Their mantra is honor the past, embrace the present and create the future. Now, the Herricks Players are heading in a brand new direction after 40 years thanks to some devoted community theater lovers.
“I’m a person who’s been a part of the Herricks community, doing shows there since 1991,” said Mineola resident John Mezzo, who is guiding the Herricks Players in a new direction, along with his longtime friend Gary Pipa. “I recently joined the board and I happen to be the first person directing the next show, where we’re launching our new brand and logo.”
The new show that Mezzo is directing for the Herricks Community Center that is located at 999 Herricks Rd. is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical.
“It’s all music, which I hope is not a deterrent to people,” explained Mezzo, who will be playing the role of Pharaoh in the musical. “It’s not an opera, but it has a nice cool rock aspect to it.”
The musical performances are slated for two weekends this coming November with open auditions being this week from Tuesday, June 18, to Thursday, June 20, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Herricks Community Center.
“We are casting right now all roles, which are Joseph and the 11 brothers, the narrator and key featured performances, an ensemble and there’s a children’s chorus for 8 to 12 year olds,” said Mezzo. “I cast myself as the part of Pharaoh, and if you know the show, Pharaoh plays as if he’s Elvis, which is a pretty funny moment in the show because it’s a great ’50s rock-n-roll song. I think the community is going to love seeing the musical because it’s really bright with amazing colors and we’re going to have a live full orchestra between 10 and 15 pieces. That’s the thing that Herricks is known for. We have professional lighting and costuming people and choreographers that have been working with us for years.”
Mezzo, who is a life-long theater person, pursued theater professionally when he was younger and always maintained theater and performance as part of his life because of his passion for it.
“I do it in the form of regional theater, Off-Broadway performances in New York City and improv classes,” said Mezzo. “Herricks has always been a local home to me where I’ve been involved and had been in productions like The Producers and Young Frankenstein. I’ve been fortunate to have leads in those shows and they’re just a great environment because they have a good following.”
In terms of guiding the Herricks Players in a new direction, it was the perfect time for Mezzo and Pipa to jump on the opportunity.
“Gary and I have been friends for more than 30 years and we’ve done a lot of theater together,” explained Mezzo. “Admittedly, the timing is done based on the fact we are now empty nesters and we can dedicate the time again. It was, that married with the fact we have a passion to revitalize and take Herricks to the next level because there’s so much already in place and we wanted to take our skills and our talents and apply it here, so we started by joining a board, which is actually trying to work differently too. It’s more democratic and we’re having a voting process on which shows we pick, and we’re looking to spend a little and invest and update our website. With the help of my wife, who’s a professional brand manager and graphic designer, we got a new logo and we’re working on a new website.”
The current plan is to take the 40-year old group of Herricks Players, which has made money in the past for the Herricks Community Fund, and pay homage to those that came before them.
“For our mantra we want to respect the people who’ve got us here and appreciate those who’ve been around us as of late,” said Mezzo. “We have a beautiful stage, this gorgeous theater, funding and a costume room, and we just know that we can drive this to the next level. We’re not going to be an equity theater house like the Engeman Theater in Northport, but we’re striving to be where elite talent will go to audition and make our shows better.”
The way the process works is that the Herricks Community Fund gives the players a budget, who commit to using that budget and in return give back the money, plus a profit.
“That’s the goal,” said Mezzo. “They don’t always make a profit, but the goal is to contribute back more to them than they gave us so they could continue the work they do.”
The Herricks Players have been led by John and Carol Hayes for more than 40 years, who recently received a lifetime achievement award at the Long Island Community Theater Awards. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is coproduced by Carol Hayes, Lisa Simon-Weitz and Judy Insinga. The musical’s assistant director is Pipa while the musical director is Sue Weber. Choreography is by Barbara Tromba-Murphy and set design is done by Cathryn Mezzo and Peter Triolo.