When Moon Over Mulberry Street played in Stamford in 1939, the patriarch of the family, Piccino Morello, was played by Mede Sementini. On March 8, when Mulberry Street (as the play is now called) opens in Curtain Call’s Dressing Room Theatre, Sementini’s great, great nephew, Marc Ursone, will step into the role of George Bowman, the role previously played by Ursone’s uncle and grandfather.
For a show all about family and tradition it doesn’t get any better than this. “With Marc’s appearance as George, we continue a pretty cool family tradition,” said Lou Ursone, Curtain Call’s executive director who is now starring as Piccino Morello. “My dad was in one play in his life and it was because his uncle Mede convinced him to join the 1939 production as Bowman. I made my NYC acting debut playing Bowman, so when the need to cast a new actor in the role came up, I was thrilled that my nephew Marc was available,” Ursone said. This marks the first time Lou and Marc Ursone have appeared together in a play.
Perhaps the most-produced romantic comedy in Stamford’s history, Mulberry Street has been a local audience favorite for nearly 80 years now. The last time it appeared at Curtain Call was June, 2009, a bittersweet time for Lou Ursone. “My dad passed away the night of our final dress rehearsal for that last production,” he said. The cast understood when he missed that rehearsal and his family understood when ‘the show must go on” ethic prevailed with him appearing the next several nights.
MULBERRY STREET, written by Kweskin Theatre founding artistic director Albert Pia, was directed by Pia numerous times since the 1960s. “With Al's passing in 2008, Carole Claps, long-associated with the show, and a drama student of Al’s, took over the role of director for this great play,” said Lou Ursone. “It may sound weird, but all of us who have worked on this with Al over the years, feel his presence and are enjoying the chance to present his work as a tribute and in his honor,” he added.
For 7almost 80 years, this comedy about a family of Italian immigrants has entertained thousands of area residents in various productions. Moon Over Mulberry Street, written by Nicholas Cosentino, had a respectable original Broadway production run of over 300 performances and featured 20-year-old Cornel Wilde as the son, Fillipo Morello.
Beginning with the earliest known Stamford production (1939 - See photo) that 300 number has been eclipsed many times over. The play was produced every three to five years, in various locations throughout Stamford, until finding its home at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, in the early 1970s. One production of it even transferred to an off-off Broadway theatre in the early 1980s, where it played for a summer.
The story revolves around an immigrant family, living in a basement apartment on Mulberry Street, Little Italy, New York, in the 1930s and features a son, trying to woo a “Park Avenue” girl, a daughter looking for a husband, a bunch of crazy neighbors and a mother and father trying to hold it all together in their own dysfunctional way! Full of laughs and a few poignant moments as well, MULBERRY STREET is great for the whole family. Friendly rivalry between neighbors, unrequited love, parental meddling and more, are all part of the universal themes that have made this show popular for so long.
Author Albert Pia often said “Generations of area residents have enjoyed this play because of its universal themes. You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy it.” And now we're looking at generations of actors involved. Besides the Ursone family heritage, Claps played Nina in the 1970s but was preceded by her uncle, former Stamford Mayor Louis Clapes and has served as Pia’s assistant on the last several versions of the show. Ursone said “It's terrific to have these family connections.
Above all, MULBERRY STREET is about family and love if nothing else. Another real life family involved in the production are grandfather, Dominick Cundari and his granddaughter, Samantha Holomakoff.
Ursone first performed in the show 25-plus years ago and had no intention to be involved in the 2002 production he was producing. But at the last minute when another actor became ill Ursone jumped into the role of Piccino. “It's a terrific role. An Italian Tevye (referring to the patriarch of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF). He has great comic moments along with the dramatic and he has the same kind of relationship with his wife Lucia that Tevye has with Golde. It's a joy to play” Ursone said.
“While some more contemporary portrayals of Italian heritage have been terrifically successful - THE SOPRANOS, GOODFELLAS, THE GODFATHER series etc., MULBERRY STREETshows our ancestors in a very different light" director Claps noted. Her own great-grandparents emigrated from Italy to live the American dream. “These were hard-working, dedicated individuals who lived and breathed to make a better lot for future generations of their families” she added. MULBERRY STREET is a slice of life from these difficult yet love-filled times” Claps said. Production designer Peter Barbieri, Jr. (FAIRFIELD) also has Italian immigrant grandparents. “Pictures of them are included in my set design as my way of paying homage to their sacrifices at coming to America” Barbieri said. (Ancestors of other cast members also included in the set represented by photos.)
Also featured in the cast; Arielle Boutin, Randy Bucknoff, Joseph Caputo, Victoria Clougher, Alex Imbrosci, Jean Marie McCormick, Elayne Mordoff, Janice Pasqua.
Performances will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8PM and Sunday afternoons at 2PM. Seating is cabaret-style with a Bring Your Own Everything dinner theatre format. Doors open one hour before showtime in The Dressing Room Theatre, at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue, Stamford, CT. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $17.5 for students and children. Box Office: 203-461-6358 x 36 or on the web at www.curtaincallinc.com.
The remainder of Curtain Call's 27th season includes Annie, A Comedy of Tenors and Superman the Musical. Comedy nights, concerts and interactive murder mysteries are also on tap. More information is available at www.curtaincallinc.com or by calling 203-329-8207. Curtain Call is the non-profit community-based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. Year-round productions and workshops are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre.
Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County's BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP ten years running in the Annual Readers' Poll of The Fairfield County Weekly and has received similar BEST OF awards from Stamford Magazine and StamfordPlus magazine for 2008 through 2016. Curtain Call received The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2011 and the ACE Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County.
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