This week marks the opening of the 20th anniversary season of the Women’s Theater Co., and producing artistic director Barbara Krajkowski has come up with a fantastic way to celebrate.
The milestone season begins Friday with the premiere of the record-setting musical, “The Fantasticks,” which launches a music-heavy 2012-13 schedule for the professional company in residence at the .
After wandering from space to space for more than a decade, Krajkowski’s company finally found a permanent home in her home town of Parsippany, in the cozy 99-seat theater vacated a few years earlier by a community-theater group. Nine years later, the WTC is entrenched as an essential part of the Morris County and Parsippany cultural scene, presenting musicals, cabarets, comedies, dramas and even world premieres by emerging women playwrights.
“I’m so lucky I found this space,” said Krajkowski while preparing for rehearsal on Monday. “It’s exactly the kind of intimate theater that I love, like you find Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. We’ve enjoyed great support from the town, the chamber and the community center. And we’ve brought in so many wonderful groups, like the Woman’s Club and the Red Hats. It’s been tremendous.”
Despite a down economy, Krajkowski has managed to more than double ticket sales over the last four years, in part through an increased focus on musicals.
“That’s what my audience seems to want,” she said. “To be very honest about it, it’s all about box office. We [regional theater companies] are all trying to sell tickets best we can until things turn around.”
As the 20th season begins, however, she’s found a way to delight her audience while also indulging her creative juices. Having retired in the spring from a 30-year career teaching at William Paterson University, Krajkowski has a little extra time on her hands. Normally, she lets Boonton resident Loren Moran Mills direct the musicals, but she’s taken “The Fantasticks” for herself.
“I just love this show,” she said. “And I haven’t directed a musical in a long time, so I’m having a wonderful time.”
So is the cast, which includes familiar faces such as Marc G. Dalio (“Romance Romance,” “The World Goes ’Round”), Lea Antolini-Lid (“The Last Five Years”) and Lynn Hart (“Side by Side by Sondheim”) as well as regional favorite J.C. Hoyt, who has been seen many times at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison.
Dalio, who by day is the head of the musical theater department at New Jersey City University, said he is particularly enjoying the chance to work more closely with Krajkowski.
“I am very excited about this particular show because I’ve never worked with Barbara as a director,” he said. “That was one of the big selling points for me.”
Dalio, who previously performed in several Broadway national musical tours, plays the iconic El Gallo, the mysterious bandit and narrator who also gets to sing the production’s signature song, “Try to Remember.”
“As actors, we are so fortunate in this area to have smaller companies like the Women’s Theater Company and the Bickford, [which] do small runs of great shows that we can work into our schedules,” said Dalio, a Sparta native and resident who gave up the road to spend more time with his two children.
“Marc is going to be a great El Gallo and it’s such a pleasure to work with JC for the first time,” Krajkowski said. “I’ve known JC for years and I have to tell you, watching him is an absolute delight. He’s over-the-top funny.”
“He is very funny in the role [of the Actor],” Dalio said of Hoyt. “He is a grand actor but also very comical. What I also appreciate is that he also has a very keen understanding of what this show is about.”
“The Fantasticks,” of course, remains one of the most often-produced musicals in the world, even after closing its record original Off-Broadway run of 42 years in 2002.
And for the many who have seen it before, Krajkowski has a fresh twist— casting moms instead of the dads who manipulate the romance of their respective son and daughter, setting off the bittersweet allegorical tale that follows.
“It’s such a great story and such a wonderful score,” Krajkowski said. “It’s a score that you can listen to over and over, so simple and easy. At least when you hear it; it’s a lot of work in the rehearsals! I think that’s why we have had such a response on line. We’ve probably had the most presale with this show that we’ve ever had here.”
The season continues with a new Cabaret Performance Series Dec. 15-16 (and again April 19-21), followed by the March 15-30 world premiere of a ripped-from-the-headlines drama, “A Person of Interest” (by New Jersey playwright Jewel Seehaus Fisher, whose “My Sister Underground” premiered here a few years ago). The season concludes May 17-June 2 with “A Grand Night for Singing,” a musical revue inspired by the songs of Rogers and Hammerstein.
For more information, visit the redesigned website at www.womenstheatercompany.org.
The Women’s Theater Company production of “The Fantasticks” runs Sept. 14-30 at the Parsippany Community Center’s Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Parsippany. Tickets $20, $18 seniors. For online ticket purchase or information, visit www.womenstheater.org or call 973-316-3033.
The Women’s Theater Company production of “The Fantasticks” runs Sept. 14 to 30 at the Parsippany Community Center’s Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Parsippany. Tickets $20, $18 seniors. For online ticket purchase or information, visit www.womenstheater.org or call 973-316-3033.