The Staten Island-set show about an unusual relationship and outer-borough dreams has a libretto by the original movie screenwriter-director Raymond De Felitta and songs by composer Kim Oler and Ed Kleban Award-winning lyricist Alison Hubbard, the pair behind the regionally popular musical Little Women. They are also members of The BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.
Spirit of Broadway founding artistic director Brett Bernardini directs. He told Playbill.com on May 29 that part of the theatre's mission is to be a developmental place for new works. All three Buddy's Tavern writers have been revising and working on the show during the preview process. "We have done so much developmental work with this piece every night," Bernardini said. "We've made huge changes."
Previews began May 13. Performances play to June 14.
According to Spirit of Broadway notes, "The year is 1956. Place: Staten Island, New York. Buddy Visalo buys a rundown two family house, intending to convert it into a bar where he can sing for his customers. His wife, Estelle, is furious. Things get worse for Buddy when a couple of Irish tenants who are living in the house refuse to vacate. When the woman, Mary, gives birth, she is abandoned by her husband thus placing Buddy in an uncomfortable position. As an odd friendship begins to blossom, Buddy is forced to make the hardest choice of his life. This tender new musical comedy about love, and tolerance is one in which two people discover that happily ever after can come from the most unlikely places." "I fell in love when I first saw the movie," Oler said in production notes. "Alison and I kept talking about wanting to make this into a musical. Alison and I were very passionate about connecting with Raymond and exploring the future of this movie as a musical for the stage. The story is so deeply touching and moving."
The cast includes Brad Heikes (Buddy Visalo), Dana DellaMonica (Estelle Visalo), Rebecca Barko (Mary O'Neary), Christopher Conte (Chip DiPalma), Shawn Rucker (Laura DiPalma), John Marion (Angelo, Brancaccio, Jim O'Neary), Candance Routh (Marie Vacco, Gloria, Miss Diminjuk) and Christopher Faison (Barkeep).
The creative team includes lighting designer Glenn J. Michaud, musical director Daniel Brandl and set designer Tyler Menard.
Buddy's Tavern was chosen for the 2004 ASCAP/Disney Workshop in New York. The songwriters previously worked with Spirit of Broadway artistic director Bernardini on two of their other works, Little Women and The Enchanted Cottage.
"Bringing new works to life on stage is the singular most rewarding aspect of my work," Bernardini stated. "To be in a room with amazingly talented actors, writers, musicians and designers and say 'here we go…together, we are going to give birth to something that no one has ever seen before!' There are six or seven writers whose work really feeds my soul and Kim and Alison are two of them. Working with them is a huge high point in my life and career."
Spirit of Broadway is a 74-seat black box theatre that operates under a Special Appearance Agreement with Actors' Equity on a show-by-show basis.
The SBT is located at 24 Chestnut Street Norwich, CT. Performances play Wednesday–Saturday at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM. For tickets visit www.spiritofbroadway.org. For more information, call the box office at (860) 886-2378.