A ‘grand, triumphant return’ for RFCT

11/05/2015 12:44 PM |

The "Showgirls" in the musical "42nd Street" Julie Crowley (from left) Alexa Speciale, Erin McKenna, Bobby Peterson, Jessica Raven, Lucille Guarino and Katherine Maslankowski. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Faculty Community Theatre has long been a labor of love for its members. They see is as a way to work with friends on a creative project, bring a little culture to the area and, of course, experience the rush that an applauding audience brings.

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“I tell [students], ‘Being in a show is very similar to being on a football team. You learn the same values.’ These kids, they learn how to be a part of a team,” said longtime member Marguerite Volonts, a retired teacher and the current production’s musical director. “And when we get here, we continue that.”

RFCT’s cast and crew will come together once again for this year’s musical, “42nd Street,” a production that marks the troupe’s 35th anniversary.

Founded in 1980 by Riverhead school teachers George Moravek and Nancy Yakobiszyn-Auletti, RFCT has staged a musical every fall since its first production of “Mame” more than three decades ago. With a chief mission of providing scholarships for local theater students, it now also produces two youth productions and a variety show each year.

This year is a homecoming for the players, who presented their last few shows at the Jamesport Meeting House and Vail-Leavitt Music Hall during renovations at the high school. They decided to go big this year with a large cast, sequined costumes and several tap-dancing ensemble numbers.

“This could very well be our largest production as far as size, not people,” said RFCT president Glenn Abramowitz. “This is our grand, triumphant return.”

The troupe originally selected “Fiddler on the Roof” for this year, but were refused the rights because a revival of that show opens on Broadway Nov. 12 and the Riverhead musical could be considered a competing production. Instead, they settled on “42nd Street,” based on the novel and 1933 film of the same name. The play follows dictatorial director Julian Marsh and his cast as they try to stage a successful musical theater production in Depression-era New York.

Longtime RFCT member Jan McGoey signed on to direct.

“I said, ‘I’ll direct it if my daughter can lead,’ ” said Ms. McGoey. That daughter, Erin McKenna, stars as up-and-coming chorus girl Peggy Sawyer. “I love putting on a big production. And we just love bringing quality shows to the East End,” Ms. McGoey said.

Ms. McKenna, who gives a lively and captivating performance as she sings and dances in a curly blonde wig and vintage dress, said she’s thrilled to be in the dance numbers, which she also choreographed.

“This has been a dream role since I could remember,” said Ms. McKenna, Riverhead High School’s 2005 valedictorian who now teaches Latin at Fordham University and lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “Probably because I’ve been tap dancing forever and this is the tap-dancing musical.”

The dancing chorus features women from ages 20 to 60 — and you’ll even spot Ms. McGoey on stage, wearing a wig and time-stepping.

“It’s so much fun and it’s great exercise,” she said.

And while the 60 cast and crew members, sizable props and shiny costumes might call to mind a big-budget play, Mr. Abramowitz reminds that these productions are put together by an all-volunteer crew on a shoestring.

“You have to make everything for as little money as you can because we are trying to raise money,” he said.

Over the years, the theater group has awarded a total of $100,000 in scholarships. The money is raised through ticket sales and sponsorships in the program. Visit RFCT.org to make a donation.

“42nd Street” premieres at Riverhead High School Friday, Nov. 6. Evening performances begin at 8 p.m. Nov. 6, 7, 13 and 14. Sunday matinees on Nov. 8 and 15 begin at 2 p.m. Call 631-871-3908 for tickets. Tickets can also be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com/event/1850490 for $16 or at the door for $20.

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Top Photo: The “Showgirls” in the musical “42nd Street” Julie Crowley (from left) Alexa Speciale, Erin McKenna, Bobby Peterson, Jessica Raven, Lucille Guarino and Katherine Maslankowski. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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