By Kimberly Dijkstra

Long Island native Joe Iconis, known for the Broadway musical ‘Be More Chill,’ has brought the world premiere of his new show, ‘Punk Rock Girl,’ to Babylon Village’s Argyle Theatre. The jukebox musical features punk, pop, and rock favorites, a terrifically talented cast, and an outlandishly fun story about young people forming friendships and finding their identities.

The Tony-nominated composer/lyricist teamed up with two prior collaborators – fellow composer/lyricist Rob Rokicki (‘The Lightning Thief,’ ‘Monstersongs’) and director/choreographer Jennifer Werner (‘Broadway Bounty Hunter’) – to create an original piece full of surprises that will bring a smile to your face.

Named after the 1988 song “Punk Rock Girl” by the Dead Milkmen, which does make an appearance, the musical draws inspiration not only from the punk genre, but the humor of the Muppets, entertainer Charles Busch, classic musicals, and campy B-movies as well – you’ll have to see it to understand!

Iconis, a Jonathan Larson Award recipient who has built his career on original compositions, was at first reluctant to be involved in a jukebox musical.

“I, for the most part, hate jukebox musicals, and I hate them for purely selfish reasons,” he joked. “Because they’re putting me out of work, as someone who writes new musicals.”

Lively McCabe Entertainment, who commissioned the piece, persuaded him by explaining the goal was to license out the show to high schools and community theatres.

“As soon as I heard that, I started getting excited about doing some kind of reinvention of what we think of as jukebox musicals,” Iconis said. “The idea behind this was, oh, how can we have this weirdo story and populate it with music, some of which people might recognize, but much of which people will be hearing for the first time.”

In addition to well-integrated tunes by Pink, No Doubt, Joan Jett, and Blondie, with an Avril Lavigne trifecta in Act II, ‘Punk Rock Girl’ is a love letter to New York, featuring music of Pat Benatar, who grew up in Lindenhurst, and a nod to The Ramones by setting it in Forest Hills, Queens.

Notably, the playlist is made up of songs by female-fronted bands, a choice that felt natural for Iconis and Rokicki.

“I wanted to tell a story that was populated by young women; it was about them and their relationships and them actually doing something that has nothing to do with them getting boyfriends or having cat fights,” Iconis said, giving examples of tired tropes. “It should be music that was made popular by female rock ՚n rollers.”

Werner, a mother of three, was thrilled to be a part of something her kids could appreciate.

“It’s really great to see new, original music theatre, especially something that people from age 7 to 77 will enjoy,” Werner said. “It’s really thought-provoking, smart, passes the Bechdel test, and is also really fun and rocks out.”

The creative team all had an appreciation for punk music prior to beginning this project. Rokicki could write a book on the history of the punk movement, Iconis had a passion for peppy punk group Tralala and indie-rockers Sleater-Kinney, both of whose music was able to find its way organically into the show, and Werner was a legit punk rocker in high school, down to a Henry Rollins black leather jacket and partially shaved head.

However, don’t expect a punk rock musical a la ‘American Idiot’ or ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’; ‘Punk Rock Girl’ is traditional musical theatre at heart.

“For as much as on the surface it seems like this edgy, punky, in-your-face musical, it’s really a very classic Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland let’s-put-on-a-show-in-a-barn type of story,” Iconis said. “The pairing of the new and the classic is something that people will really get a kick out of and hopefully be surprised by when they come to see the show.”

Another refreshing aspect of the show is the diversity of the cast. Representation matters and Iconis has created roles for a wide variety of actors.

“Our cast is made up of people of all different shapes and sizes and types. It’s the sort of cast that I want to see in a show,” he said, and noted that people who often get cast as sidekicks are given the opportunity to carry the show. “I’m so proud when I look at all of them dancing this insane, gorgeous musical theatre choreography and singing these glorious musical theatre arrangements to weirdo punk rock songs.”

Iconis and his team were thinking ahead to when the show is licensed out to high schools, ensuring that kids who don’t often get cast will find a role in this show.

“It’s showing young people and anyone who comes to the show that musicals don’t have to look the way you think,” he said.

The characters in the show are relatable to everyone in the audience. Rokicki, through his orchestrations, gives viewers additional insight into their personalities. Proxi, the punk rocker, has a lead guitar sound; Patricia, the self-declared “math-head,” is heavy on keyboards; and Angela, the protagonist who must find her place between two friends who are opposite in every way, has a mix of the two styles, which evolve through her journey of self-discovery.

