TNC Presents DOLLFACE, 12/23-1/16
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by BWW News Desk
If you can remember that there ever was a Jack Paar or Milton Berle, you’ll plotz for “Dollface,” a raunchy, witty musical comedy for the holiday season, conceived and written by B.J. Sebring, with lyrics by David Forman, music by David Forman & Rob Hyman with additional material by Bette Midler, Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian and Lou Bellofatto. The naughty Christmas tuner was introduced as a workshop in Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival this past summer. TNC is now presenting its premiere run December 23 to January 16 in its Johnson Theater.
The tale is set near Utopia Parkway, Queens on Christmas, 1956. Dolores “Dollface” Zuckerman, has enrolled in a matchbook cover television comedy correspondence course (“Big Funny? Big Money! Guaranteed!”) The best jobs she can get are an old age home and the local nightspot Club Rub a Dub Dub. All she wants from life is to tell her funny jokes on TV and to wed her boyfriend (a handsome gentile gym instructor, never mind that he’s a bit of a mama’s boy). Instead, she becomes an unwitting tool of a jeweler’s plot to rob his own store. By luck, pluck and a well-timed you-know-what, Dolores manages to outsmart the double-crossing jewel thieves and even gets her man. It’s a traditional book musical, slightly ribald by the standards of the period it’s set in, and filled with authentic outer-borough types who will have you rolling in the aisles. Its music ranges from authentic Rock ‘n’ Roll to Samba, Mambo, Pop Ballads, Rhythm & Blues and Patter. Everybody in the musical speaks and sings in the punchy, energetic, ironic dialect of bygone-era Kew Gardens.
In 2003, while working on a songwriting project with Bette Midler and Rob Hyman (songwriter of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time”), composer/lyricist David Forman was approached by his friend Leslie Urdang, a founder and producing director of New York Stage and Film, who asked if he would accept a commission to write a musical. Almost concurrently, and quite coincidentally, Ms. Midler also suggested that David consider writing a musical. Mr. Forman called upon his wife and collaborator, B.J. Sebring, to brainstorm story ideas, and by December, 2003, the first draft of “Dollface” was born. Forman thereupon set out for Philadelphia to work with Rob Hyman on the songs. New York Stage and Film produced a staged reading at the Powerhouse Theater in June, 2004, after which Forman and Sebring began the process of rewrites and readings. There was a concert version performed at University of Albany’s 2005 Playwrights’ Festival and subsequently several more developmental readings were staged and material subtracted, added and changed. A chance meeting between Forman and TNC’s executive director, Crystal Field, in an upstate New York gas station led to “Dollface” being selected for inclusion in TNC’s 2010 DreamUp Festival last summer, from which it was selected to premiere at TNC.
“Dollface” reflects David Forman’s love of the music of the nineteen fifties. He is a New York-based singer-songwriter who has been writing and performing in a signature style since the late 60’s. His recordings for Arista Records in the 70’s are still regarded as masterpieces of soul-pop music. He has written and recorded with Bette Midler, Rob Hyman, Cyndi Lauper, Aaron Neville, Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Gerry Goffin, Maryann Faithfull, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Levon Helm, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne and many more. His epic collaboration, “Largo” (with Rick Chertoff, Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian), is currently in development for the stage with Anne Hamburger producing and Eric Overmyer writing the book.
Forman performs classic blues and rhythm music as Little Isidore, “America’s favorite dollbaby,” whose knocked-out band, the Inquisitors, has rocked the house at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Radio City Music Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center and L.A.’s Universal Amphitheater. Forman’s film work (and Little Isidore’s vocals) can be heard in Ron Howard’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Jerry Zucker’s “Rat Race” and Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road,” among others. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife (and “Dollface” bookwriter) B.J. Sebring and their four children (two of whom appear in “Dollface” as showgirls, “The Moist Towelettes”).
Forman’s TNC debut was as composer for “The Butterfly Encounter” by H.M. Koutoukas, a production that featurEd Jerome Ragni (co-composer, with Jerome Rado, of “Hair”) and Crystal Field (as Fae Mae Daydream, the evil dragon lady). It was 1979, when TNC was located at Second Avenue and Tenth Street. Now Forman exclaims, “This production is doubly delicious because my very first theater gig was at TNC. TNC has been so generous and supportive to me. I can’t believe my good luck. I couldn’t be happier.”
Rob Hyman (co-composer) played in garage bands during his early teens in Meriden, CT and moved to Philadelphia in the 70’s to attend University of Pennsylvania. There that he met Eric Bazilian and Rick Chertoff, who would become his close friends and musical soul mates. Since then, Hyman has become known worldwide as a successful songwriter, musician, arranger and producer. Hyman and Chertoff co-founded The Hooters in 1980, which went on to release six albums, two of which attained Platinum and Gold status in the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway and Sweden. “Time After Time,” co-written and sung with Cyndi Lauper, earned Hyman a GrammyÂ® nomination for Song of the Year in 1984 and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. Joan Osborne’s debut release, “Relish,” provided Hyman with the opportunity to write, play and arrange on an album that was nominated for five Grammy awards in 1996, including Album of the Year. In 1998, Hyman, Chertoff and Forman gathered an all-star cast of musicians and friends, including Carole King, The Chieftains, Taj Mahal, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Osborne and members of The Band, for the musical project “Largo.”
B.J. Sebring (book, concept) graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in Film and holds an M.A. in Theatre Dramaturgy and Playwriting. Her recent works include “One Maravista” and “About Burton,” two full length plays of a trilogy, “House of Sad Return,” a screenplay, “Hiawatha Jones,” a musical, and the television webseries “The Truth About Rock and Roll.” She is also a classically trained dancer and a filmmaker. Her 3D animation short, “One Fair Day,” was in the M.A.A. short film festival. She has directed for the stage and for film.
“Dollface” is directed by David Forman and B.J. Sebring. The cast includes (as of this writing) Linda Shell (as Dollface), David Tass Rodriguez, Ben Prayz, Kathryn Kates, David Forman, Jeremy Kocal, Mike Backes, Polly McKie, Karen Gale, Veronica Forman, Diana Forman, Harmony Stempel and James Rhines. David Forman plays the part of the crooked jeweler. Costume design is by Natalie Lunn, lighting design is by Alex Bartenieff and set design is by Mark Marcante.