My Favorite Year Musical
The "Lights Come Up"
for A Musical Comedy
in My Favorite Year
MY FAVORITE YEAR, the musical presented by Sayville Middle School, had such demanding comic timing, intricate staging, and challenging musical score that it could have fallen short of being anyone’s favorite anything. Yet, the talented performers and stage crew, under the remarkable guidance of their directors, worked great magic (as they to do every year), resulting in a show with comic characters that charmed, singing that more than satisfied, sets that transformed magnificently, and acting that was so believable, it was only “unbelievable” when one realized the performers were Middle School students!
Audiences are reacquainted with 1954, “not my best year, not the year I had the most success, but my favorite year,” says Benjy Stone, a junior writer (deftly portrayed with genuine likeability by Sean McNally) for the very popular “live” TV variety hour, the King Kaiser Comedy Show.
In the opening number Twenty Million People, Benjy and company reveal the frantic preparation and drama five minutes “before the show” which stars “Funnyman” King Kaiser (amusingly blended with bluster and blister by Raymond Ebarb). Hardly a funny man backstage, Kaiser is renowned for his absurd tantrums, and later in The Gospel According to the King, his superstitions that intimidate his entire staff.
However, 1954 was the year Benjy finally would meet his favorite swashbuckler movie idol, the once smashingly famous, now mostly smashed Alan Swann (played with a proper balance of dash and poignancy by Sean Velazquez) who must fill an otherwise empty guest spot on the Comedy show. Despite Benjy’s high praise for Swann in the song Larger than Life, Swann has lost his muster. Benjy is assigned an important mission: to keep Swann sober and out of trouble for his guest appearance in The Musketeer Sketch on the show.
Relying on Benjy’s success are his professional cohorts: head writer Sy Benson (puffed to generous proportions by Jamie Baio), co writers Leo Silver and Herb Lee (played humorously by comic duo Mark Ambrosini and Dylan Finder) as well as Alice Miller (brought to life by the fabulous Rowen Mahoney) who is the beleaguered comedienne and perpetual “second banana” to the spotlight-hogging King Kaiser. Yet, it would be all work and no play for Benjy if it were not for his love interest—the only person employed at the show missing a funnybone—K.C. Downing (comically delivered by the lovely voiced Mary Nichols).
Of course, what comedy writer in the 50s doesn’t have a Jewish mother?
Benjy's mother, Belle May Steinberg Carroca (performed with both convincing accent and splendid voice by Jillian Brudi), is a well-intentioned meddler who has finally found her own happiness with the goodhearted exfighter Rookie Carroca (played as the strong, silent type by Tyler Powers). Belle wants Benjy to have the same chance at happiness.
Happiness can be elusive even for the famous as Benjy discovers in Swann’s song, entitled Exits, in which the movie idol admits he deserted his marriages, ditched his daughter Tess (Raven Dushnick) for the past three years, and even walked out on his career. Mending broken hearts, broken lives, and broken dreams may be an enormous undertaking for one junior writer, but Benjy remembers fondly the lessons he learned about life and love in his favorite year.
My Favorite Year deserves applause for every performer, from the leads to the supporting cast including those amusing Brooklyn relatives Uncle Morty (Dan Palma) and Aunt Sadie (Eileen Monahan), city dwellers, Maxford House Girls, and COMEDY SHOW crew. Bravos also go to the Middle School musical’s experts: Director Jeff Hoffman, Musical Director Fred Diekmann, Producer Kristi Woerner, Sound Andrew Giammalvo Lighting Steve Hailey, Set Construction Ken VanEssendelft, and Artwork Cora Sparwasser, as well as the smooth operators among the production crew, high school volunteers, and parent volunteers. Also a special mention should be given to Sean Mac Production (Sean McNally) for providing the entertaining “movie sequence” within the play. Thanks to their efforts, this year’s production was indeed a favorite for so many!