“I think a lot about motifs – character motifs, musical motifs, things that you can track that later on pay off in different and surprising ways,” Rokicki explained. He is also fond of the mashups he created, especially the one at the beginning when the motifs are introduced.

Iconis takes every opportunity to shout out his colleagues, who he calls amazing.

“Jenn Peacock, who is our music director, and AnnMarie [Buonaspina], who is on guitar – they are just incredible,” he said. “They really tear it up and it helps with that great sound you hear from the band.”

The sound quality is excellent and between the band and the strong, clear voices of the cast, ‘Punk Rock Girl’ offers an outstanding musical theatre experience. A bonus for a jukebox musical – the show includes one original song, a catchy bop called “Music and Math.”

The show is sprinkled with Easter eggs referencing the creators’ prior works, like a poster for The Rich Goranski Experience, a ‘Be More Chill’ character, and an array of fan-sourced artwork for ‘The Lightning Thief,’ plus some obscure nods only the most dedicated fans will catch.

“You know the show absolutely is about embracing who you are and embracing who other people are,” Iconis said. “There’s so much misery in this world and so much anger that people direct at each other – this show is not that. It’s the world that we want to see, the world of people just being who they are loving everyone else for being who they are.”

‘Punk Rock Girl’ runs at The Argyle Theatre through Feb. 27. For tickets to this world-premiere production, visit www.argyletheatre.com.



By Waldo Cabrera and Max Cabrera

Dec 17, 2021 - Jan 1, 2022
at Patchogue Theatre

 

Hosted By Two Time Olympic Medalist Nancy Kerrigan Capture the magic of the season as The Gateway incredibly transforms Patchogue Theatre's stage into an ice rink for Holiday Spectacular On Ice. This enchanting musical celebration brings beloved holiday songs to life while enphasizing the beauty, grace and artistry of figure skating.

Featuring show-stopping singers and dancers, astonishing performance artistry, this family-friendly musical celebration is literally the "coolest" show for all ages this holiday season.

 

Hosted By Two Time Olympic Medalist
Nancy Kerrigan

 

Featuring
World Class Figure Skaters

Current National Champion
Michael Solonoski

 

National Champion and Grand Prix Medalist
Courtney Hicks

 

Olympian
Polina Edmunds
*apperaing in Dec 17- Dec 22 performances only*

 

National Bronze Medalist
Violeta Ushakova

 

World Professional Champion
Rohene Ward
*appearing in Dec 28 - Jan 1 performances only*

 

National Medalist
Ilana Sedaka

 

Vocalists

Zenni Corbin

 

American Idol Contestant

Shannon Gibbons

 

 

By Waldo Cabrera

 

The new musical comedy by the Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated composer and lyricist, Harry Connick, Jr.'s The Happy Elf tells the tale of Eubie the Elf, a lovable fellow who wants to spread Christmas joy throughout the town of Bluesville.

Hoping to introduce a new generation of children to the joys of jazz, Connick has crafted a musical landscape against which Eubie's story unfolds. This festive tale of overcoming adversity, friendship, the power of positivity and believing in yourself is the perfect treat for the whole family!

 

 

Featured Interviews

Clifford Russo

Aria Saltini

Christopher Nolan

Seth Kutun

The Islip Arts Council and The Argyle Theatre Give Brentwood Students a Dramatic Experience

By Kimberly Dijkstra

 

December 9, 2021 — The Islip Arts Council (IAC) and The Argyle Theatre at Babylon Village treated Brentwood High School drama students to a performance of ‘Elf the Musical’, the sparklejollytwinklejingley-est musical of the holiday season! As part of IAC’s effort to expand access to the arts for kids in underserved communities, the students were invited to enjoy the musical and participate in a Q&A session with the cast and crew. 

 

Students arrive at the Argyle Theatre

 

Dylan Perlman welcomes Brentwood High School Students outside the Argyle Theatre


 

Dylan Perlman, co-owner of The Argyle, was eager to share the experience of live theatre with the students and stoke their interest in the performing arts with all of its associated benefits.

Unlike Broadway, which heavily relies on tourists to fill its audiences, the Argyle is part of the local community. 

“In every aspect we are a regional, community-based institution,” Perlman said. “For us to be a viable theatre, we have to be within the fabric of the community.”

