After a successful debut that played to sold-out crowds, Jimmy Ferraro’s Studio Theatre in New Port Richey will feature a Brooksville playwright for it’s second summer show.
Written by Diana Rogers, “Coupled” is a comedy about relationships. Rogers created the book, music and lyrics and also appears onstage as Donna.
Theatre owner Jimmy Ferraro loves this original musical comedy, and is pleased that his intimate little theatre is where it will make its world premiere.
“Developing a brand new work is always so exciting,” said Ferraro, who not only directs but also stages the show. “The opportunity to direct such a talented cast for this original show is just wonderful. “We were talking about this when I interviewed Diana on my radio show (“Theatre Chat and This ‘n’ That” on WWJB-AM and streaming on the internet), a while ago, and she asked me if I would direct,” said Ferraro. “I felt that our brand new intimate little theatre is just the perfect setting for this show.”
Rogers, a Broadway actress, never dreamed of writing her own musical. She came to Florida in 2000 to help her ailing parents and began teaching drama at River Ridge High School, with occasional acting jobs. She missed the creative side of rehearsals and performing and decided to write a musical. She created the music, and local musician Marvin Lovette, who serves as music director for “Coupled” wrote the arrangements. Rogers also wrote a children’s musical, “Lessons from a Wayside Campground,” which was performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
Ferraro says “Coupled” is very funny. Rogers has written some very catchy tunes, including “Middle Age Lament,” “Bathroom Samba,” “Channel Surfing,” “Botox,” “Help Me, Oprah,” and more.
The story takes place at a resort PGA golf course, and is about three couples.
“It is about friendship, love and relationships, and at every turn, there is comedy. There is nothing deep about this,” said Ferraro.
The three couples include a long-time marriage, with this couple’s relationship bordering on the mundane, leaving the wife wanting more romance. The second couple is an older woman — a “cougar” in Ferraro’s word — and her boy toy who really loves her. But this independent cougar has other ideas. And then there is the older attorney and his much younger girlfriend.
Ferraro has chosen his cast wisely. Rogers is thrilled to be back onstage and playing the role of Donna, the middle school music teacher. Her theatre credits include Broadway and National Tour as Madame Thenardier in “Les Miserable,” and “Always Patsy Cline,” and she was Carlotta in the midwest Premiere of “ Phantom of the Opera,” to name but a few.
Pete Clapsis plays Bill, the computer geek married to Rogers’s character, Donna. Clapsis was Pastor Gunderson in “Church Basement Ladies.” Clapsis is no stranger to local audiences, having appeared at Show Palace in Hudson as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma,” Franklin Hart, Jr. in “9 to 5” and many others. Dee Etta Rowe, most recently seen in “Church Basement Ladies,” plays Maggie, the “cougar.” Rowe is an accomplished actor, and Ferraro laughingly calls her “my ace in the hole Broadway actor.” Rowe starred as Golde in the 2012 National Broadway Tour of “Fiddler on the Roof” (playing opposite her husband, Jimmy Ferraro). For 8 years she was both the Iowa Housewife and Earth Mother in “Menopause the Musical.” Her younger boyfriend, or “boy toy,” Daniel, is played by Brandon Mauro. Mauro is a graduate of River Ridge High School, and a former drama student of Diana Rogers. There, he appeared in many musicals, including “Grease,” Nuptials,” and many more. He has also appeared on television and film in CSI, Touched by an Angel, Malcom in the Middle and multiple pilot series.
Rick Faurote is Jack, the older attorney worried about aging and his virility. His younger girlfriend is played by Jessica Virginia. Faurote has been performing in the Tampa Bay area for over 38 years and recently played Jean Valjean in “Les Miserable” at Stage West Community Playhouse. Virginia has been performing locally, with numerous acting credits, most recently as Eponine in “Les Miserables,”and Velma Kelly in “Chicago,” at Stage West.
Ferraro will use minimal set design with the focus on the storyline, the music and the actors.
“With a new show, we are daily re-working dialogue and music to get the right mix. Diana will write a new scene or make revisions, and the cast takes it and runs with it,” said Ferraro. “The cast has really embraced this project. After all, how often does anyone get to be a part of the original cast of the premier production of an original musical?”
“Coupled” will play weekends July 18 through Aug. 10. Jimmy Ferraro’s Studio Theatre is located at 5732 Main St., New Port Richey. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $23.36 plus tax. Ask about group rates. For information, call (727) 409-0293 or visit www.ferrarostudiotheatre.com.