Cast and Writers of "The Fabulous Lipitones" Photos by Diane Sobolewski
The history of barbershop quartets dates back to a time when
African-American males waiting for a shave and a haircut would
spontaneoulsy burst into song, spirituals, folk and popular tunes, as
they waited for their turn in the barber's chair. Sung a cappella,
without musical accompaniment, the barbershop quartet can be fondly
remembered in the movie and musical "The Music Man," as four men
harmonized, the lead singing melody, harmonizing with the tenor, the
bass singing the lowest notes and the baritone completing
Donning straw hats and vertical striped vests, the barbershop quartet
reached its peak of popularity at the turn of the twentieth century. In
1938 a tax attorney Owen C. Cash teamed up with an investment banker
Rupert L. Hall, both from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to
make sure this American art form didn't disappear. Their efforts
produced the S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A., the Society for Preservation and
Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.
Today, seventy-five years later, two new gentlemen are taking up the
banner that Misters Cash and Hall waved so enthusiastically.
Playwrights John Markus and Mark St. Germain are busy giving the
barbershop quartet phenomenon an exciting infusion of attention
and encouragement. Last week they launched their new musical "The
Fabulous Lipitones" that features a traditional barbershop quartet with a
not so customary twist.
Markus and St. Germain met for the first time in the mid-1980's when
they both worked on "The Cosby Show," where Markus was head writer, a
position he held for 67 episodes over six years. In time they
collaborated again, on projects like "Sons of Liberty,"
about a fraternal lodge in the mid-west, that is being revisited today
after a lengthy hiatus. The pair stayed in touch and when St. Germain
had "a vision" ten years ago for a storyline involving a barbershop
quartet that he couldn't get off the ground, he
brought it to Markus who found the right "note" to get it percolating.
"The Fabulous Lipitones" opens when the 50-something guys have just
achieved a great triumph, winning the regional competitions (yes,
Virginia, there are contests for best quartets) and simultaneously
suffering their greatest loss. After 32 years of harmonizing
together, one of their members, Andy, has died, literally and
figuratively after warbling his last note.
While mourning his loss, they are also panicking about filling his empty
slot so they can compete in the Nationals less than two weeks away.
Wally (Wally Dunn) is championing the competition, Phil (Danny
Rutigliano) is all for disbanding the group and Howard
(D. C. Anderson), the deciding vote, is easily persuaded to agree both
When the men chance to hear about a singing mechanic, they schedule him
for an audition, only to discover he is visibly different culturally.
How Baba (Bob) Matidas (Rohan Kymal) inserts himself into their lives is
at the heart of this musical. Markus and
St. Germain want the audience to appreciate how differences, in this
case, "the other," can make us think outside the box. Bob as a member
of the Sikh culture, can open our minds and illuminate something in the
world we didn't understand or know existed.
Set in London, Ohio, a town with two traffic lights, that Markus
originally called home, he also used men in his new address, the New
York taxi drivers, 90% of whom are Sikhs, as the foundation for the
storyline to prove our beliefs and prejudices about people
who wear a turban. Markus also noted they are generous, compassionate
and elegant in their jobs.
When the play was first workshopped in Atlanta, where Goodspeed
personnel Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton and Bob Alwine first saw it, members
of the three major Sikh temples provided accurate and encouraging
feedback for the work and thanked the writers for explaining
who they are to an unknowing world.
"The Fabulous Lipitones" will debut at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre,
33 North Main Street in Chester, playing until Sunday, June 2. For
tickets ($44), call 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org.
Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 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.
The men call the Goodspeed experience "terrific," with wonderful actors
and a great reputation, allowing them to keep working on the piece and
make changes, without having to worry about critic's reviews. The show
is directed by Gordon Greenberg, choreographed
by Connor Gallagher, with vocal and musical direction by Dan Pardo, on a
set designed by Brian Prather.
While the number one and two barbershop quartets in the world are from
Sweden and New Zealand, the Lipitones are fabulous in their own right
and John Markus and Mark St. Germain are voting for them to be your
personal favorites. Come early and hear a local
barbershop quartet crooning in the Norma Terris lobby before the show.
Songs like "Hello, My Baby," "Shine On, Harvest Moon," "Yankee Doodle
Dandy" and "Sweet Adeline" have never sounded so good.