PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: Meet Bare Super Swing Anthony Festa

By Matthew Blank
28 Jan 2013

In just under a month, male swing Anthony Festa has played 5 roles in the Off-Broadway production of Bare, including the adult role of Father Mike. He shares his thoughts on (and photos of) each one.



"This is my first job as a swing and it's been quite a ride. I never thought I’d have so much stage time when I was first cast," says Festa. "Even as early as rehearsals I was up dancing around for missing bodies. I feel so lucky to have worked with amazing talents like Travis Wall and Stafford Arima."

"I understudy Father Mike and swing the ensemble boys: Zack, Nick, Beto and Alan – a total of 5 different characters! I had my first full run of the show on our final dress rehearsal before first preview as Alan. This was very helpful, but also an entirely different show than the one we are doing now because of cuts and rewrites that occurred throughout previews."

Playing all 5 tracks in less than a month has been kind of a blur to me. I never get comfortable with a role which as an actor is great because you can always be alive and in the moment while really thinking about what's next and listening! I feel like swinging is an incredible rush that every actor should experience at one point or another in their career."



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Zack
The show starts and 30 seconds into it I already have done 2 lifts in this track. He has the largest dance track in the show with a few fun featured moments.



Father Mike
This role is a blast! A good vocal warm up is in order when I go on for Father Mike. I also remind myself of his vocal placement being different from the kids. He is more legit and legato sounding so there is a contrast between him and the students who sing rock. I channel my inner John Raitt. This track has the least choreography, but the most dialogue starting the show with a monologue. I also get the chance to do scenes with the amazing Missi Pyle. Playing both an adult and a student in a show is so much fun as a swing! One day I’m teaching class and the next I’m in the class as a student.

Zack
The show starts and 30 seconds into it I already have done 2 lifts in this track. He has the largest dance track in the show with a few fun featured moments. It’s funny to play the jock one day and the dorky kid the next! One day I’m the bully the next I’m the bullied one (Alan).

Nick
Nick is Jason's roommate and also a jock. This track has the fastest quick change - I go from being a “Peter body double” and back to my original Nick clothes in about 20 seconds. These changes are always fun if you’re not used to doing them every night. Walking out on stage for my scene with a un-tucked shirt or messy tie is usually the result.

Beto
He is a cool jock with style. The role is performed by Justin Gregory Lopez and he plays it with a Latin line. When I'm on that line is omitted. One of the busiest tracks I perform involves running across the stage to move a DJ booth, taking out and putting on some cool gloves, pulling out a computer and a turn table from underneath the booth and starting to DJ the party - all within 15 seconds.

Alan
The most fun I have is when I play Alan. He is comic relief, a charming and funny Jewish boy who attends Catholic school. Being the stage manager for the high school production of Romeo and Juliet keeps this track busy as far as set moves go.

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Producers of Off-Broadway's Bare announced Jan. 23 that the coming-of-age rock musical set in a co-ed Catholic boarding school will play its final performance Feb. 3 at New World Stages. 

At the time of closing, Bare will have played 21 previews and 65 regular performances.

"Bringing this production of Bare to the stage has been a labor of love for all involved," said producer Randy Taradash in a statement. "We are so proud of the show and its unique ability to spread the important messages of tolerance and equality. We look forward to bringing Bare to an even wider audience with our upcoming cast album and future productions worldwide."

A cast album for the current Off-Broadway production is in the works, and plans are underway for upcoming productions in Korea, Japan, Brazil and Los Angeles.

The musical opened Dec. 9 to mixed reviews under the direction of Stafford Arima, whose re-imagined Carrie was given an Off-Broadway life last season. Bare was transformed from a sung-through work (an earlier version, billed as a Pop Opera, was seen at the American Theatre of Actors in 2004 and gained a cult following over the years) to a book musical that features music by Damon Intrabartolo, a book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere and additional songs by Hartmere and Lynne Shankel (Altar Boyz, Cry-Baby, Company). 

Intrabartolo is not attached to the current Off-Broadway staging, which began previews Nov. 19.

"The biggest change [is] having more space to explore the characters," explained Hartmere as to why the piece was revised. "To know these characters a little bit better… you just need more room — you need more room for book scenes, and I personally just wanted to get under the hood and investigate a little bit further."

Aside from the addition of a fleshed-out libretto, the work — a story of discovery, acceptance and love — features a slew of new songs ("A Million Miles From Heaven," which replaces the show's original opening; the standout duet "You Don't Know"; a comical number entitled "Best Friend"; and the second-act ballad "You're Not Alone," among others), the addition and subtraction of characters central to its core, and a plot twist that involves the use of an iPhone photograph and the spread of information via technology. Read more about the Off-Broadway "revisal" of Bare here

Joining Taylor Trensch (Wicked) and Jason Hite (Off-Broadway debut) as the main students at St. Cecilia's Boarding School are Elizabeth Judd (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Ivy, a misunderstood transfer student; Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening) as Matt, who longs for a steady relationship with Ivy; and Barrett Wilbert Weed (Lysistrata Jones) as Nadia, the group's always-discontented drug dealer who is also the sister of Jason.

New to the plot are the characters of Father Mike, played by Jerold E. Solomon (South Pacific), and Sister Joan, played by Missi Pyle (Boeing-Boeing), who oversee the high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. They replace similar characters from the 2004 staging — the Priest and Sister Chantelle, respectively.

Rounding out the cast are Casey Garvin (West Side Story national tour) as Zack, Ariana Groover as Vanessa, Sara Kapner (Hollywood Arms) as Madison, Alice Lee (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Diane, Justin Gregory Lopez ("Law & Order: SVU") as Beto, Michael Tacconi as Nick and Alex Wyse (Lysistrata Jones) as Alan. Anthony Festa and Megan Lewis (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) are swings.

Emmy Award nominee Travis Wall ("So You Think You Can Dance") provides movement for the piece. He explained that it's "expressive [and] definitely not a dance show… I was one of these characters five years ago, and [I remember] how dark I felt and how much I was trying to just get someone to hear me. I couldn't talk to anybody, and no one would listen to me, and [I was] always reaching out for that person who's not there, so I definitely pulled from that."

Tony Award-winning scenic designer Donyale Werle (Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) has painted the world of Bare in over 14,000 four-by-four inch Instagram pictures from the musical's fans as well as the cast and creatives. Other creative team members include costume designer Tristan Raines (Tribes, Murder in the First), Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys, Memphis) and sound designer Keith Caggiano (Soul of Shaolin).

Here's how producers Taradash, Paul Boskind and Martian Entertainment and Gregory Rae bill Bare: "When your true love is your deepest secret. When your heart is so full that your head clouds. When you've let your self-image be a group project. How much do you share — and with who? Bare is an exhilarating new rock musical that follows a group of teens trying to navigate the tightrope to adulthood over the minefield of high school. Along with their teachers, they will wrestle with issues of identity, sexuality, religion and love. Both deeply moving and heartwarmingly humorous, Bare is for anyone who's ever felt locked out trying to fit in."

Bare had its world premiere at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles, CA, where it began performances Oct. 14, 2000, and ran through Feb. 25, 2001. Following the Los Angeles production, Bare began its run at the American Theatre of Actors (Chernuchin Theatre) March 25, 2004. It opened April 19, 2004, and played through May 27, 2004. Bare has since had more than 100 productions worldwide.

New World Stages is located at 340 West 50th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue). Tickets for Bare are available at Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.

Visit BareMusicalNYC.com.