In 2006, a trio of young writers viewed the reality television show “The Contender,” about the world of competitive boxing, that set them on a path that will culminate on Thursday, May 12 when their original musical “Cutman” opens at Chester’s Norma Terris Theatre.
With book by Jared Michael Coseglia, story by Coseglia and Cory Grant and music and lyrics by Drew Brody, “Cutman” tells the story of Ari Hoffman, a young Jewish boxer from Queens, New York, who has been trained, virtually from birth, by his father in the basement of their synagogue.
When a prominent Jewish boxing promoter Moe Green discovers Ari, he promises to make him Welter-Weight Champion of the World. The first thing he requires of the impressionable youth is to fire his dad Eli, the custodian at the synagogue, and let Moe Green totally manage his career.
In a touching scene, the son must convince the father to alter his personal dreams and become Ari’s cutman, and stand in his corner of the ring to treat his cuts and bruises. Eventually Ari has to make even harder choices as he advances toward his goal, learning difficult lessons about love, faith, ambition and tradition along the way.
Jared Michael Coseglia describes the process of writing “Cutman,” which he also directs, as a “six year labor of love” that is both “fabulous” and “fantastic” as it nears its first major curtain. He and his good friends couldn’t be prouder that their work is “new, original and totally conceived by them” rather than adapted from an existing work.
To add realism and honesty to their tale, Jared began boxing early on in the process. Now the sport is a vital part of his daily life. “Boxing has given me a zeal for life and empowered me. It’s an eternal discipline.” As for “Cutman,” he considered it “ my contribution to humanity.” Working with Cory, who plays Ari Hoffman on stage, and Drew Brody, who composed rock, pop, hip-hop and rhythm and blues tunes, these former roommates and college friends wrote the script in one week, Christmas 2006. Since then the team, who “think each other’s thoughts,” has been refining it through staged readings starting with the New York Musical Festival in 2007. Their long road to a full production came with new agents and a commitment by Artistic Director Michael Price of Goodspeed Musicals to bring it to the Norma Terris, considered “the little Goodspeed.”
Coseglia describes Price as “fully committed to the future of great American theater” and the Goodspeed as a “great place to give us the time and resources to work on ‘Cutman’ and develop it, to make it more mature structurally and stylistically. Goodspeed encourages that maturation.”
As for the message of the musical for the audience, Coseglia feels it is more about asking questions: What are you willing to sacrifice, for love, for faith, for family?” He hopes the message will “marinate in people’s minds and cause change.” At the core, he “feels we all deal with faith every day.”
For tickets ($45.50), call the Goodspeed at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are at the Norma Terris, 33 North Main Street, Chester (exit 6 off route 9), Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. until Sunday, June 5.
Come enter the ring as a trio of talented thirty-somethings lend their voices to a young Jewish boxer who is willing to risk everything to become the champion contender.