'Tink' musical lifts Greensburg teacher to New York Musical Festival
Anthony Marino's story began nearly two decades ago in a rented Greensburg studio with 12 kids who loved to dance, sing and act.
His dream was to teach, to help those kids feel the same excitement he felt each time he stepped onto a stage.
In the back of his mind, he thought a few of them might rise to greatness, to ply their craft on the biggest stage of all — in New York.
But 18 years after Marino and his sister, Chris Orosz, started their Stage Right! performing arts school with a shoestring budget and a loose notion of what it could become, it's Marino, 47, who finds himself on that big stage.
The Greensburg resident is poised to realize his own fairy tale ending when “Tink!” an original musical he penned for Stage Right! opens in New York City, one of nine musicals from around the world chosen for what is widely recognized as a springboard to Broadway — the New York Musical Festival.
The festival, which began 12 years ago, has launched three Broadway plays, including the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Next to Normal.” Twenty-six other shows have landed off-Broadway.
A prequel to Scottish writer J.M. Barrie's beloved “Peter Pan,” “Tink!” tells the story of Tinker Bell and her journey to becoming Peter Pan's fairy and best friend.
When notified of his selection, Marino said, “I was absolutely floored. It was a huge validation that we've created something people see value in, not just other people, but people who are really learned.“
“People all over the world are writing, and to be selected to be part of something like that is just very exciting. It's significant to be chosen,” said Zeva Barzell, associate professor of theater and head of musical theater studies at Point Park University.
To save money, Marino often wrote the material used in his school's productions.
Last spring, following a performance in Butler, he and several students were eating lunch and mulling their next project when his 14-year-old son, also named Anthony, looked up and said, “It's really a shame nobody has done a musical about Tinker Bell.”
The seed was planted, and Marino, along with composer/arranger Lena Gabrielle and lyricist Greg Kerestan, decided the story of “Tink!” would be ready for the company's September show at Greensburg's busy entertainment venue, The Palace Theatre.
The three collaborated on several projects before Gabrielle, who wrote the music for “Tink!”, moved to New York last year.
Sellout crowds for the local performances confirmed Marino's belief that the show was something out of the ordinary.
“We had the opening at the Palace, and people were really, really affected by it,” Marino recalled. “(They said,) ‘This is different, this is special, this is magical.' ”
Marino wrote “Tink!” with Stage Right! alumna and Greensburg native Elly Noble in mind. When Noble, now an equity actress in New York, agreed to do the role, he rewrote parts to suit her wide vocal range.
Noble, 27, will reprise her role when the show opens in New York, Marino said.
Getting down to business
There is work to be done before the play opens during the three-week festival in July in New York's theater district.
Although the festival will subsidize much of the high cost of the production, Stage Right! must raise another $75,000 and has launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. To donate, go online to http://kck.st/1UsRA0B
The hundreds of scores and scripts submitted to the festival from around the world are first reviewed by professional readers without the author's identity revealed. Each is read anywhere from two to five times, said Liz Ulmer, the festival's general manager. The field is narrowed to 20 finalists before the pieces are submitted to a jury of theater professionals, she said.
“It's really a yearlong process, from initial submissions to production,” Ulmer said.
Ken Gargaro, a Robert Morris University theater professor who started the Pittsburgh Musical Theater and Gargaro Productions, was not surprised to learn that Marino, a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic High School and California University of Pennsylvania, made the cut.
“Tony is probably the most creative writer/performer I have ever known, and he has been since he was 21 when he walked in off the street and auditioned for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,' ” Gargaro said.
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer.