Belting Out ‘Til Death Do Us Part

Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.

The New Paltz Miami Theatre Players plan to let their hair down and rock out on tune during their production of “The Wedding Singer.”

Set in 1985, the movie-inspired musical follows the career of rockstar wannabee Robbie Hart — played by third-year digital media management major Justin Bankos — who is completely shot through the heart after his fiancée leaves him hanging at the altar.

Angered by his shattered love life, Hart takes his rage out on other people’s happiness by ruining each wedding he performs at, that is, until finding the girl of his dreams: –waitress Julia Sullivan, played by second-year communication disorders major Laureen Scianimanico.

On a quest for a happy ending, Hart’s love life comes down to one make-or-break performance to win the affection of the show’s leading lady.

Bankos said he was initially hard on himself because he didn’t think he was vocally capable of succeeding in this role but that he eventually learned to believe in himself and was motivated to work harder.

“I love to perform and I love to be onstage,” Bankos said. “I love the rush that I get. I’ve had a blast singing the songs and being the character.”

A rehearsal process that began last May, The Miami Theatre Players have been consistently working on this musical since mid-September and rehearse several times a week.

A completely student-run organization, The Miami Theatre Players choose a production and executive board at the end of each semester for the following semester.

Productions are nominated and voted on based on budget allowances and which shows will lend themselves to casting a variety of students and generating enough hype to bring in a good audience, according to second-year communication disorders major Emily Sarra, the show’s assistant director and choreographer.

The executive board consists of a president, treasurer, director, assistant director, stage manager, public relations officer and depending on the production’s requirements, a choreographer and musical director.

According to the production’s director, third-year secondary education and history double-major Ben Abrams, who assistant directed Miami’s last production “Urinetown,” a longer rehearsal process makes for a stronger bond within the cast and between the cast and the creative team.

Sarra, who is usually in front of the curtain instead of behind it, is a rookie on the creative team, but said working behind the scenes has given her a new appreciation for those who work those roles on a regular basis.

A large difference between being a performer and a part of the creative team, according to Sarra, is not being outwardly recognized by the audience via applause at the end of each performance.

She said her recognition is more internalized and has to be more self-fulfilling.

On a similar note, Abrams said directing the production has taught him how many extra hours go into working so closely on a show with a cast and creative team of a collective 27 people.

“Everything that was happening was falling on my shoulders and I really wasn’t completely prepared for that,” Abrams said. “I had to be able to delegate and look to the rest of the creative team and trust that their vision for the show matched mine.”

Being an entirely student-run club, The Miami Theatre Players don’t have the luxury of relying on faculty to get necessities together, which, while posing an inconvenience, allows for the students involved in the shows to take more ownership over the production, according to Bankos.

Although the production does not have the financial or insightful help of the New Paltz Theater Department, Sarra’s ultimate hope is that audience members walk out of the show not having realized that there was no faculty input or assistance in the musical’s production process.

“We downgrade ourselves a lot by saying we’re student run and we don’t have different resources,” Sarra said. “We always say that we’re trying, but I want people not to know or care that we’re student-run and wanting to be involved with us anyway.”

“The Wedding Singer” will run in Studley Theatre from Thursday, Nov. 21 through Saturday, Nov. 23 with performances at 8 p.m.