Like the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes, Pittsford Musicals returns to the stage after a three year absence because of COVID with this weekend’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and two recent Honeoye Falls-Lima graduates are a part of making that happen.
Claire Torregiano, a 2017 HF-L grad, is the props manager for the show and Katie Quigley, a 2018 HF-L alum, is in the ensemble.
As props manager, Torregiano was responsible for finding those items that the actors need on stage: pewter mugs, baskets, plates, glasses, etc. and making sure that all of them are at the ready for the actors in the correct scenes. She also keeps track of the all-important rose in the glass case for the Beast’s castle.
“The most challenging part has been balancing my work life and the show,” said Torregiano, who is an events manager for the Uganda Water Project. “I just started my new job in November and the show really started ramping up in December so I needed to go to prop houses to find different items and many of those aren’t open on weekends. The most difficult thing was finding 70 metal beer mugs for one of the scenes in the village tavern because of the quantity that we needed. The stage manager was a big help to me with that. The easiest thing will be operating the rose petals via remote control. It’s a ton of exhausting work beforehand and for only a few days of shows, but the energy as the show is approaching is intoxicating.”
Quigley is part of the ensemble, appearing in some scenes as a villager and in others as one of the servants in the Beast’s castle.
“With this being the organization’s first post-COVID production and the first time many people have been back on stage, it was kind of strange at first,” Quigley said. “It’s the first interaction in years dancing with a dance partner. It felt rusty, but we all talked about how much we had missed it.”
Torregiano and Quigley have connections to Pittsford Musicals. The current artistic director at HF-L, John Hennessey, has directed several times for PM (most recently Wizard of Oz in 2016) as well as having served on the organization’s Board of Directors. He became artistic director of HF-L’s musicals in the spring of 2017. The previous artistic director at HF-L, Sue Palomaki, has been onstage with PM, most notably as Yente in the organization’s 2005 production of Fiddler on the Roof. In addition, HF-L residents David and Lisa Fisher, who have been HF-L’s set builder/designer and costumer respectively for many years, have been involved in those same roles for Pittsford Musicals with David Fisher currently serving as treasurer on the organization’s Board of Directors.
“Mr. Hennessey took over directing at HF-L when I was a senior and, with the other connections, I was personally drawn to the organization,” Torregiano said. “In addition, when I was a senior I received a Pittsford Musicals scholarship at graduation. So for me, this is a full circle moment. It’s a way I can give back to an organization that gave something to me.”
Quigley saw Pittsford Musicals’ production of Sweeney Todd in the fall of 2017 as Hennessey was on the organization’s Board of Directors at the time.
“I was in awe of it because it was a really good community theatre production,” she said. “It was like a professional production with so many talented actors. I recently started a career as a hair stylist and I make my own schedule so I knew I could work around it and do a show. I decided to look into Pittsford Musicals.”
The HF-L grads had separate paths to their participation in the show. Torregiano was given contact information for the organization and the show’s directors by David Fisher. The directors talked with her and asked her if she would be interested in doing props for the show. Wanting to get back into theatre and remembering how good she thought PM’s production was in 2017, Quigley went on Pittsford Musicals’ Facebook page in July or August and saw that the group would be holding auditions for Beauty and the Beast in September. So she followed the Facebook page and downloaded the audition packet when it was put on the website and showed up for auditions. She was also encouraged to try out for the show by her father, Sean. A fellow Warsaw Central classmate of his, Brent Neeley, was also going to try out for the show. Neeley has the role of Maurice.
Music and theatre were a big part of Torregiano’s and Quigley’s lives at HF-L.
Torregiano was part of the stage crew for the high school’s fall drama productions of New York, The Elephant’s Graveyard and A Teenage Life and the spring musicals Thoroughly Modern Millie and Good News. She was a student director for the fall drama show The Night of January 16th and the spring musicals Mary Poppins and The Pajama Game. She served as President of the Drama Club. After graduating, she spent her freshman year at St. Bonaventure and her sophomore year at Monroe Community College before transferring to SUNY Purchase for her junior and senior years, graduating with a degree in creative writing. She has been a production assistant for the Fringe Festival for the last two years.
