All Together Now: RTC Returns to The Stage

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 From the opening of the Rockaway Theatre Company’s limited-run show All Together Now!, RTC clearly announced their return to the stage and their special bond with the audience.

Offered free of charge to non-profit theatre groups worldwide by the Music Theatre International (MTI) organization, it ran for five performances from Friday, November 12 to Monday, November 15.

For RTC, “Be Our Guest” from the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast, could not have been a better opener, invitation and welcome back after nearly two years away from live performances during the pandemic. The shows went on with strict COVID protocols in place for the cast, crew and audience.

The opening number found performers bounding down the aisles of RTC’s Post Theater and the entire cast of 24 filling the stage with swelling voices, music, and movement. 

Together they executed Broadway-caliber precision choreography with an energy that carried through the entire show. Their in-unison kick line drew enthusiastic mid-number applause at every performance.

Similarly they were greeted by wild applause, and Rockaway whoops and hollers, at the end of the song from audiences which were clearly happy to have them back.

Its show-stopping finish left the energetic cast panting and visibly delighted.

Punctuating the moment, director and RTC founding member John Gilleece, walked on stage as the applause continued and told his frozen-in-place cast, “I think they liked it!”

Gilleece then asked his performers to look out and “say ‘hello!’ to the audience. You haven’t seen them for 19 months!”

The show that followed brought together Broadway hits from Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Frozen, Ragtime, Rent and more.

Described as “part of a global movement” it was performed and simultaneously streamed live over the same four days by more than 250,000 school and local theatre groups in the U.S. and 44 countries around the world.

The songs themselves, like Matchmaker, Let It Go and I Dreamed A Dream, were carefully chosen from a select MTI list.

Remarkably, the show came together within just three weeks.

Musical director Richard Louis-Pierre’s nine-piece band sounded like a full orchestra within the newly renovated theatre space.

Numerous intricate dance numbers, choreographed by Dana Mongelli, Nicole Nellen and Adele Wendt and often involving the whole cast, were woven throughout the show.

It also featured several outstanding solo vocal performances and powerful group harmonies.

With a minimum of projected backdrops, props and costume accessories, cast members brought a gamut of emotions from laughter to tears to life through their performances.

As part of the presentation RTC’s Susan Warren Corning and Cliff Hesse also spoke about the hardships the group faced, including vandalism, their ongoing pandemic activities and the overwhelming support of the community.

Hesse said, “We know the people we are most grateful to is all of you.”

Indeed over All Together Now’s five performances, it seemed like the stage and the audience were joined together as one.

Just as it had opened, the show could not have closed on a higher note than You Can’t Stop The Beat from Hairspray.

As they go forward with plans for a season of new productions in 2022, it is clear you can’t stop The Rockaway Theatre Company either.

For information about upcoming shows, make sure to check out: www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org.

 

By Dan Guarino

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