Saturday, October 17, 2009

Was Francis of Assisi merely a kind of nature saint who wandered about taming wolves and preaching to the birds? Troubadour goes beyond the stereotype to show him as he really was--a headstrong, passionate young warrior who gave up his dreams of battlefield glory, rejected his father's wealth, gathered a small band of followers, and proceeded to turn the world upside down.

Always a singer of the haunting songs of the French troubadours, but now calling himself a troubadour of the Lord, Francis lived out one dramatic moment after another--kissing a leper, stripping himself in Assisi's public square as he defiantly cast off the expensive garments hisf ather had clothed him with, appearing before the Pope, sailing off to the Holy Land with the Crusade, and breaking through the ranks of the Saracens to preach to the Sultan of Egypt.

Meanwhile, his selfless example so impressed the beautiful and aristocratic young Clara Faverone that she in turn created a female branch of what had become the Franciscan Order. In time, she would become a saint as revered, and almost as famous, as the poor man of Assisi. Above all, Francis remained dedicated to his Gospel-based rule, a rule beginning "Sell all you have and give to the poor." When members of his own order, led by the willful Elias, began working to modify it, Francesco would be caught up in a struggle that would seemingly end in failure. But his final triumph is foreshadowed in the number that ends the show--his great "Canticle of the Sun."

This, then, is the story as performed by a dynamic cast and heightened by a remarkably rich score, with melodies ranging from passionate to tender to bittersweet and haunting. The singing is glorious, the acting intense, the action swift-moving, and the final result a musical unlike any other--the life-giving drama of a great spiritual figure who himself was unlike any other.

Photo Credit: Michael Portantiere

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Photos by Martine Mallary

Producer: Nat Habib

Music: Bert Draesel

Lyrics: John Martin

Book: John Martin & Bert Draesel

Director: John Margulis

Music Director: Paul Stephan


The story takes place in the years 1205-1225. It begins on Mt. Laverna in Tuscany, where St. Francis, nearly blind and in ill health, is making his last spiritual retreat. The action then moves to the Assisi of twenty years before and we see the young Francesco in his troubadour period, just as he is about to ride off to war. After a pitched battle followed by an encounter with the Lord, he returns to Assisi and is soon launched on a new life that sees him gaining followers and repairing churches. One such church, called the Little Portion, becomes the headquarters of the Franciscan movement and much of the play takes place near it. Another site we visit often is the cloister at San Damiano, where Clare, the
first female Franciscan, lives a life of exemplary devotion. There is also a visit to Rome for an audience with the Pope and a scene with a sultan at the height of the crusade in Egypt, where Francesco had gone as a missionary. After much conflict involving Francis’s attempt to preserve the very strict Franciscan rule of life in all its original purity, we return to Mt. Laverna and the comments of Brother Leo on what the life of Francesco meant to a world he so profoundly affected.

Act One:

“Earth’s Magnificat” (Leo)

“The Troubadour” (Francesco & Bernardo)
“Follow the Wind” (Francesco & Bernardo)
“Who Is This?”(Pietro, Clare, Francesco)
“How Strange/”Troubadour of the Lord” (Francesco, ensemble)
“There Must Be Something More” Leo, Bernardo, Elias)
“You Can’t Have Me” (Francesco & Pietro)
“I Wonder, I Wonder” (Juniper)

“The Earth Is the Lord’s” (Francesco, friars)
“Organize” (Elias)
“Called” (friars)
“An Unusual Normal” (Clare)
“There Is a Time” (Clare)
“So Now We’re Official” (Francesco, Elias, Pope)
“Every Day” (Clare)
“Jerusalem” (ensemble)
“Soon” (ensemble)

Act Two:
“And We Were One” (Leo, Juniper)

“It Was Magnificent” (Bernardo)
“Soon” (reprise, Leo, Juniper)
“A Brain in Search of a Heart”(Elias)
“It’s Glorious” (Clare & Francesco)
“Let There Be Books" (ensemble)
“Listen to the Voice” (Clare & Francesco)
“Once I Had a Vision” (Francesco)
“Praised Be My Lord” (ensemble)


Set: Gian Marco Lo Forte
Costumes: Sarita Fellows
Lighting: Matt Ehlert

Staff and Support:
Stage Manager: Jaimie Van Dyke
Production Assistant: Loretta Dober

