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The Jingle Man proves to be irresistible

“You know, here the only things we pay for are pens and pencils and coffee-and the faulty lighting system.”

Jingle Man Jerry Niles (played by Bob Grant) looked up as the overhead lights wink edin and out over downstage right.

He and Greg Walton, who posed as Fenton B. Warwick, accountant and ex-jingler, were forced to pause as the audience erupted in throes of laughter at this added remark.

A lighting difficulty was not in the script, but neither were some of the lines a few days ago. The Jingle Man gave audiences a chance to see a musical in the making.

A workshop play means some actors are still on book, reading from scripts on stage.

The actors and actresses were in full costume and acted-and sang and danced-their roles splendidly, drawing the audience into a story of love, envy, music and toothpicks.

“We were giving new art to be born here,” Executive Produce, Mark Hallen said as talkbacks began after the premier of The Jingle Man Feb 16. “Every day can be a new day.”

The workshop presentation of 2002 Alum Christopher Tolemeo’s The Jingle Man was revised by its next debut the Feb 17.

The audience was drawn into the play almost immediately as the laughter and wit of Tolemeo’s characters came alive.

The laughter of a small ensemble of office workers was often drowned out by the audience’s cheering.

Whoops and shouts of laughter burst regularly from the packed rows of seats. Tension on stage had the masses leaning forward on the edge of their chairs.

Tolemeo, composer, librettist and lyricist, also conducted the small orchestra ensemble from his seat at the drums.

Audience members could stay for talk-backs after the presentation, offering compliments and suggestions for development. Tolemeo and director, Alumna Jacqueyn Grace Niklas, as well as the production team and cast sat in costume across the stage for the cheerful discussion. Should the villain get it in the end? Should Judy be the next president of Conway Advertising?

Collaborators with Tolemeo in previous workshops of Jingle Man came to watch the show and commented during talk-backs about its development thus far.

Tolemeo played Jerry Niles in the original production.

“It was like we were watching it for the first time,” said Rachel Stephan, who played Judy in the original and also graduated from Eastern in 2002.

For more information on “The Jingle Man,” visit http://www.thejinglemanmusical.com/bios.htm.

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