Some things have changed at The Footlight Club; some haven’t
What would Thomas B. Ticknor have thought of The Footlight Club’s current production?
It is safe to say that back when Ticknor was president of the community theater in 1877, productions probably did not end with a cast of characters performing a striptease.
But in its 130th season things at The Footlight Club are a little different. This season the club is putting on “The Full Monty” in every sense of the phrase.
Back in 2000, a Broadway show based on the hit 1997 movie was launched in which the male leads shed their clothes as clever lighting techniques prevented any revealing moments. That scene will be recreated on Eliot Hall’s stage for three weekends starting this weekend [See Happenings for more information.]
But stripping is not the point of the show, says current club president Artie Leger. “It’s not about six men who strip,” he says. “The story is about six men who bond together to save something near and dear to their hearts… their livelihoods and way of life.”
The club went through its usual process in choosing the show.
Leger says, “Back when the club was a small, elite group of JP residents” it was different. They just decided on the show that appealed to them. Today the aim is to attract different demographics and new patrons to the theater.
Now a play-reading committee takes suggestions from members and patrons. “The play reading committee… picks the best show that they feel will best reflect the artistic vision of The Footlight Club,” says Leger.
The cast was chosen after an open casting call for actors, which is the usual method of finding performers for Footlight shows.
Leger, who was active in theater during his career at Boston College, says a background in theater is helpful but not necessary. The Footlight Club is “completely volunteer-driven.”
Costumes come from the extensive collection the club has, thrift shops or from the handiwork of any member of the club who wants to participate. “When I started, I didn’t know what a bobbin was. Now I make my own pillows,” says Leger.
Being volunteer-driven means everyone working on the show has responsibilities in addition to their theater gigs. Does it ever get too tiring juggling both a career and work at an active community theater? Leger, who works in human resources, answers with a question. “Would a mother say they were tired of being a parent? I go home tired. But I love being here. That tiredness is more satisfaction than fatigue.”
Richard Repetta, who is the director of “The Full Monty” and works at Fresh Hair, feels similarly. While he acknowledges that the director does get a stipend, “It’s not about the stipend at all. It’s a great history.” The reward is “to continue the legacy of the theater” and to create “quality theater on a local level,” he says.
Josh Nunes, who plays Jerry Lukowski, the lead, says, “Seeing my mom smile is enough.”
The cast and crew are enthusiastic about the production.
Sandy Armstrong, who plays Jeanette, the show biz veteran who plays piano for the guys, says, “The stories are so today—poignant.” She cites the tales of the lead character in danger of losing his child if he doesn’t find work soon, the self-conscious overweight male character, and the fired manager who can no longer support his wife in the manner to which she is accustomed.
Bennett Levine, 12, who plays Jerry’s son, says, “It seems pretty real.”
Nunes exudes an eagerness to get on with the performances. “I saw this show for the first time last year, and I had to play this role. It’s one of my favorites shows.” Sitting in the theater at a rehearsal and looking off in the direction of the activity near the stage, he says, “Yeah, I’m ready.”
Susan Aliber, the publicity director, is ready, too. “People should take a chance on this production. I think they’ll have a lot of fun once they come in the door. If they’re a little apprehensive, everything will be tastefully done… It focuses more on human relationships.”
Sounds like a show maybe even Thomas B. Ticknor could applaud.