Box Office Manager: Lili Lee
Costume Assistant: Valeria Kondratiev

Press Representative: Patrick Paris
Additional Casting by Cindi Rush

CAST (in order of appearance)
*Aaron Davis………………….Leo
*Robert Felbinger…………….Francesco
*Rob Maitner…………………Elias
Samuel Perwin……………….. Bernardo
*John Weigand……………… Faverone, Merchant, Secretary, Saracen
*Mary Catherine McDonald…Clare

*Charles Karel………………..Pietro, Cardinal Ugolino, Pope, Sultan

Alex Yacovelli…………………Leper, Juniper

*appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

Aaron Davis (Leo). Toured: Golf, the Musical (Principal). Love of a Pig (mailman), Esther, Queen of Persia (Lead, understudy), Kiss Me Kate (in concert, Hortensio). Australia and New Zealand theater: Secret Garden (Dr. Craven), The Who’s Tommy (Australian premiere, Captain Walker) Godspell (Jesus), Diamond Eye (world premiere, Tim), Les Miserables (Jean Valjean). New Zealand Opera: (ensemble roles): Rigoletto, Don Giovani, Death of Klinghoffer, Carmen.

Robert Felbinger (Francesco). Proud member of Actors’ Equity and a recent arrival in New York, he hails from Chicago. He has performed in venues all across America, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Florentine and Skylight Operas of Milwaukee, and the San Diego Opera. Robert returned to his first love, musical theater, in the regional premiere of Jekyll & Hyde as the title characters. Other appearances include Che (Evita), Rutledge (1776), Riff Raff (the Rocky Horror Show), El Gallo (The Fantasticks), Macheath (Threepenny Opera), and Nanki-Poo (The Mikado). Film: Chechyen Gangster (The Dark Knight), Reporter (The Tiger Woods Story: Showtime). Thank you John, Paul, and all the production crew.

Charles Karel (Pietro, Cardinal, Pope, Sultan) has had an extremely varied career spanning virtually every facet of the entertainment industry. In his operatic career, he has mastered 21 leading baritone roles and has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera and several major operatic venues in Europe. On Broadway, he appeared in the original Hello Dolly with Carol Channing and Ginger Rogers, in Milk and Honey with Robert Weede, in Golden Rainbow with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, in Dear World with Angela Lansbury, and in Zorba, in which he understudied the great Anthony Quinn. He has also starred and and been featured in many regional theater and off-Broadway productions, the latest of which was the title role in Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella at the prestigious Sacramento Music Circus (California Music Theatre). On television, he has appeared with such names as Ed Sullivan, Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. THE KARELS, the cabaret act he performs with his wife, Christine Kelley Karel, has been seen in New York and other American cities. Mr. Karel was also featured in the film version of The Music Man with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.

Rob Maitner (Elias) made his off-Broadway debut at the WPA Theater in Fairy Tales, a performance for which he received the Backstage Bistro Award. He created the role of Mr. McQueen in the world premiere of Urinetown (OOBR Award). Other New York credits include A Clockwork Orange (OOBR Award), Fleet Week (Talkin’ Broadway Performance Citation), Poor Superman (Fringe NYC Outstanding Performance Award), Corpus Christi, Tartuffe, and Picasso at the Lapin Agile (which he performed for President and Senator Clinton. Rob’s regional credits include Private Lives, The Big Bang, Charley’s Aunt, and The Dragonslayers (original cast recording).

Mary Catherine McDonald (Clare) is thrilled to be part of such a special show! New York credits include Unlock’d, The Hatpin, and The Making of Madeline Moore. Favorite regional credits include Philia in A Funny Thing Happened…(FIPAP), Emma in Jekyll & Hyde and eight lovely seasons atthe St.Louis MUNY. Much love to all of my friends and family, especially my biggest supporters, Mom, Dad, and Jake! Proud member of Actors’ Equity.

