Thursday, April 26, 2018
Stage

Home-grown musical debuts in downtown New Port Richey

For years, singer-actor Diana Rogers played Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables on Broadway and did that role and others in national touring companies. A few years ago, however, family circumstances brought her to Florida, where she became head of the award-winning drama department at River Ridge High School and directed and wrote plays and musicals for her students.

Now she's writing for grownups and will launch her first musical comedy at 7:30 p.m. today (July 18) at Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre in downtown New Port Richey, where it will continue matinees and evenings through Aug. 10. She named the show Coupled, about three couples who have been together for a while.

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change is about the beginning of relationships," Rogers said. "Menopause the Musical is about women. I wanted to do a musical about people who had been in a relationship for a while."

She talked with other women and realized that they shared many experiences in marriage; she talked to men "and found out what drives men crazy about women."

"I wanted to create a night out that men as well as women could go see comfortably — and leave the theater laughing," she said. Although there's no offensive language or situations in the show, Rogers said those in their 20s and older will probably enjoy it most, "especially those who have ever been in a relationship a while."

The plot revolves around three couples: Maggie (Dee Etta Rowe, Nine and The Most Happy Fella on Broadway), a hard-charging television anchorwoman, and Daniel (Brandon Mauro, television's CSI, Malcolm in the Middle), Maggie's "boy toy"; Jack (Rich Faurote, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables at Stage West), an aging attorney, and Lexi (Jessica Virginia, Velma in Chicago at Stage West), his young trophy wife; and the long-married Donna (Diana Rogers), a middle school music teacher, and her computer geek husband Bill (Peter Clapsis, Pastor in Church Basement Ladies). The six go off for a weekend together at a new luxury golf resort and get a genuine test of love, friendship and long-term relationships in a fast-changing world.

Rogers has written 22 original songs for the show, including Middle Age Lament, Bathroom Samba, Channel Surfing, Help Me, Oprah and many others. "I don't know how I did it," she said, though perhaps it's because the show has been percolating in her brain for years. Marvin Lovett did the music arrangements.

"This is a great show for baby boomers," said Jimmy Ferraro, co-owner of the theater with his wife of 25 years, Dee Etta Rowe, and also director of the show. "The music is reminiscent of tunes from the '50s, '60s and '70s."

Ferraro agrees that more-mature audiences would enjoy the show the most. "It's a fun look at adult life friendships, relationships and situations."

Rogers was still tweaking the show, even as opening night approached. "It's really hard to be in a show and listen to it at the same time," she said. Especially when it's one you've written.

She hopes the Studio Theatre debut is just the beginning for her creation. "I'd like to take it on the road with more big dance numbers, rear-screen projections, voiceovers, and bigger sets," she said. For its debut, however, she's happy in the smaller venue, concentrating on the characters and songs and getting them just right.

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