Love blooms in the vineyards of Napa Valley as the Wagner College Theatre presents Frank Loesser’s 1956 musical masterpiece, “The Most Happy Fella,” through Sunday, Dec. 6 in the Main Hall auditorium.
Six years after his hit, “Guys and Dolls,” Frank Loesser returned to the boards with his breath-taking musical, “The Most Happy Fella,” based on Sidney Howard’s 1924 Pulitzer Prize winner, “They Knew What They Wanted.”
Focusing on the May-December romance of Italian immigrant Tony Esposito and San Francisco waitress Rosabella, “The Most Happy Fella’s” musically eclectic score contains great Broadway hits like “Joey, Joey, Joey,” “My Heart is So Full of You” and “Standing on the Corner.”
This rarely performed musical, which speaks to the experience of the Italian immigrant, is being performed for the first time at Wagner College as well as making its Staten Island premiere.
In the principal role of Tony Esposito is baritone Anthony Turner, a professor of voice in Wagner’s Music Department. As a performer, Turner has been featured in opera, musical theatre, concert and orchestral performances throughout the United States and Europe, including the Next Wave Festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, S.C., and the Barbican Festival in London.
Wagner College Theatre’s production also features Staten Island residents Jeanine Bruen (Rosabella), Joshua Sottile (Joey) and Joe O’Malley (Doctor). The company is completed by Mackenzie Shay (Cleo), Greg Ippolito (Herman), Becca Barrett (Marie) and Nick Manna (Postman). The ensemble features Nicholas Barakos, Addi Berry, Jasmine Canziani, Joe Cowdrey, Lauren Dennis, Eric Elson, Matthew Healey, Rachael Houser, Kyle Johnson, Stephen Kallas, Darnell Xavier Kenney, Dana Kluczyk, Dean Marino, Kaitlin Quann, Jonathan Quigley, Jason Rath, Sydni Session, Bailey Shada, Natalie Schaffer, Lola Silver, Kelly Swint, Megan Viglione and Chris Zika. Jake Tyler Marks will perform in the role of Tony during the Saturday matinees.
Wagner College Theatre’s “The Most Happy Fella” is directed by Drew Scott Harris (WCT’s “Carousel,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Titanic”) and choreographed by Sarah Tranchina ’10 with music direction by Lauri Young (WCT’s “Merrily We Roll Along”). Young will be accompanied by Wendy Bobbitt Cavett, who played the 1991 Broadway revival of “Happy Fella” and recently served as music director for the Broadway production of “Mamma Mia!”
The creative team includes Phill Hickox (scenic design), Richard Kendrick (scenic artist), Polly Kendrick (costume design), Vicki Neal (lighting design) and Richard Kroth (sound design). Emma McElwee ’16 is production stage manager.
Wagner’s production features Frank Loesser’s authorized two-piano version.
“The Most Happy Fella” opened at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre on May 3, 1956, with a cast that featured Robert Weede, Jo Sullivan and Art Lund. Opening two months after “My Fair Lady,” the production won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and ran for 676 performances. The production has been revived twice on Broadway: in 1979, featuring Giorgio Tozzi (filmed for PBS), and a 1992 revival that used a two-piano version (which started at CT’s Goodspeed Musicals) and starred Spiro Malas and Sophie Hayden. New York City Center Encores! presented a concert staging in 2014 that starred Tony winners Shuler Hensley and Laura Benanti.
Wagner College Theatre has presented Frank Loesser’s musicals “Where’s Charley?” (1970), “Guys and Dolls” (1981, 1995, 2013) and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (1982, 1999) on its Main Stage.
Performances of “The Most Happy Fella” run Nov. 18-21 and Dec. 2-6 in the Main Hall auditorium. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m.; added Sunday matinee Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.
Located in Main Hall, the Wagner College Theatre box office can be contacted at 718-390-3259 or email@example.com. Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 12 to 4 p.m. Tickets are on sale now, with price ranges for children, seniors and adults. Wagner College students attend free with current ID.
Next on the Main Stage: WCT’s dance head Rusty Curcio directs Gilbert & Sullivan’s “topsy-turvy” musical, “Iolanthe” (Feb. 24-March 6), and Tony winner Michele Pawk will stage that singular sensation, “A Chorus Line” (April 13-24).
Wagner College Theatres Stage One studio theater presents William Shakespeare’s masterwork, “The Tempest” (Dec. 1-6), directed by David Ledoux, followed by the premiere of “New York Lands” (March 1-6) and “The Dance Project 2016” (April 19-24).