Samuel Perwin (Bernardo) has recent credits that include originating the role of Nightmare the Night Stallion in Superhero Celebrity Rehab: The Musical, Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and being featured in the New York Times as part of a summer performance piece in Bryant Park entitled Bryant in the Park. Other favorite roles include The Foreman/Combeferre in Les Miserables at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Cucumber/Terrance in the New York premiere of Dave Holstein’s Porn & Happiness, and playing the Archangel Michael in the world premiere of Angels at the Duke on 42nd Street. Samuel is a graduate of Harvard University, and studied at both the Manhattan School of Music and Interlochen Center for the Arts.

John Weigand (Faverone, Merchant, Secretary, Saracen) recently toured Asia in The Sound of Music. His New York credits include Beauty and the Beast at the Players Theatre, Emma at the NY Musical Theatre Festival, Whoop-Up at the Duplex, Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! at the Theater for the New City, and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder at the Daryl Roth 2. Regionally, he has performed in La Cage Aux Folles at the Riverside Theatre, The Mousetrap at the Fulton Opera House, and in the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof. On-camera, John plays “Dr. Phil” on Chapelle’s Show.

Alex Yacovelli (Juniper, Leper) is a graduate of the NYU Vocal Performance (Musical Theatre) program. He’s from Pleasantville, New York, and is both an actor and rock/pop singer-songwriter. Recently he began his exploration of the film medium with the webseries I Got Skoolze. Off-Broadway: 4@15 at the York Theatre, NYU, The Boyfriend (Tony), Something’s Afoot (Nigel), The Libertine (Sackville).Westchester Broadway Theatre: Christmas Inn (John), The King and I (Louis), Sound of Music (Kurt). Concerts: Alan Menken & Friends. Regional: Brighton Beach Memoirs (Eugene), Falsettos (Jason), Oliver (Dodger). Love to BYC.

Nat Habib (Producer) has produced over two hundred shows and directed numerous others in a career that has also included substantial performing credits and wide experience as a teacher. His credits also include TV commercials, a featured film role, and his favorite—stage acting.

Bert Draesel (Composer, co-librettist) is artist-in-residence for theater at the Church of the Epiphany. He was in the BMI Theater Workshop under the direction of Lehman Engel and went to the NYU Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, from which he received his Master of Fine Arts. His musicals include Bouncing Back and Everyman, both written with RussThacker and produced by Triangle Theater; Meteor Girl, produced at La Mama; Mask of the Dancing Princess, produced at Vital Theater; and Max and the Truffle Pig, produced by the New York City Music Theater Festival in September 2008. His religious music, Rejoice and Celebration, both recorded on Scepter Records, and Now Hymns For Children, have all been
published by the E.B. Marks Co.

John Martin (Lyricist, co-librettist) is a veteran professional writer whose stage credits include A Chosen Vessel, the mysteries Macdeath and The Troll Palace, and the musical revue Joyful Noises. He is also a widely published essayist and poet and the author of several books, which include the novel A Leopard at Maytime (Doubleday), the sportive The Cat on the Catamaran, and the widely praised Roses, Fountains, and Gold: the Virgin Mary in History, Art, and Apparition.

John Margulis (Director) directs opera and theater. Operas he has directed include Miss Julie (Rorem and Elmslie after Strindberg) for the New YorkLyric Opera, Trouble in Tahiti (Bernstein) for Michigan Opera Theater, TheSaint of Bleecker Street (Menotti) for the Providence Opera Theater and Tosca (Puccini) for the Northern Ireland Opera Trust, Belfast. In theater, he has directed Nuts by Tom Topor, Split by Michael Weller, Recent Developments by John Ford Noonan, and A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee. In cabaret, he has co-directed (with Gerry Geddes) Sex, Lies, andBroadway Shows at Don’t Tell Mama. He recently directed the world premiere of Bouncing Back and previously directed Faraway Land (a newmusical) in Nantucket. He was formerly artistic director of the Triangle Theater. He was also co-artistic director for the National Music Network and staged a gala at Carnegie Hall in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Pushkin.

Paul Stephan (Music Director) is a graduate of Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Music in Voice and the University of Utah (Master of Fine Arts in writing and directing musical theatre). He is also a graduate of the BMI-Lehman Engel Workshop, and composed the score to A Unicorn in the Garden, based on the fable by James Thurber. Mr. Stephan has had works performed at the Donnell Library, Don’t Tell Mama, and St. Paul’s Chapel. He has directed Productions of La Cenerentola, La Clamenza di Tito, and La Scala di Seta; his musical direction includes Godspell, Brigadoon, and Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. He is currently the music director/arranger for Sue & Edd’s Fabulous Christmas and minister of music at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church.