Quigley was involved in theatre and music since the fourth-grade production of Tom Sawyer and including productions of Cinderella and Wizard of Oz. Music and performing was part of her family life too as she performed with her grandfather, father and sister Hanna in the family’s band, The Biggest Little Band, since she was in elementary school. The group (her grandfather is 93 and plays trumpet, her dad plays piano, Hanna sings and Katie sings and plays guitar) still plays small venues. Quigley was in the high school’s fall drama shows, The Night of January 16th and Our Town, and in the spring musicals: Good News (ensemble) as a freshman, Mary Poppins (Miss Andrew) as a sophomore, The Pajama Game (Babe) as a junior and Irene (Irene) as a senior. Ironically, she almost stopped being in the musicals in 10th grade because most of her friends at the time were involved in sports and she thought about getting more involved in sports to spend time with her friends. Ultimately, she decided to follow her passion for music and theatre and made new friends. The role of Miss Andrew in Mary Poppins was her first pivotal role and made her decide to take voice lessons. After graduating from HF-L in 2018, she went to Ithaca College to study communication management and design with a minor in business. She was a member of the Ithaca Show Choir, but then got involved in a student-run Fashion Club working with hair and makeup. Realizing that was what she wanted to do, Quigley graduated a year early and then went to Cosmetology School. She now works in a salon and specializes in bridal hair styling.
“Music and theatre are important to me but I did not want to make a living at it but do it for the enjoyment of it,” Quigley said. “Music and theatre can be a lifelong passion. I didn’t know if theatre would continue to be part of my life because after my senior year when we did Irene, I felt that it was the end of it. But now I know it can still be part of my life.”
Both young ladies credit HF-L choral director Ken Goold and retired band teacher Mark Borden with inspiring them musically at HF-L, saying they made things fun but also set high expectations. They also are grateful to Sue Palomaki and John Hennessey for instilling a passion for the theatre.
“I learned a lot from both of them,” said Torregiano about being the student director at HF-L. “From Mrs. Palomaki, I learned about the management side and from Mr. Hennessey I learned more about the artistic side. I am probably one of the youngest on the production staff with this musical and when I was offered the job as props manager, I looked at it as a mentorship as well and everyone has been kind and helpful. George (Barberi, the artistic director for Beauty and the Beast) has been so cool to work with and watch how he approaches things as a director. I hope to get further involved with Pittsford Musicals, maybe as a stage manager at some point, and the people I am working with have also helped me make connections with other theatre groups.”
Quigley echoed Torregiano’s comments about how welcoming and kind veteran members of the group have been. Barberi has been on stage in several Pittsford Musicals’ shows, vocal director Julie Covach has been involved with the organization for several years and choreographer Shelly West Thompson has been on stage with the group as well as serving as choreographer for over 30 shows for the organization.
“George, Julie and Shelly are so passionate about what they do and they have been so kind and welcoming as have the other members of the cast,” Quigley stated. “Pittsford Musicals as a theatre group is incredibly structured and organized.”
Pittsford Musicals has a solid reputation in the community theatre scene of Rochester. Dating its founding to 1966 by a group of parents and teachers in the PTSA with the first show a lip sync version of Bye Bye Birdie, it was incorporated in 1968 and has produced numerous wonderful productions of shows as varied as South Pacific and The Sound of Music to Will Rogers Follies and Steel Pier. In 2013, it was one of only two Rochester-area community theatre groups allowed by Music Theatre International to stage a production of the beloved musical Les Miserables before MTI (which holds the rights to Les Miserables by arrangement with CAMERON MACKINTOSH LTD) shut that window of opportunity to community theatre groups. Pittsford Musicals, however, has been dark since its 2019 production of Cinderella because of COVID. The production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast also marks the organization’s return to a venue in the Pittsford School District since 2017. A 2018 revue was performed at Rochester’s Lyric Theatre on East Avenue and the 2019 performances of Cinderella were held at Monroe Community College.
Asked why community theatre is important to them, Torregiano and Quigley mentioned a similar theme.
“It’s fun and people genuinely want to be there and pursue a passion,” Torregiano said. “People can leave work and indulge their passion for music and theatre for a few hours and not necessarily be paid to do it but do it because they enjoy it and it is collaborative.”
“Community theatre is important because it brings people together from all different backgrounds,” Quigley said. “They are enjoying it as a passion and a creative outlet and not because it is their career. Music and theatre are for everyone.”
Pittsford Musicals’ production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will be performed Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m., Saturday, January 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 29 at 2 p.m. at Pittsford Mendon High School, 472 Pittsford Mendon Road in Pittsford. Tickets are $25 adults and students ages 13 and up and $15 for children 12 years of age and under and can be purchased by visiting https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/69245 or going to www.pittsfordmusicals.org and click on buy tickets.
“You can feel the excitement now that we are one week away,” Torregiano said. “It is exciting to be part of Pittsford Musicals coming back after a three-year absence because of COVID. The energy is really building.”