This review of On The Air at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
On The Air
Book & Lyrics by Robert Farruggia & Cristina Farruggia
Music by Robert Farruggia
Directed by Greg Santos
Music Director: Brandon Magid
Music Supervisor: Paul Masse
Choreographer: Danielle Mia Diniz
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11215
On The Air is a promising new musical inspired by Jack & Loretta Clemens, a real-life sibling Vaudeville duo that went on to star in Radio & Television. Robert & Cristina Farruggia, a modern-day, brother/sister collaborative team, wrote the book & lyrics together, while Robert Farruggia composed the music. He and his sister Cristina also play Jack & Loretta Clemens on stage, making On The Air a musical with a unique twist, causing me to wonder whether the tensions and sibling rivalries portrayed on stage occurred as the Farruggia's were writing this play and deciding how to promote it. The play is an homage to the golden age of musical theater. It has gone through a number of prominent festivals, most recently presented at The York Theatre's Developmental Reading Series, where it was directed by Tony Nominee Hunter Foster. The story deals with major changes in society and entertainment throughout the early half of the 20th century, but at its core, the story focuses on the siblings' relationship and the dreams each has for their future.
The most outstanding actor in this production was Aaron Riesebeck, a very talented, charismatic performer who played Fred Tupper, Loretta Clemens' future wife. He is extraordinary in every way and is an absolute delight to watch as his very presence brings light and life to the stage. Also worthy of note was Tommy J. Dose, who was Bob White, the Agent. While his role was not as complex as the others, he was still quite believable and carried out the part well. Mary Chesterman's performance as Mrs. Clemens/Old Loretta was notable, and Cristina & Robert Farruggia's portrayal of Loretta & Jack Clemens, respectively, rang true but unfortunately, they will need to be replaced if this show ends up being Broadway-bound. The show was well-directed by Greg Santos, and Danielle Mia Diniz deserves credit for the choreography. Unfortunately, only half the songs in this musical were tuneful enough to entertain and the Ensemble was uninspiring. The book only needs minor changes as the story rings true on many levels. It takes a great effort to launch a new musical and Cristina & Robert Farruggia deserve credit for their continuing and worthwhile efforts.
On The Air is not quite ready for prime time but its story will resonate with all who have tried to make a living in the entertainment industry. The strings of family ties and the desire of some to have their own family reflect the struggles many will encounter when their careers don't quite take off as expected. One-Take-Tupper may still have her day in the sun but the musical requires quite a bit more effort before Procter & Gamble, or other sponsors may decide to invest in it. For more information about On The Air, visit www.ontheairthemusical.com