- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

DERBY, Conn. (AP) - On weekdays, he shuffles papers as the city’s town/city clerk posting agendas, processing minutes and signing off on important documents.

But on weekends, Marc Garofalo transforms himself from a real-life Valley politician into a beloved figure on the stage, playing characters like Professor Harry Hill in “The Music Man,” Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.”

“It’s relaxing,” said Garofalo, a veteran of about 60 performances dating back to his junior year in high school. “It’s a great activity for adults. It allows you to use your creative side.”

This weekend, this Roman Catholic, Italian-American will be playing the role of Tevye, the philosophical, faith-driven Jewish dairyman whose struggles with century-old traditions, impending changes and doing what’s right for his family in 1905 Czarist Russia create the story line for “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Marc is perfect for the role,” said Francesca Scarpa, who with her husband, Gary, is producing the show for their Center Stage Theater located in the former Lafayette School in Shelton. “He’s grown into the role.”

That’s true.

Garofalo played the role when he was 21. Now he’s re-creating it at age 46.

“I’ve still got the beard, but there’s more salt than pepper in it now,” quipped Garofalo, who served four terms as the city’s mayor.

“Fiddler” will run weekends until Feb. 22, with a Feb. 13 evening performance.

“Tevye is a big, demanding part,” said Garofalo. “To me, it’s an honor to play a part like this. It’s so well-written.”

He said, “There’s a lot of humor, a lot of drama to it. It has a very deep message about family, community, traditions and values in a changing society - all things that are relevant today. Life evolves and traditions change, but it’s still important to maintain them.”

Also, the music is incredible, he said.

His favorites are “If I Were a Rich Man,” the inebriated singing and dancing in “To Life” and the solemn “Sabbath Prayer” - a dinner table performance with his character’s wife and five daughters.

“That’s such a pretty, pretty song,” he said.

But don’t expect to see Garofalo walking around City Hall with a script in his hand, mouthing lines or humming music. He does that at home and in rehearsals at night.

“I probably spend an hour or two at home every night and 90 hours in rehearsal working on this part,” Garofalo said.

Francesa Scarpa said he is at every rehearsal and in almost every scene.

“He is very dedicated, very creative and brings a lot of heart to the roles he plays,” Scarpa said. “He also listens and trusts what the director tells him.”

So for more than three hours on the night of Jan. 23 there was Garofalo, voicing a Yiddish accent while wise-cracking, dancing and singing his way through one of Broadway’s most memorable roles in rehearsal.

“Doesn’t he have a beautiful voice?” Scarpa remarked. “He’s been singing since he was a boy.”

Although his parents introduced him to the theater by taking him to plays as a boy, it wasn’t until 1985 that he landed his first part: working the chorus in “The Music Man” at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden.

But the story starts a year earlier.

“What happened was my sister, Marci, was a student at Sacred Heart. She was on the stage crew when they performed “Annie” in 1984,” Garofalo recalled.

At that time, he was a junior at Derby High School, which didn’t have a drama club. His sister convinced him to attend one of her school’s performances.

“I was sitting there watching about 70 girls and 20 boys perform, and I said to myself: “If these guys can do it, so can I.”

Of course, he said the number of girls (Sacred Heart is an all-girls high school) was an incentive. But soon that was outweighed by the experience of performing before a live audience.

The Scarpas directed both shows.

“We’ve known him since he was a teenager,” Francesca Scarpa said. “He has natural ability for the stage.

Over the next three decades, the trio developed a theatrical relationship. He began performing in their Youth CONNections summer plays made up of high school and college students before graduating to their community theater productions.

With experience, Garofalo’s roles grew. He’s played Uncle Max in “The Sound of Music,” Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma!” King in “Big River” and Professor Bhaer in “Little Women.”

The most challenging role was Don Quixote.

“It’s a very complex, very difficult role,” he said.

His favorite role and play are Tevye and “Fiddler.”

This marks his fifth performance in Fiddler and his second as Tevye.

“Being in a show is like the ultimate team sport,” he said. “Everyone has a part, from the ticket sellers to the sound crew, the set designers, the stage crew, the actors and the directors.”

And they are all volunteers.


Information from: Connecticut Post, https://www.connpost.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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