Laughing All the Way to the Stage
From the small screen to the big stage, the Williamsport Community Arts Center (CAC) is taking the excitement of some of the most popular shows on television and bringing it live and local. With the eighth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing just finished, the five finalists are taking it on the road across the nation, and Williamsport is their destination on September 30 at 7:30 p.m. The tour showcases the winner of Last Comic Standing, Rod Man, along with season finalists Nikki Carr, Lachlan Patterson, Joe Machi, and Rocky LaPorte.
“Comedy is amazingly popular at the Community Arts Center. It seems like everyone is up for a good laugh to escape,” says Rob Steele, executive director of the CAC, noting that the format is slightly different from the show, where the comedians only got a short amount of time to perform. On stage, each comedian gets twenty minutes to try to “one-up” their fellow comics. For area viewers, Joe Machi is the hometown guy, hailing originally from State College before moving to New York City in 2006 to pursue a career in comedy. His work on Comedy Central and an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, followed by his strong showing on Last Comic, have catapulted him to a national audience. The CAC show gives people the experience of a big city comedy club, with some of the best fresh talent in the country. And a limited number of folks will get the opportunity to actually meet and socialize with the comics, through a special VIP package.
Although winning a nationally televised competition is thrilling, the exposure of a national audience alone can change the career of a group. VoicePlay, an a cappella group from Orlando, was highlighted through the NBC program The Sing-Off and then was selected for the tour of the show in February and March of 2014. But it was in January, right after the show aired, that executive director Rob Steele heard them in New York City at APAP (the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters). He was so impressed that he sought out their booth. In the conversation, they talked about their interest in educational outreach.
Steele was excited about the group and a way to connect with young people in the area, so “we came up with…performing a clinic/mini-concert in each of the eight school districts in Lycoming County. VoicePlay will be in town for five days with four days of clinics, a matinee performance at the CAC for 2,000 students, and an evening public performance.” That public performance is on Friday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Geoff Castellucci, the bass voice of VoicePlay and one of the founding members of the group, said that initially the group developed their work in schools to bolster attendance at their performances. “It was a necessity.” In previous years, Castellucci, along with Earl Elkins, Jr., Layne Stein, Eliezer “Eli” Jacobson, and Tony Wakim did clinics at schools forty to fifty times a year. This year, with The Sing-Off, the tour, and all the new opportunities, they will not be doing as many school events. But, according to Castellucci, “We will continue to work with schools. It’s our favorite thing to do…to see the excitement coming out in that audience.” But the joy is not reserved for a younger audience, as VoicePlay’s mix of incredible vocal arrangements and clever comedy creates a show loved by all.
Carla Fisher, director of marketing and creative design at Williamsport CAC, noted that there seems to be a common thread. Many of the shows “are coming from the small screen and making their live debuts.” For the audience, it guarantees an eclectic mix of performances by up and coming talent, with many of them expanding on shows enjoyed in a living room, theatre, or online through YouTube. They are at once fresh and familiar, and playing at one of the finest regional venues. Enjoy the show!