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This article by Joan Crespi was prepared for the November 17, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
From ‘My Fair’ to ‘Montclair’
What do William S. Gilbert, Richard Rodgers, and Frederick Loewe have
in common? Yes, they all wrote the music for highly successful and
lasting musicals, and they all partnered with a librettist who wrote
the book and the lyrics for their songs. Think Gilbert and Sullivan,
Rodgers and Hart, then Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Lerner and Loewe.
But they have something else in common.
All three musicians have had the songs of their musicals parodied by
Martin Rome of Princeton. Rome does not follow the stories of the
musicals he parodies; he uses the music but writes the lyrics, then
devises the story linking the songs. It’s his use of the original
rhyme scheme as much as possible and the rhyming of the original
lyrics that adds to the audience’s pleasure. (He’s permitted to use
this copyrighted music put to his own lyrics as long as he doesn’t
Rome’s latest, "Montclair Lady," a parody of "My Fair Lady," is being
presented by 55PLUS to the public free of charge on Thursday, November
18, at 10 a.m. at the Jewish Center during the regular meeting time of
55PLUS. Murray Reich directs. Sandy Maxwell accompanies on the piano
and is musical director. The live performance is scheduled for
one-time only, but Albert Medwin, an electronics engineer patent
holder who worked for RCA before opening his own consulting business,
will videotape the show, and it will air later on TV 30, the cable
television arts show that originates on Princeton’s cable Channel 8.
Set in the fictional Montclair Clinic in northern New Jersey in the
recent past, "Montclair Lady," is performed without scenery, and the
actors/singers will have scripts in hand. (In only one Rome parody
were the lines memorized.) But this is not your usual ragged amateur
production. The actors/singers are quite skilled, the voices fine and
strong. ("Sheasley is our resident baritone," says Rome.) Five of the
men and one of the women – Derry Light (Dr. Susan Donnelly, head of
surgery) – were in Rome’s "South Passaic." Rehearsals, 10 in all,
began in September.
The lyrics are the key to the show, which is a spoof of medical care.
Clever, sophisticated, and contemporary, they’re a delight. For
example, songs include "Let a Surgeon in Your Life" ("Let a Woman in
Your Life"), "I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Pace," sung by a
newly-retired trial lawyer ("I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face"),
"With a Little Nip and Tuck" a paean to cosmetic surgery ("With a
Little Bit of Luck"), and "The Claim of Pain" ("The Rain in Spain").
Medwin computer-integrated the show’s lyrics to the original music.
55PLUS is a non-sectarian men’s club founded in 1986 by Murray Reich
to foster social contacts and friendships among retired men, or men
with flexible working hours. Meeting dates and upcoming speakers are
posted on its website, www.princetonol.com/groups/55PLUS. (A
contribution of $2 – payable at the door – covers the cost of cookies,
tea, or coffee.) Most of the men live in the immediate Princeton area
but some drive from miles away. Some women, including this reporter,
Many of the actors in the shows are white-haired, and nearly all of
the male actors come regularly to 55PLUS, which has no officers, no
by-laws, and no dues. People are notified of meetings by E-mail.
Medwin sends E-mails (the list has grown to 581) before each meeting.
For the few who are still unwired, Jerry Berkelhammer, a tennis player
and organic chemist, who was executive director of American Cyanamid’s
Agricultural Research Division, uses the U.S. mail to keep about 30
people informed of 55PLUS activities, for a small fee.
Rome has written five complete parodies of shows. "South Passaic" was
performed last season. The others are "Oklahoma.com," "The Pirates of
Pittsburgh," and "The Movado" – the last two are from what Rome calls
his "Gilbert and Sullivan period."
Rome became interested in doing parodies when he saw a poor parody
years ago, and thought he could write a better one. Rome is a
physicist who spent most of his career in technical management. He has
a Ph.D. from Brooklyn Polytechnic in physics. He was general manager
of the local Sclumberger subsidiary, where he worked on scientific
space exploration. His field of expertise is photoelectricity. "I’ve
written so many corporate reports and presentations that the
transition to parody wasn’t that difficult," says Rome, who directed
his first three parodies.
