The Jingle Man hits the fringe stage

There are several reasons why an Eastern student may want to head down to the Philly Fringe Festival to catch a showing of the up-and-coming musical The Jingle Man.

First of all, it is written, composed and starred in by an Eastern alumnus.

Hailing from Wallingford, Pa., Chistopher Tolomeo, class of ’02, grew up attending retreats at Eastern. When the time came to pick a college, it was a natural choice.

After Tolomeo graduated, he taught for a few years but decided that it wasn’t for him. “I woke up one morning and said, ‘I have to conduct on Broadway,'” he said.

He had started writing The Jingle Man during his sophomore year of college. It took him six years to complete. The seventh year, it was produced at Eastern.

“I wrote it and it was just like, ‘I wrote a musical,'” Tolomeo said. “I didn’t actually think it would make it past, well, anything.”

He decided to try anyway, and Professors Mark Hallen and Theresa Moyer of the theatre department accepted it for the winter workshop production. Directed by alumna Jackie Nicklas, the show sold out at Eastern.

Even if you saw the Eastern version, this time the production is much bigger. It has a 16-piece orchestra which includes ’07 alumnus Brandon Rexrode and members of Tolomeo’s band, Call Me Crazy. Professional tap dancers perform in many of the numbers. There are also several plot twists that Tolomeo said may come as surprises.

The changes are not always easy to make. “To see my baby get ripped apart, it was very unsettling, I admit,” Tolomeo said.

However, such is the price of fame. In the end, “When people walk out singing your tunes, that’s the biggest compliment ever, really,” he said.

John Curtis and Carissa Lagano, who choreographed the show at EU, along with Tolomeo himself, are self-producing with their company, Call Me Crazy Productions.

They spent the summer gearing up for this. “I’ve been living this for the past five months,” said Tolomeo. “It will jingle me right into my own grave.”

You may also want to check it out if you are a fan of innocent, happy fun. “We’re the only thing in the Fringe Festival that’s not, like, naked people onstage,” Tolomeo said.

Instead, the Jingle Man incorporates colorful characters clothed in period costume, along with great comedy and impressive tap dancing. It is an old-school musical in the vein of Singin’ In the Rain and Anything Goes. “We are preserving that style and era of music and bringing it to an audience that may not remember that,” said Tolomeo.

Something else to look forward to is the possibility of a unique experience.

During Tolomeo’s run as Lufu in Beauty and the Beast at Philadelphia’s Candlelight Theatre, a not-so-fake punch from Gaston broke his nose. Blood gushed, but Tolomeo finished the number before being rushed to the hospital. In a happy ending (as both Beauty and the Beast and The Jingle Man have) he was back in time for the curtain call.

Although Tolomeo does not expect anything of the sort to happen this time around, there is always the possibility.

He advises students considering catching the show: “It’s gonna be a big party….Spend the money now, because when it’s on Broadway at $100 a ticket … “

The Jingle ManDates: 8 p.m. on 8/31 and 9/1; 3 p.m. on 9/1 and 9/2Price: $20Location: International House, 3701 Chestnut Street

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