THE ASBURY PARK THEATER CO. SALLY’S FORTH

TV legend Sally Struthers is the special guest host — and Broadway actress-singer Carter Calvert headlines the eve’s featured musical talent — whn the new Asbury Park Theater Company makes its bow with a Friday fundraiser at The Asbury Hotel.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 1, 2019

As the iconic hard-hatted Construction Worker character of The Village People — a role that he’s performed countless times in the latter-day edition of that disco-era institution — William Whitefield can be said to truly know what it takes to put on a show; both the choreographed spectacle that plays out to the crowd, as well as the brick ‘n mortar, hammers ‘n nails, elbow-grease reality required to present and sustain the whole grand illuson.

These days, the longtime resident of Asbury Park is trying on another hat — that of producing artistic director for the Asbury Park Theater Company, an ambitious new entity that makes its public bow this Friday, August 2, with a special fundraiser show at The Asbury Hotel.

As the veteran actor, singer, producer, director, composer and arts administrator tells it, “people come here for the culture, but an established theater has been a missing piece…we aim to create a professional theater company for this community, for Asbury Park.”

To make that happen, the Construction Worker teamed up with the Cop — Robert Angelini, the retired law enforcement professional turned multi-tasking player on the area’s stage scene. Angelini served as a founding board member (and artistic director in its later seasons) of ReVision Theater, the professional company that once upon a time staged some memorable entertainments at various bars, bingo halls, basilica, and boardwalk landmarks in the earlier years of the century.

“Both Bob and I are actors and directors, and we have an understanding of what it takes to put on a show,” says Whitefiled, whose tenure as executive director of the Algonquin Arts Theatre saw him play an instrumental role in the establishment of that Manasquan mainstay’s popular Broadway Series of self-produced musicals. “We really wanted to do something here in Asbury Park, and we believe that we’ve got a grip on what’s good for the city.”

With a handful of other professional stage concerns operating in nearby locales like Red Bank, Long Branch and Ocean Township — and with another fledgling troupe of pros (Boardwalk Theater) having announced plans to bring an original musical on the life of Rosa Parks to Asbury Park at some point in 2020 — the APTCo principals look to stake out a distinct streetcorner in which, as Whitefield says, “the idea is to do cutting-edge stuff…we’re not looking to do family theater.”

“We want to keep it edgy, keep it rock and roll, along the lines of what ReVision used to do,” says Angelini. “In addition, we’d want to do small cast plays; the sort of current things that other companies don’t touch.”

Having been formally founded mere weeks ago — and having just been accredited as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — APTCo is hardly positioned to announce an inaugural slate of productions. But, ready or not, the company prepares to make its first big splash with Friday night’s event, a benefit concert (presented under the semi-Sondheimy title A Little Musical Night) that’s headlined by some familiar favorites from Algonquin seasons past.

Of course, most immediately familiar is the event’s host, Sally Struthers. The Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress who gained fame as Gloria on the groundbreaking sitcom All in the Family (and the character’s self-titled spinoff) previously worked with Whitefield and his Manasquan team on hit stagings of Always, Patsy Cline — and the event inside The Asbury’s ballroom space reunites her with her co-star in that two-woman show, Broadway veteran and frequent Algonquin guest artist Carter Calvert.

“When we found out that Sally was going to be in the area, and that we had the opportunity to snag her for the evening, we said that’s it; we’re going to jumpstart this thing,” Whitefield explains. “We’re getting ready to jump into the deep end.”     Continue reading