Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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Free Tickets to Tony-nominated
‘A Catered Affair’

2010 February 28

L to R: Anthony Rodriguez, Ingrid Cole, Jeremy Wood & Laura Floyd, Photo: James M. Helms

The Broadway musical “A Catered Affair,” book by two-time Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by John Bucchino hits the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville this week. The Broadway show, starring Harvey Fierstein, ran on Broadway in 2008. The musical was nominated for three Tony awards and 12 Drama Desk awards.

Aurora is giving away two tickets for any performance to each of the first three people who leave a comment on this blog.

I spoke with John Bucchino last week via telephone.

Can you give us a one or two sentence what “A Catered Affair” is about?

It’s about communication within a family and being honest with one another and with yourself.

What do you personally relate to?

I relate to the young people in the show and what they go thorough between trying to please their parents and being who their parents want them to be. They struggle with asserting their individuality, being who they truly are and deciding what they want for themselves.  We all go through that.

How did you go about composing for this?

Harvey wrote a straight play without any songs. Then he emailed me a copy of it and said let’s each read this and think of where we think individual songs should happen. We each made our own list of where we thought songs should go and then compared our lists. They were almost identical.

Which song gave you the most difficulty when you were writing it?

“Immediate Family” is one of Harvey’s (Harvey played Uncle Winston) big up-tempo numbers. It’s funny but also angry. It’s always hardest to write a funny song. I know there are writers who love writing big funny numbers but hate writing emotional ballads. I’m the opposite. On the other hand the easiest song to write was “Coney Island,” another song Harvey (Uncle Winston) sings. Writing that was a remarkable experience for me. One morning—I think it was three-thirty or four in the morning—I bolted up in bed, heard it in my head and sang it straight through into a memo recorder.  The whole melody just popped into my head fully formed. That’s never happened before to me. I was working on it in my sleep, I think. It just poured out of me. The song has remained exactly the same. The next morning I wrote the lyrics.

What’s your favorite song in the show?

I love a song called “Vision” where the mother is envisioning her daughter’s wedding, the wedding she herself never had. It’s poignant. I love the way the music and chords build in that song.

Which do you compose first, the music or the lyrics?

I almost never write the music first. I usually write at least part of the lyrics first because the lyrics create the framework. The lyrics are the hard part, so I force myself to deal with that part I don’t like so much and then let myself deal with the part I really like, which is the music.

How did this collaboration come about?

Harvey heard my first CD, “Grateful” with me on piano accompanying some illustrious singers: Liza Minnelli, Judy Collins, Art Garfunkel, Patti LuPone. He wrote me a wonderfully complimentary letter saying he loved the CD. A month later he wrote me again saying he was playing it over and over again and asked if I wanted to have dinner. We had dinner and he asked if I wanted to collaborate on this with him. Initially I said no. I asked my best friend, Steven Schwartz, who wrote music for “Wicked,” “Pippin,” and lots of other musicals what he thought. He said he thought I’d be suited to do it perfectly. So I eventually said yes.

How did the show end up at Aurora?

Ann-Carol Pence (Aurora’s musical director) saw the show on Broadway and I guess fell in love with it.  She said the first time the cast went through it there were lots of tears, which is always good. My primary concern is that any piece of my writing elicits an emotional response. I want my work to resonate and touch them.

How did you first start in music?

I started playing piano when I was about a year old. Not banging on it, actually playing delicate melodies, making up songs. I taught myself how to play. I still play only by ear. I know what notes are. I play things into a computer and have someone transcribe it.

What would you be doing if you weren’t earning money as a musician?

I spent some time in Africa a few years ago working with orphans who have AIDS.  I worked with them and started a music program. I taught them Beatles songs and learned their songs. I haven’t really made a living just from my writing yet. Lately I’ve been doing master classes with college kids where they learn my songs, and I coach them on performance of my music. I like working with young people in music. Their energy and enthusiasm reminds me of when I was young and optimistic.

What’s your favorite thing about “A Catered Affair”?

My favorite thing is that the show really moves people.  I saw people in the audience in New York who when the show was over they just sat there and didn’t leave the theater for many minutes because they were so emotionally affected by it.

Why should people go see the show?

The show will transport them to a time and place that will be relevant to their lives, even though they may not have been around in the 1950s. The show will make them think and reevaluate some aspects of their lives and make them feel very deeply.

Bucchino will attend the opening night at Aurora Theatre March 4 at 8 p.m. The show runs through March 28.

12 Responses Post a comment
  1. Jen Simmons permalink
    February 28, 2010

    Lawrenceville is blessed to have the Aurora Theatre with all of their talented actors! Every show is a good show! Never disappointed! I’m sure Catered Affair will be another awesome show!

  2. Melissa Flanders permalink
    February 28, 2010

    A few years back there was a play in which the audience was able to participate as guests. I believe the name of the play was Tony and Tina’s Wedding . Before reading the information above I thought A Catered Affair was similiar. However it appears A Catered Affair is far from the message in Tony and Tina’s Wedding. I have not seen the play yet, but, I am certain the message revolves around family values and togetherness. Something I would look forwarad to seeing .

  3. February 28, 2010

    Hi Melissa,
    It’s funny you bring up “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.” Here in Atlanta in the early 1990s we did a show that was a takeoff on that called “Frankie & Angie Get Married.” It was audience participatory theater. For two years I played Angie’s best friend.
    You have yourself two tickets to “A Catered Affair.”

  4. Sheila Boltuch permalink
    March 1, 2010

    This is a great show. It really takes me back to the 50’s in the Bronx, which was similar to my childhood in Brooklyn in the 60’s. It definitely pulls the emotional heart strings.

  5. Ellen Lederman permalink
    March 1, 2010

    The play sounds like it will be a lot of fun—just what is needed right now as a refreshing alternative to all the dreary news and the way too chilly weather! Good for the Aurora for offering something that promises to be a great evening of entertainment.

  6. Tracy Westrom permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I want free tickets.

  7. Carla Gracen permalink
    March 1, 2010

    This play seems like it will generate strong emotions regarding the closeness betweeen family members including the ups and downs. Entertainment like this is great when it can trigger emotional connections from the audience.

  8. Bill permalink
    March 1, 2010

    Thanks for the background piece/interview, Susan. I’ve been looking forward to the show since I saw it on Aurora’s season line-up. They always do a great job and I’m glad to see they’re continuing to seek out and produce unique shows in Atlanta. Loved their production of Boom and hope to see more along those lines as well.

  9. Denise Meckelvaney permalink
    March 1, 2010

    Would love to see the show as I have heard good things about it. Will see it even though I am the fourth on the site to leave a comment.

  10. Calvin Neal permalink
    March 1, 2010

    A friend told me about “A Catered Affair” and raved about it.

  11. Ted Collins permalink
    March 1, 2010

    In a time of family disparity this plot warms the heart and mind of the young as well as the old. Bringing unity through communication and that like of it.

  12. Helen Marie permalink
    March 1, 2010

    Hi Melissa,

    I hope I’m still able to qualify for the tickets. I love musicals and Harvey Fierstein is one of my favorites. I have not attended your theater before, but it sounds great and I would love to see it.

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