performs through August 12. Or, you may ask Matt when he hosts a pre-show seminar Friday, August 3 at 6:30 p.m. He will be in the theater discussing the process of directing a musical comedy. For tickets or information phone the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com. We hope you will join us by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!