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Composer visits Aurora's 'A Catered Affair'

Staff Photo: Deanna Allen. John Bucchino sits in front of photos of the cast member of "A Catered Affair" displayed at the Aurora Theatre. Bucchino wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, which is in its first post-Broadway production at the Lawrenceville theater.

Staff Photo: Deanna Allen. John Bucchino sits in front of photos of the cast member of "A Catered Affair" displayed at the Aurora Theatre. Bucchino wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, which is in its first post-Broadway production at the Lawrenceville theater.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Thursday night marked the Aurora Theatre's biggest occasion since the opening of its current home in a renovated church building in Lawrenceville.

The musical theater production "A Catered Affair" has come straight from Broadway to the Lawrenceville stage.

If you go

• What: "A Catered Affair"

• When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 28 with a matinee showing at 10 a.m. March 24

• Where: Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St. in Lawrenceville

• Cost: $14 to $30

• For more information: Call 678-226-6222 or visit www.auroratheatre.com

The musical brought with it composer John Bucchino, who penned both the music and lyrics, who was in town for Thursday's opening night.

"It's pretty epic," said Anthony Rodriguez, producing artistic director for the Aurora. "The fact that this small, nonprofit theater in Gwinnett County has the opportunity to be the first company to produce ‘A Catered Affair' after Broadway is already honor enough. Then to have (Bucchino have) the desire to come and see what we do with it, it's hard to put into words how excited we are on just a personal level, but on a professional level, it sort of puts us on a higher level."

Following a 2008, 116-performance run in New York City, the Tony Award-nominated musical made its post-Broadway debut Thursday night.

"A Catered Affair" is based on American dramatist and novelist Paddy Chayefsky's original teleplay and the subsequent film written by Gore Vidal. It was adapted for the stage by Harvey Fierstien and follows a blue-collar family living in the Bronx in the 1950s as they cope with the recent loss of their only son and their only daughter's impending wedding. When Janey Hurley wants to marry her beau, Ralph, in a small, quick civil ceremony attended by immediate family, their parents balk at that idea and the wedding becomes a big affair and an even bigger headache for the young couple as tensions flare between anyone and everyone involved.

"I thought it was beautiful," Bucchino said after opening night Thursday, just before he sat down for a Q&A with the audience. "The actors were just extraordinary. I had no idea what to expect, and their voices are remarkable. I was really knocked out."

Bucchino was instrumental in pushing for the Aurora Theatre to be able produce the show.

When Ann-Carol Pence, the Aurora's associate producer, began making phone calls to the musical's producers, the agency representing the show and the organization licensing it, she hit dead ends in her attempt to bring the "A Catered Affair" to Gwinnett. Then she contacted Bucchino, who was able to move the process along.

"If it had not been that John wanted to give us the opportunity to do it," Pence said, "we would have been closed down at every turn."

What can Gwinnett residents expect when they take their seats inside the Aurora for a showing of "A Catered Affair?"

"What I know people experienced from the Broadway production was to be very much sort of drawn into the lives of these characters and then deeply, emotionally affected by what these characters go through," Bucchino said. "I think people have been so deeply affected emotionally because we can all identify with these people. This is an Irish family but in New York, Jewish friends of mine said, ‘I know they're supposed to be Irish, but that's my family up there.'"

His Italian friends echoed that sentiment.

"That's what I think I love the most about the show is that the things that it talks about are universal," Bucchino said. "They really seem to resonate very deeply for people."

For the Aurora Theatre, "A Catered Affair" has begun to open doors — other composers have expressed interest in their projects taking shape at the Lawrenceville theater — and has begun to shape its future.

"We look for stories that will define our history in the arts," Pence said, "and I think this is one of those stories."