Retro RFH Spring Musical Time

There’s no business like RFH spring musical business! And, about now, the cast is primed for opening night in a few hours.

This year the musical setting the RFH stage is The Addams Family. The show opens tonight at 7 p.m. and runs through Sunday with a closing matinee at 1. New show folk traditions have taken hold at RFH. Well, not so new anymore.

Back in the day (ahem), the spring musical usually ran in April. And the show run was from Thursday to Saturday. The three-day run remains the same, it’s just the days and times that have changed.

And the cast parties and mischievous traditions …

RFH shows were always well done and very popular with the general public. Some things never change. What has changed is the way in which the shows were publicized and the celebratory events.

First of all, RFH show cast members, fearfully nerdy or not, were always required to brave the thought of a cop chase and paint the bridge — and the road. It was our form of advertising. It was also not only accepted but expected. So were the calls from the police station to pick up lagging miscreant cast members.

The memories are indelible. Thinking back to 1978 and the cast of Fiddler on the Roof. The bridge needed that paint job. The plan was hatched. The backyard routes to the top of the bridge were set. Cars were parked and the footpath was forged. Until Libby Anderson, Chava in the show, went mysteriously (or not) missing in the dark. There was a back yard with a pool. We were certain that she had unsuccessfully treaded atop water and, unlike Jesus, hit bottom and surely met her demise at the hand of mischief. That disrupted the artwork a bit.

But the show of painting did go on — not only on the bridge, but on the road as well. Most made it out unscathed and not incarcerated, though maybe blinded by the police flashlights and a little scuffed up, scared and out of breath from the chase.

The celebration of a successful painting was always done with coffee and donuts at Dunkin Donuts. Yes, Dunkin Donuts, folks! It was a very popular after-rehearsal spot for RFH Tower Players and other players who sullied Red Bank’s reputation with the likes of show folk teens parked at the counter. Hmmmmmm. Imagine that.

Then there was opening night. That thrill never changes. I was Golde. Kevin Carpenter was Tevye. The cast was filled with Rumson Hugheses — Paul, Mark, Nan. They’re still in Rumson. And the tradition was passed on.

Closing night was a night — Saturday night. Never a matinee. There were standing ovations, endless bows, shorter speeches, flowers … and wine. Yes, wine. I still have it. The cast of Fiddler gave me a bouquet of roses and a big bottle of wine with a hand-painted message.

In all fairness, the drinking age was 18 back then. However, I was 17. I actually waited to open it until I was in college. The others … I’m not so sure about.

That’s not to say that there were no cast parties. The closing night cast party was in Rumson at the home of a longtime local journalist. Ahem. Interesting twist.

Well, it’s a few hours and counting until curtain time. Break a leg, cast of The Addams Family!

— Elaine Van Develde