Rhapsody Players Bring Holiday Cheer to the RTC

 Rhapsody Players Bring Holiday Cheer to the RTC

By Dan Guarino

On Sunday, December 10, the Post Theater in Fort Tilden was full of rockin’, festive cheer as the Rhapsody Players brought their concert performance of “A Rock N’ Holiday Show” to the Rockaway Theatre Company stage.

At the performance, an appreciative audience braved the rains to enjoy the multitalented vocal group, with live onstage band, belting out “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” “The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Mary Did You Know?” “Snowman,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” and other soulful holiday favorites old and new.

The Rhapsody Players also treated them to “This Magic Moment,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Heatwave,” a rocking “Lady Marmalade” and more, sung as solo numbers, duets and groups. “We really enjoyed this. They really put on a fantastic show!” said one Rockaway resident. “Just amazing!”

It was decided there and then between the Players and the Rockaway Theatre Company (RTC) during that first show that a second show must go on. The Rhapsody Players were scheduled to do an encore this Saturday, December 23, but due to cast illness, the performance was cancelled a few days ahead.

“We love performing,” says the Rhapsody Players’ John Heffernan. “Many of us have been performing at RTC for 20 years and love the theater, the audience and the members of this wonderful company.”

Heffernan, who starred in “La Cage Aux Folles” and other RTC productions, notes the Players consists of vocalists Samantha Caiati, Juliette Pannone Mallon, Colleen O’Donnell, Kiernan Hamilton, Bernard Smith and himself. Several of the group are also members of the Rockaway Theatre Company. Caiati, for instance, has starred in RTC’s “The Great Gatsby,” while Mallon has appeared in “Rockaway Café: Now & Then” and most recently as part of the theatre company’s enthusiastically received “Jingle Bells on the Rock” show at The Rockaway Hotel.

Likewise, many of the Rhapsody Player’s band members, which include Steven Athanail on guitar, keyboard player Tim Bayliss, Howard Alper on drums, bassist Peter Zagare, Matt Koza on saxophone and flute and Ryan King on trumpet, have also played in RTC’s show bands over the years. The Player’s band adds its own holiday trimming tree at each show and by playing a few well-loved jazz infused selections from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

With a deep connection to Rockaway and the theatre, the Players have often performed here, as well as doing indoor and outdoor shows at various parks, including as part of Shore Road Park’s Summer Concert series, and other venues in Brooklyn. Most recently they played to great applause at St. Patrick’s RC Church in Bay Ridge as fundraiser for the church.

Founded in 2006, Heffernan explains the original members had been singing together for years in community theater, as part of Narrows Community Theater, RTC, Samaha and at St. Patrick’s among others. He himself “started singing at age seven with member Kiernan Hamilton under the tutelage of Maestro Aldo Bruschi” and sang the lead in “Amahl and The Night Visitors” at age 11.

Coming together as the Rhapsody Players and becoming a registered non-profit 501c charitable organization along the way, “We decided to pool our talents and provide communities with top notch entertainment whilst raising funds for worthy causes such as schools, churches, pediatric cancer, military postage, Caring Kind Alzheimer’s, Boy Scouts of America and people in need,” Heffernan said. “To date, we have raised close to a million dollars for charities.”

“We love performing,” he says, “and have an excellent band.” Besides the mix of holiday tunes at the most recent and upcoming shows, “we focus on songs from the ‘50s through the ‘80s, but now have expanded to include some recent popular music. Motown songs and rock and soul seem to be some of our favored material.”

While engaging their audiences and turning on the Player’s tremendous stage presence, Heffernan also notes, “We like to highlight our ladies with medleys and then guy medleys and then solos and ensembles.”

The show was initially scheduled to be a one-night only performance and with the last-minute cancellation of the second, it looks like that will remain, but perhaps the Players will be back for an encore next holiday season after this year’s success. On playing on the Rockaway Theatre Company stage, Heffernan sums up by saying, “We are grateful to be able to perform here!”

 Photo by Frank Caiati.

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