‘As the Mazo Ball Turns — The Musical’ premieres in Jim Thorpe Jan. 13 with help from NEPA natives
Drag queens, rude celebrities, impatient customers and hit men come together to populate the scenes in a Jim Thorpe author’s novel-turned-stage play.
“As the Mazo Ball Turns — The Musical” premieres at 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Olympian Auditorium in Jim Thorpe with three shows following on Jan. 14 and 15. The production was brought to fruition with the help of several Northeastern Pennsylvanians.
The musical was adapted from a novel written by Gene Duffy, who spent 10 years in Hollywood as an actor and writer and wrote “As the Mazo Ball Turns” under a pseudonym.
“I’m a recovering Irish Catholic, but I write under the pen name Jozef Rothstein,” Duffy said.
The story is a comedic semi-autobiographical fiction which follows a male protagonist chasing his dreams to Los Angeles.
“It starts with a guy who feels unfulfilled,” Duffy said. “He wants to live up to his potential, so he decides to move to Hollywood. In the show, he’s driven by his inner voice, which is played by a woman. We think that brings some pretty good comedy.”
The character Rothstein is a fish-out-of-water in Hollywood, who comes face-to-face with the Hollywood Machine, which is comprised of five parts that are each symbolic of a different role people play in Hollywood, Duffy said.
Rothstein “tries to break into show businesses, and that’s the main antagonist of the show,” Duffy said.
As he tries to make his way in the movie industry, Rothstein takes work at a Jewish deli in Los Angeles and sees Tinseltown through its various eccentric characters.
“I created this character who starts this show homophobic, germaphobic; he’s afraid of earthquakes, and he gets stuck in a deli in California working for Bobby the Gay Mafia Boss,” Duffy said. “I like things, in the humor I write, to progressively get worse for the character, because I think it makes it more funny. We’ll see if it works.”
Hazleton musician Danny DeMelfi co-wrote much of the score for the musical.
DeMelfi, who teaches out of DeMelfi Music School and MMI Preparatory School in Freeland, said he was brought into the project by Duffy to arrange the music and became more involved with the creation of music as the process went forward.
“I bought into Gene’s cause, because of his dedication,” DeMelfi said. “I’ve never seen another person as dedicated to something as this man. He eats, breathes and sleeps this show.”
Linda Bassett, of Drums, designed makeup and was involved with hair and props for the production, which, she said, made her laugh during rehearsals.
“It’s great,” Bassett said. “It’s funny. It’s original. It’s cutting edge with some of the material, and everybody’s so involved in bringing their uniqueness to each part.”
Before being adapted for stage, “As the Mazo Ball Turns” received an endorsement from former Rolling Stone editor Robert Wallace.
“It is a gonzo-10-year journey — in turns side-splittingly funny and heart wrenchingly sad — into the dark heart of the entertainment and restaurant business, seen through the jaundiced eyes of an aspiring actor turned waiter,” Wallace said. “This memoir will be chicken soup for the soul for anyone, anywhere, who has ever asked the eternal question, ‘Lord, how long must I wait?’”
Duffy calls the story the “Book of Mormon”-goes-to-Hollywood.
“‘Book of Mormon” goofs on the Mormon religion where as this goofs on the religion of celebrity worship,” he said.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO:
What: ‘As the Mazo Ball Turns — The Musical’
Where: Olympian Auditorium, 1 Olympian Way, Jim Thorpe
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 13, 2 and 7 p.m. Jan. 14, 3 p.m. Jan. 15
Tickets: Cost $21.62 and are available at asthematzoballturnsthemusical.com.