Matt Ehlert (Lighting) has worked with numerous choreographers in New York City, designing lighting for Faunce Dance Company, Eclectix Dance,HaitiDanseCo, and Alan Good, among others. He has also worked in various capacities with Merce Cunningham Dance Company and DanceTheatre of Harlem. Matt has also designed lighting for several off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway shows, among them Nite Club Confidential, Presque Isle, and the Patrick Pearse Motel. He has also designed lighting in several summer stock venues in New England and at the Alhambra Casino in Aruba.

Gian Marco Lo Forte (Set Design). Theater artist based in New York City since 2001. Set design credits include collaborations with these directors: Ernest Abuba (Sarah Lawrence College), Jonathan Bardness (Teatro lati), Cosmin Chivu (the Abingdon Theater), Jason Schuler (Teatro lati), Pam Berlin (NYU productions, George Drance (West End Theater), Ellen Stewart (Biennale di Venezia), Kim Ima (LaMama ETC), Larry Arancio Cap 21), Slant Co (LaMama ETC), Julia Martin (The Looking Glass Theater), Neo stick productions (Fringe Festival). Artist in residence at LaMama ETC since 2001. Artistic Director Pioneers Go East Co.: Upcoming project“Little Flowers, The Life of St. Francis.” MFA, Design for Stage & film, NYU.

Sarita Fellows (Costumes) was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She is a recent graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of Design for Stage and Film. Her recent projects include Hecuba (directed by Joan Kane), The Rest of Oedipus (directed by Susan Einhorn) and Grace with Rising Circle Theater Company. She has worked on several dance pieces, including Clay Child, Cradles of War, and Ticker. She is currently working with Vital Theater Company on a children’s musical, Matthew Takes Manhattan.

Jaimie Van Dyke (Stage Manager). Favorite stage management credits include Standing Clear, Strange Snow, Lights Up!, and Le Grand Fromage. The latter two were one-act festivals produced by Wizard Oil Productions.She was an intern at the Williamstown Theatre Festival for a summer and has interned for Green Stage, Seattle’s traveling Shakespeare in the Park. Over the past year, she has become an associate artist with the critically acclaimed theatre company, Blessed Unrest, and stage managed three oftheir shows last year. This year she toured their show Doruntine to Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania. She is currently resident stage manager for Wizard Oil Productions.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The New St. Francis Musical

Music by Bert Draesel
Lyrics by John Martin
Book by John Martin & Bert Draesel
Directed by John Margulis

Oct. 9-Nov. 2, 2009
Friday, Saturday, & Monday performances at 8pm
Sunday performances at 3pm

The Theater at Church of the Epiphany
East 74th Street & York Avenue
New York, NY
Tickets: $18
Available at or (212) 868-4444

St. Francis

Many are familiar with St. Francis and his love of animals, celebrated each October by churches all around the world with the blessing of pets and creatures of all kinds. TROUBADOUR deals not only with that Francis, but with the dynamic, world-changing Francis who gave up his privileged existence and warrior ambitions to become a poverty-loving troubadour of the Lord. Set in the 13th Century against an exciting panorama that takes in Rome, Assisi, and the Holy Land crusades, Troubadour centers on the dynamic drama of a man struggling to maintain his unique vision against high-pressure opposition. Recent years have witnessed a remarkable increase of interest in the life and work of Francis and his oneness with the created order. His story is a truly timeless one--that of an individual whose love and commitment to the poor and less fortunate is legendary and is an inspiration to all of us who struggle to understand what it means to love and care for our neighbor.

TROUBADOUR features music by Bert Draesel (Max and the Truffle Pig, Everyman and Bouncing Back) and lyrics by John Martin (Joyful Noises, A Chosen Vessel, Macdeath) and a book co-authored by Martin and Draesel. John Margulis is the director and Nat Habib is the producer. The show's cast includes: Aaron Davis; Robert A. Felbinger; Charles Karel; Rob Maitner; Mary Catherine McDonald; Samuel Perwin; John Weigand; and Alex Yacovelli.