After a 10-year hiatus, the Secaucus community theater group, CAST, returns with “The Show Must Go On” on Oct. 21 and 22 at the Performing Arts Center.
The 70-member production, executive produced by Pat DeFerrari and Joan Kashuba, was written and directed by resident and author of the vampire novel Unnatural, Michael Griffo. It is a musical variety show that features the town of Secaucus as the star of the show and will take audiences through the history of the town – from the pig farms to the town clock and everything in between.
Co-founders and co-executive producers DeFerrari and Kashuba had been asked for years to bring back CAST by Mayor Michael Gonnelli. Finally, with backup underwriting by the town and cooperation from the Board of Education, the two women came out of retirement to put together a show.
“Putting teens and adults and children together was the best thing we ever did.” – Joan Kashuba
“We call it a musical journey of Secaucus,” said DeFerrari.
The show is aptly named since it is also about CAST, which stands for Community Arts Scholarship Theater. The theater program first ran from 1988 to 1999 and brought together children, teens, and adults in a collaborative, creative and supportive environment that helped launch careers through scholarship and by giving every kid a chance to perform.
A CAST is born
Both DeFerrari and Kashuba were exposed to theater at a young age and recalled that whether it was the town, the church, the high school or family, they always had a connection to performances.
“We were born and raised in Secaucus, and all of our lives, there was some kind of theater,” said DeFerrari. “[Joan’s] father had a curtain that he pulled on a traverse rod in the backyard.”
Due to budgetary issues in the 1980s, however, the Board of Education cut theater arts at the same time that the town stopped performances, which were being organized by the Police Athletic League.
“[Theater] came to a screeching halt,” said DeFerrari.
Kashuba said that for about four years during that period, the Immaculate Conception Church had a priest, Father Bob Morotta, who was commonly referred to as “Broadway Bob.”
“He started these shows that were marathons…He brought everybody back together again,” said Kashuba. After four years, “he was called away and we were devastated.”
“So I get a phone call from Pat saying, ‘We can’t let this go,’ ” said Kashuba.
A learning experience
DeFerrari and Kashuba received support from both the town and Board of Education recreation programs. They hired teachers from the school to help. Frank Costello, current assistant principal of the high school, conceived and directed the first show in 1988, “Bits of Broadway.” The group performed in the high school “cafetorium,” a cafeteria with a stage.
“It was a real intimate situation. It was in some ways easier,” said DeFerrari.
“We carried costumes, props,” said Kashuba.
“We did it out of the trunks of our cars,” said DeFerrari.
“Putting teens and adults and children together was the best thing we ever did,” said Kashuba. “It was an incredible learning experience for the kids.”
CAST had a strong run, and put on musical variety productions with the high school when it brought back its theater arts programming in the early nineties. Those lasted until 1999, when the principal at the time wanted to run a separate program.
The old crew is back
DeFerrari and Kashuba have had the support of former volunteers and alumni in putting together the production. It includes 50 performers including singers and dancers and 20 people working behind the scenes.
School board member Dora Marra is working on all the props. Jody Jarrod returned to choreograph the show. CAST has support on sound from alumni Billy Worman, sound technician at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and on logo and playbill cover design from alumni Shane Butler, who designs for Estee Lauder.
Griffo brought in Jordan Addison from New York City as musical director.
“We have Michael. Don Kaputo his assistant. [Joan’s] daughter writes for us. Debbie Diamor is our associate,” said DeFerrari.
DeFerrari and Kashuba will perform, “We are Still Here” and “As If We Never Said GoodBye.”
“Listening to these people, it just gets in your bones, it gets in your heart,” said Kashuba.
Show dates are Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 22, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.
Senior price on Saturday afternoon is $8. For tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.