Retro RFH Spring Musical Misadventures

There’s no business like RFH spring musical business! And, about now, the cast is primed for opening night on Friday.

This year the musical setting the RFH stage is Mamma Mia!. The show opens Friday night at 7 p.m., there is another show on Saturday, same curtain time and closes the first weekend with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.. Then, in a newer RFH show twist, there is another weekend of performances the following weekend with a Friday night show at 7 and closing night on Saturday at 7. They’re back to the closing night rather than day at RFH with this one. 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, as with this show. And the show run was from Thursday to Saturday. The three-day run remained the same, it’s just the days and times that changed. Now, the show goes on for two weekends. And that makes an RFH cast and audience happy. The more show time, the better. Then there are the show antics. Who could forget those? Not I or any other RFH show kid.

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.

All was right with the traditional bridge painting misadventure … 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. Whispers in the dark on the way to the bridge could be heard: “Oh, my God. Libby is dead. Psssst. Pssst. Crap. Where’s Libby? Sniffle, sniffle. Oh, it’s all our fault!”

She was already on top of the bridge.

And 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 and anxiety over Libby’s faux untimely demise.

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. Now the cast can go park themselves in Fair Haven. We would have loved that. Really.

Then there was opening night. Full disclosure: 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. Some of them. 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. Can you hazard a guess as to whom that was? Hint: She worked for the Red Bank Register for years and her son and daughter (who was one of the daughters in Fiddler) are also journalists, one with the New York Times and another with the Star Ledger. Take a guess.

Back in the day, shows ran Thursday through Saturday nights — a three-night run. That changed to Friday and Saturday nights and a Sunday closing show matinee. We’re not sure what happened to cast parties, but we fear a swan song to them was done years ago. Awwwww … And, there’s no more bridge, of course, so the antics have waned, as have the size of the casts.

This year, though, Mamma Mia! is the spring musical at RFH that is also bringing a two-weekend performance run. Mama Mia! That’s great!

Well, it’s a couple of days until curtain time. That’s Friday, folks! Break a leg, cast of Mamma Mia! Curtain up!

RFH Fiddler on the Roof 1978
Photo/Sally Van Develde
Golde & Tevye, Elaine Van Develde & Kevin Carpenter before curtain on opening night 1978
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

— Elaine Van Develde