Reviving 'The Mulberry Street Musical' One Show At A Time

This was written by Nick Christophers...

Some of the cast of The Mulberry Street Musical.

For producers Denise and Rocco Iacovone working on The Mulberry Street Musical has been a labor of love, to say the least.

The Mulberry Street Musical is a heart-warming, comical slice-of-Italian life back from the 40s and 50s. Italian, Greek, Jewish -- whatever your ethnic background -- you'll love every line. It will have you smiling, laughing and maybe even shedding a tear.

The original creator of The Mulberry Street Musical was Jerry Strivelli, who Denise first met when she was 12 years old. They met at a teenage club in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, at St. Athanasius parish. Strivelli started the club to keep kids off the streets. He taught them poise, public speaking, eloqution, grace, and how to think on their feet and improvise.

The kids performed for orphans or the elderly. For Denise it was an enlightening time. She had even fibbed to get into the program, telling Jerry she was 13. They would organize fun shows with songs from the 1920s and 30s.

Jerry wrote  The Mulberry Street Musical in 1975 and used old standards to accompany it. It was well received but he thought best to add original music instead. In 1978 Jerry met with musician Olga Astphan Zara, who helped him embellish the music for the show.

A year later he put on the show at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, The Amato Theater, then a special showcase at the Loretto Theater. The show was put on the shelf for a while till it was presented by the Original Theater Guild in 1985 marking its 10th Anniversary. Jerry would go ahead and re-do the musical a few times especially when the famous Nederlanders suggested a few changes.

They decided to showcase it at the Backers audition in 1993. That same year, Jerry was excited to present the newest version of the show, but he suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away on June 21, 1993. At that time Jerry’s wife moved to Florida and left Denise with the scripts and music to maybe revive it.

Some 25 years later, Denise and her husband, Rocco, would bring it back to life. They worked out a deal with producers Jeremy Long and Cory Hermanto to assist them to push their own show. In return Jeremy and Cory would help them with The Mulberry Street the Musical. It was a match made in heaven as both shows saw the light.

The show was such a success on July 19 that they are in talks to produce the show again. From the performances of Johnny Tammaro (Sal) who plays a wanna-be gangster, to Sophie Sagan-Gutherz (Caroline), the sweet sister, and the rest of the cast, it is no wonder that it may be possible.

“My husband spent five months going through six versions of the music, which was all in disarray. He organized it, notated it, arranged it, corrected lyrics, and finally has it all in order to move to the next step.”

Only recently during the St. Genaro Festival they put the show on at The Church of the Most Precious Blood on Baxter Street. It was a sold out show like most of the ones they have and it was an amazing performance. The characters come to life and you feel their pain and their joy with every scene. Denise herself plays Lena, the mother in the show and puts on a superb performance.

While there is talk of putting on some new performances, the only thing holding it back from seeing Broadway or Off-Broadway lights is funding.

 They are always looking for investors who can appreciate untapped talent that deserves to be on a bigger stage.

For additional information, email us at Cosa Nostra News.