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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: ‘And Then Came Tango’ a charming Penguin story at The Growing Stage

tango 2

The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, premiered this past weekend AND THEN CAME TANGO. This charming, tender play that celebrates tolerance is written by Emily Freeman. Its development was nurtured at the Growing Stages 2014 New Play-Reading Festival (It won first prize) and received the Outstanding Theatre for Young Audiences Play from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

This is the remarkable, and TRUE, story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York, Roy and Silo.  In the process of helping hatch an unclaimed egg the pair form a special bond that initially received a negative reaction from the community. Ms. Freeman wisely does not follow the well trodden path led by Disney. The duo never speak... all their actions are presented via modern dance (the excellent dancers are Matthew Varvar and Geovanny Fishetti).

At the center of the story, at least the talking variety, are a 10 year old girl, Lily and Walter the zookeeper of the penguin exhibit. They form a warm friendship after she participated in a summer enrichment program. Walter becomes a mentor to Lily in all things Penguin. Lily is nicely played by Savannah McLaughlin in her GST debut. Walter, one of the three professional Equity members in the cast of ten, is in the perfect hands of the grandfatherly John Patrick Cleary. Cleary's impressive professional activity includes appearances at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and the Bickford Theater in Morristown, among others. 

The other two fine Equity actors are Melissa Cox, who plays Lily's Mom, and Nikole Rizzo, last seen in GST's Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Ms. Rizzo plays both Wendy the Penguin and the Reporter.  Rounding out the cast are Heather Elizabeth Fleischman, Lauren Santarelli, Matthew Fralley, and Mackenzie Miller as Penguins.

AND THEN CAME TANGO is directed by Stephen L. Fredericks, The Growing Stage’s Executive Director. The choreography is by Jillian Petrie and original music by Paul Marbach. Note that this is a non-musical play enhanced with modern dance. The play runs about 75 minutes plus a 15 minute intermission.

" I see TANGO as more than a play about acceptance. I see it as a play about acknowledgement - acknowledgement in our immediate sense to care for the generation that follows; that it is genuine love that transcends gender, age, or cultural differences; that a family is created by a bond to care for one another and, simply put - nothing else matters." Director Fredericks

AND THEN CAME TANGO will run through the 29th of March; with performances Friday evenings at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 4:00 PM.

The Growing Stage (Route 183, 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, New Jersey 07857) continues FUN-tastic Fridays with all tickets $15! Saturday and Sunday tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for children and seniors.  To purchase tickets, visit or contact the Box Office at (973) 347-4946.  Group rates and Birthday Party packages are available.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio    March 8, 2015

Photo: Right- Savannah McLaughlin and John Patrick Cleary; Rear- Matthew Varvar and Geovanny Fishetti (by Jane D. Martinez)

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