Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, July 26, 2019


Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

In 2009 after the successful launch of the musical adaptation of the cult 80s film called “The Toxic Avenger”, Tom Polum and I were brainstorming about other possible underlying works which could be adapted to the stage. Tom suggested an independent Canadian film called “Mambo Italiano” which we both thought was really hilarious. We fell in love with the characters, especially the roles of the older generation played by Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino. Tom pursued the underlying rights from the authors of the screenplay, Emile Gaudreault and Steve Galluccio (which was based on Steve’s stage play of the same name), through their wonderful agent, Nathalie Goodwin.

Although the film is based in Canada, we went about finding a setting for the show in New Jersey which we knew had a heavy concentration of Italian Americans. We headed to Hammonton, which boasts more than 40% of its population being of Italian descent. We stopped in St. Joseph Church grabbed a church bulletin and headed out to visit some of their advertisers including family-owned Bagliani’s Market. One of the sons in the Bagliani Family’s 4th generation shared many amusing experiences of working in an Italian-American family-owned business. We also attended the “Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,” an annual celebration dominated by food and families. We eventually made our way to Vineland, New Jersey, which is home to the Landis Theatre. It had been beautifully restored and they were preparing for an upcoming concert by Sicilian-American Bernadette Lazzara, also known as the actress Bernadette Peters!

Lori DiMatteo-Fiocchi, a board member on the Landis Theatre Foundation, organized a gathering of Italian-American mothers for us to chat with to learn more about raising Italian American kids in a very American culture. They generously shared their love of their culture and the trials and tribulations of raising kids caught between two cultures.

Michael Coco, our friend and director of theatre operations for the Shubert Organization suggested it was time to bring on lyricist Omri Schein and composer James Olmstead, the team behind the award-winning musical “Gary Goldfard, Master Escapist,” which had been highly praised in The New York Times for its irreverent book and lyrics and catchy music. We knew they would be perfect for Mambo. Michael also introduced us to Broadway professional Steve Edlund who served as an invaluable dramaturge on our team.

It has been a wonderful journey so far and we are excited about what the future holds. All shows need to go through significant development before heading to Broadway and we are grateful to Westchester Broadway Theatre’s Bob Funking, Bill Stutler, and Lisa Tiso for their wonderful producing team, and the warm and supportive audiences for making this World Premiere possible. Thank you!

Jean Cheever (for the Creative Team)