He describes it as a symbiotic relationship. To accomplish their mission to be a major regional destination for live entertainment on Long Island, they must also give back to the community, and they do so by being as involved as possible with charitable organizations, assorted fundraisers, and local schools.

“‘Elf’ is the perfect show to come out of this pandemic closure because it’s the show we all need ー it’s funny, it’s happy, it’s feel-good, it’s uplifting,” Perlman said. “Being able to have a school bus pull up for a show on a Thursday night…it’s heartwarming and it’s invigorating and it’s why we do what we do.”

After the show students got a behind-the-scenes look at the Argyle Theatre 


 

Fresh off a performance of ‘Almost, Maine’ and currently preparing for a production of ‘The Addams Family’, the drama students could not contain their excitement over the opportunity to see ‘Elf the Musical’ live. 

Tenth-grader Arlyssa and eleventh-grader Michell were thrilled to be invited to this event. 

“I’ve never seen this theatre before and I hope to come here again now that I know it’s here,” 

Another student, Marialba, said, “I’ve seen the movie, but the play is a whole different experience honestly.”

She added, “I’m ready to see everything and see how real actors act on stage. This is my first time actually seeing any type of musical live. So it’s just really cool to see how things could be and maybe I could be there one day, you know?”

Director and Choreographer Rachel Ferzola and her drama students


 

Rachel Ferzola, director and choreographer of Brentwood High School’s performing arts department, escorted the students on this special trip. She can’t say enough about her brilliant students.

“They are super talents, and I just want them to see where they can go with this,” she said. “These kids, they want to perform, they’re creative, they need a creative outlet.”

Ferzola wants the kids to see the caliber of theatre arts that exists here in their own backyard. 

She added, “I hope that this does inspire them to see that they can do this. There is success in this. There is a way to live art…And this is a great show for them to come and see, too.”

The students loved the show. Several cast members were kind enough to answer a few questions and give some words of encouragement after the performance including Timothy Fraser, who played Buddy, Michelle Mallardi, who played Emily, the mom and Robert Anthony Jones, who played Santa and Mr. Greenway.  

Students facetime with local actor Robert Anthony Jones


 

Waldo Cabrera, president of Islip Arts Council, hosted the Q&A. 

“He’s phenomenal,” Cabrera said of Jones, an Islip High School graduate, former IAC Teenys Award recipient, and Hofstra University alum. “We wanted you to see that somebody from your neck of the woods is up on the big stage, has been on Broadway, and he’s living the dream that many of you want.”

This is not the first time that the Islip Arts Council recognizes performing arts students. IAC has been supporting young artists for the past 13 years through the Teenys, a program that celebrates the accomplishments in high school theatre.

“Many times in high school, you have the athletes getting all the glory, but the drama students are just as athletic and they deserve a moment in the spotlight,” Cabrera said. 

“We have 335,000 people in the Town of Islip and we want to be the all-inclusive purveyor of the arts,” Cabrera said. “We want to make sure that everyone, especially our students and our kids, appreciate the arts and know that if they want to pursue a career as an artist, they can.”

He continued, “We want the students to understand that they don’t have to be on Broadway to be successful. They can do it right here on Long Island where we have top-level, top-quality entertainment.”

“A tremendous amount of credit goes to Waldo Cabrera for putting it together on behalf of the Islip Arts Council,” Perlman said. “It’s a very meaningful and impactful partnership. This is the first and will hopefully continue.” 

Elf the Musical’ runs through Jan. 2, 2022.

 

 


Enjoyed this story? Share it with your friends! Tag @BroadwayandMain, @ArgyleTheatre, and @IslipArtsCouncil on Facebook, and @theargyletheatre and @IslipArts on Instagram. Click here for video from the fun-filled evening, including interviews with students, faculty, and theatre staff.

 

By Waldo Cabrera

 

One of the world’s most popular musicals, Man of La Mancha, the “Impossible Dream” musical, based on Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote and written by Dale Wasserman with Music by Mitch Leigh and Lyrics by Joe Darion, takes the stage from November 20 to December 12, 2021. The original 1965 production won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

 

All ticket holder must show proof of vaccination as well as wear a mask throughout the performance.

 

Featured interviews

Bruce Rebold

Cristina María Castro

Luis Herrera

Sam Brackley

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