The Belleville theater group recently licensed as cbp:LLC staged an adoptation of one of Mitch Albom's most beloved novels "Tuesdays with Morrie" last Friday through Sunday at the All-American Sport Shop in Lyndhurst.
The play, co-written by the author with Jeffrey Hatcher, follows the story of a sports journalist trying to reconnect with his college professor who is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, and the special friendship they share.
Starring cbp:LLC's Creative Director Ricky Franco, who also directed the play, and his uncle Bill Zielinski, what ensued is a very natural portrayal of realistic characters in truly heartwarming situations.
Franco shared how they came to put up Tuesdays with Morrie.
“We were actually supposed to do 'The Gin Game' but we had some issues with the play and casting, and just ran out of time," Franco said.
"I wanted to put up a show so badly because Bill and I, we always do a joint production every fall or winter, and I didn’t want to miss it this year. So we canceled Gin Game and spent three hours looking through stacks of scripts. We found 'Tuesdays with Morrie' and we knew the story."
Franco says though it is a one-act play, putting up the show didn’t come without challenges but it was "effortless in a way because it really just flowed.
"I don’t think I directed most of the stuff that went in there because it literally just happened. And that’s because of the writing and the story," plus of course, the wonderful chemistry between the actors.
"We work well together," says Bill Zielinski, who is a veteran theater actor performing in off-Broadway theaters in the past and co-directs some shows for cbp. "Ricky literally kicked me out of retirement."
The play was staged at the All American Sports Shop, which is owned by Ricky's father, Rich Franco. It is a small theater, with room for up 43 people.
“Personally, I do prefer acting for small audiences," shares Zielinski. "I like my audience to be voyeurs. I like that intimacy in the theater.”
As for future projects, cbp:LLC is planning to stage either a concert or a music review in the winter, a big musical in August, and Franco’s original play "My Realization," which earned him a NJ Association of Community Theaters nomination for original play will be going to New York soon.