“THE PERFECT PLACE FOR A SUMMER SHOW”: STARVING ARTIST’S BROADWAY REVIEW
Since 1998, Nick Montesano and friends have been producing the popular summer Broadway musical review at the Starving Artist in Ocean Grove.
This year’s production “We Go Together” – inspired by the town’s post-Sandy campaign TogetherOG – will feature songs of Broadway composers from Stephen Schwartz to Rodgers and Hammerstein, spanning from the 1920’s to today.
I spoke with Montesano, director of the review and teacher with a master’s degree in theater last week about the show and the talented team behind it.
TBP: On a beautiful summer night the porch seems like the perfect place for a show.
Montesano: The setting is fantastic. We perform, rain or shine, under the canopies of the seating area shared by The Starving Artist and Ice Cream at Days (Pittman Avenue). There are no microphones. Ambient noise never goes away, but we rise above it. We figure it worked for Shakespeare, right?
TBP: How do you choose the music to perform each year?
Montesano: Creating the show offers us the chance to sing songs we would never be able to in the context of actual shows because we would never be cast as the characters who sing the songs.
If we sing a song from “Flower Drum Song,” we know we would never be cast in that show. If we happen to be a bunch of older guys, we have no other venue where we could ever sing “Hard Knock Life” from Annie. This year, I get to play Gretel in the “Sound of Music.” That could not possibly happen in any other universe but the porch at the Starving Artist.
This year’s show is full of very classics from shows 50 or more years old to currently running shows. Singing and dancing abound in a mix of music for the entire family. We like to keep it family-friendly in content and length because we want it to be a fun, something-to-do-in-the-summer kind of thing.
Each year we also include a musical parody of a topic we want to comment on and develop a medley of songs to make that happen. This year we turn our eye on those “out of towners” who tend to take over our beaches in the summer. You know who they are. We also sing a song lamenting the behind the scenes relationship of the actors in the show.
TBP: Coming up this fall, you have the area’s only production of Stephen King’s cult classic “Carrie” the musical. Theater is obviously your passion.
Montesano: NENAproductions Theater Company is so excited to have secured the rights to the musical based on Stephen King’s Book “Carrie.” We are the first company in the area that has gotten the rights to this newly revised version. The original 1988 production on Broadway was so badly reviewed it has become one of the biggest cult musicals in history. This new version was produced off-Broadway in the Spring of 2012 with a stronger critical response and longer run. And we are doing it in October at The Jersey Shore Arts Center just in time for Halloween. Should be crazy fun.
I have been directing for 40 plus years and it is that insane passion that drives me. Passion is not always understood by others but I am lucky to be surrounded with people who trust me, and take whatever wild ride a new project might bring.
It is important to recognize the great team here who do this in their spare time: Jeff Brown, musical director, Arnold Teixeira (Starving Artist), Bridget Gannon Smith, Laurett Gannon, Jessica Berger, Amanda Munice, Bryan Vitalo, Joe Ronga, Casey Grady Surgent, and Heather McLaughlin. Sometimes they do it to share the thrill, sometimes for all the free ice cream they can eat.