Reich directs "Montclair Lady," and also directed "South Passaic." How
did Reich, a chemist, who took one directing course 40 years ago,
become the director? "Marty asked me to," he says simply. "It’s a
challenge," he adds. "He has good ideas," says Rome, "and a sense of
Reich, a graduate of City College of New York, earned a master’s in
polymer chemistry at Akron University, a master’s degree in counseling
from Trenton State at night while working in chemistry, a doctorate in
gerontology at Teacher’s College, Columbia, while doing part-time
consulting in chemistry, and taught college courses in ethics, the
psychology of aging, and human development, and worked at the
Institute on Aging at Rutgers.
When asked to consult at Tyndale Plains-Hunter, a leading edge
plastics firm, he said he didn’t know that kind of plastic, as he
recounted in a U.S. 1 article (January 7, 1998), but the owner thought
he could do it. He became the firm’s president. Professing and
personifying flexibility of mind, body, and spirit, especially for the
aging, he’s taken modern dance, choreography, and Tai Chi. "Each of
us, at our own level, is asked to do things," he says. "The people who
say yes meet other people and have fun."
The men in the show are an eclectic group. Several have been in other
Rome productions. Don Sheasley (Joe Loomis, the trial lawyer) has sung
numerous operatic roles with a multitude of New Jersey opera
companies, including the Princeton University Opera Theater and Opera
Festival, and has appeared in concerts and oratorios throughout
eastern Pennsylvania and the New York-New Jersey area.
Milt Keiles (corporate attorney, friend of Joe’s), a former English
teacher with a master’s degree in English, is a mechanical engineer
from Brooklyn Polytech who had his own software company in East
Brunswick. He is a certified barbecue judge in the Kansas City
Barbecue Society (KCBS.org), took a class in barbecue tasting,
collects hockey pucks, and had done a lot of local theater until 1973.
He came out of two decades of retirement from theater for a role (or
three) in "South Passaic." He is also a guest lecturer on cruise
Joel May (Dr. Willi Wiggins, medical director of Montclair Clinic) is
a former economics professor who taught at the Graduate School of
Business at the University of Chicago, then at the School of Public
Health at UMDNJ. He has an MBA and Ph.D. in economics and statistics
from the University of Chicago.
Tony Parisi (Dr. Pine, staff physician) has a master’s in vocal
performance from what was then Trenton State College, sang with the
Opera Festival of New Jersey for 13 years and with "La Boheme Opera
Company" in Trenton.
Simon Marchand (Dr. Maple, staff physician) has a degree in
publishing, a master’s from NYU, and has worked as an editor.
Sandy Maxwell, the pianist and musical director, is new to the group,
brought in by a friend. A professional and a member of ASCAP, Maxwell
(who is doing this gig at no charge) is 86, grew up in the area, and
lives in Princeton. He plays at birthdays and weddings and has had his
own band for 40 years. He also had an advertising agency business in
New York. He began writing songs when he was a member of the Triangle
Club at Princeton from 1935 to 1939. He played for five years at
Scanticon, now the Doral Forrestal.
Some of the men also do volunteer work. Sheasley is a longtime
volunteer reader at Recording for the Blind and Dyslectic. May teaches
computer skills to seniors in Ewing, reads to the blind at the New
Jersey Library for the Blind and Handicapped, and sings in Princeton
Pro Musica and the Hopewell Valley Community Chorus. Others from
55PLUS volunteer to work the phones for NJN-TV, help with the twice
monthly American Red Cross blood drives, and tutor students at
Princeton High School, and adults at the Trenton Soup Kitchen.
Among the women Derry Light (Dr. Susan Donnelly) is a professional
actor. She has toured the U.S. and Europe, appeared at McCarter, does
voice-overs, and teaches chorus at the Princeton Montessori School.
Shirley Kauffman (Zeeta Pinger, Animal Rights activist, Ms. Edith
Hamilton, business woman, and Ms. Y, a middle-aged woman) studied with
Stella Adler years ago and has acted professionally in local shows.
Now a political activist, she’s on the Princeton Borough Zoning Board.
Barbara Parmet (Dr. Joan Franklin, third year fellow at the clinic)
sings and has a flamenco dance in the show. She does flamenco and
Middle Eastern dancing for private parties and has acted
Who is Montclair Lady? She’s several women, and, like Eliza Doolittle,
they all get makeovers. Get thee to the center on time. Join the fun.
Thursday, November 18, at 10 a.m., at the Jewish Center on Nassau
Street. Free, $2 voluntary contribution.
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