Before talk radio, I was a high school teacher in South Jersey. Runnemede to be exact.
Teaching at Triton High School, Runnemede was a typical middle class community. So a town like Moorestown, even though it was just 10 minutes down the road, had a reputation. People used to kid that the streets were paved with gold, with prodigy children playing their Suzuki violins preparing for their Carnegie Hall debut.
The other night Roe and I had the opportunity to spend a night in Moorestown. I’ve been cultivating a “Cash Mob” initiative in which my WPHT 1210-AM listeners join me to support a local small business or community organization.
A listener suggested the Moorestown Theater Company. They were presenting “Fiddler on the Roof” as their summer main stage production. Having recently spent a week in Israel broadcasting my radio show, it was a perfect organization- and the perfect show- to promote.
Main Street in Moorestown: What Cash Mob Is All About
When Roe and I arrived in Moorestown to meet some friends for a pre-show dinner, I noticed that the downtown Main Street area was not “paved in gold,” but instead had a delightful collection of shops and small businesses (luckily we did not have much time, otherwise Roe would have done some serious shopping and put our credit cards into a coma!).
To me, the Main Street district of Moorestown really captures the essence of what my Cash Mob promotion seeks to celebrate: hard-working small business owners. These entrepreneurs put blood, sweat and tears into their businesses. They create jobs. They pay taxes. They contribute to the unique fabric of the community. And they don’t demand massive bailouts or tax breaks to keep their businesses from moving.
One of those small businesses was Passariello’s Pizza & Italian Eatery. We had a great, quick meal; they were like the Baskin Robbins of pizza; there must have been two dozen different types of pizza, plus just about everything from pasta to entrees to sandwiches. I give them “two forks up!”
As our friends and I were eating, two listeners recognized my voice from the radio and came up to me. They heard about the Cash Mob and gathered a couple of friends to see “Fiddler.” What was awesome was these were listeners from Pitman, New Jersey. I was thrilled that listeners would travel that far to support a community organization.
A Fantastic Performance
I make my living talking on the radio. My areas of expertise are politics and current events. I will be the first one to tell you that I am absolutely unqualified to be a true theater critic.
But let me tell you, Moorestown Theater Company’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” was fantastic. The performances were excellent, the music was tremendous (yes, they had a live orchestra) and the cast had a wonderful energy and enthusiasm.
The show had some truly memorable numbers, from the moving “Tradition” to “Do You Love Me” to the crowd favorite “If I Were a Rich Man.” The final number at the end of the first act, “Sunrise, Sunset,” was incredibly emotional.
Meeting My Cash Mobbers
At intermission, I was thrilled to meet even more listeners. A couple traveled from Delaware to be there. Later that night, I checked the Philadelphia Inquirer Weekend section and discovered there were approximately 10 community theater productions taking place that were far closer to Delaware than “Fiddler on the Roof.” Yet, these listeners wanted to be part of this audience and support Moorestown Theater Company. To me, that is validation about the power of something like “Cash Mob.”
Also during intermission, I got to meet Mark Morgan, the Producing Artistic Director, Carol Ann Murray (his wife), the Managing Director, and Annette De Rosa, the Administrative Director. Mark, who was not only directing the show, but also performed in the show, mentioned to me “when we started in 2003, we did one production. Since then, we’ve done close to 90.”
What amazed me was that this organization’s humble beginnings have blossomed into an organization that is truly knitted into the fabric of the community. They do children’s productions, offer lessons in voice, acting and dance and grownup fare like “Fiddler.”
A Labor of Love
When I heard about the schedule that Mark, Carol Ann, Annette and their dedicated staff of volunteers maintain, I was exhausted just listening to it. When I was on WWDB Radio in the early 90’s doing the overnight shift, I used to be known as “the Man Who Never Sleeps.” I am bequeathing that title to Mark, Carol Ann and Annette. 16 to 18 hours days are not unusual. They are doing amazing work. And they are clearly not doing it for the money!
And that work makes a difference. One parent, whose child was in the cast and does other productions at Moorestown Theater Company told me, “this is a special organization. The kids, the staff, the adults are made to feel like they are part of a positive and supportive theater family.” The parent added, “if my daughter could live at Moorestown Theater Company and come home just to sleep and change, she would. That is the kind of impact the organization has.”
During intermission, I also got the chance to go backstage and meet some of the performers. Adding to the magic of the evening, I was delighted to discover that the role of the Fiddler that night was being played by Todd Johnson, a fellow CBS colleague in Philadelphia.
Roe, our friends and I truly enjoyed Fiddler on the Roof. A special bravo to the cast, the musicians and the crew. They are not doing it for the money; they are volunteers. They are doing it because they love theater. They love music and performing. And they embody the mission of community theater.
Supporting Local Businesses & Organizations: Make It a Tradition
I came away moved by the production. The show’s message of “tradition” resonated in the performances and the numbers.
I also believe that tradition is important when it comes to supporting our community organizations and small businesses. You cannot fully appreciate them until you support them and experience them personally.
As I told the crowd before the start of the second act, I wanted to start my Cash Mob initiative because in my line of work, you cannot help but get worked up over wrongs and injustices in the world. Sometimes, when a company does not act in the best interest of the community, there are calls for boycotts…and rightfully so.
But what I felt most gratified about this past Friday night were meeting many of my listeners who embodied the concept of a “BUY-COTT” and opened their wallets to support a very worthy community organization.
Discovering a Community Treasure
In my job, I like getting out from behind the studio microphone and meet people or organizations making a difference. I did just that Friday night. Mark, Carol Ann, Annette, the staff, cast, musicians and volunteers of Moorestown Theater Company are an absolute treasure!
But don’t take my work for it. Experience it yourself and support “Fiddler on the Roof.” You still have time to catch their final performances at the William Allen Middle School (801 North Stanwick Road): Thursday, July 24 (7:00 PM); Friday, July 25 (7:00 PM); and Saturday, July 26 (2:00 PM and 7:00 PM). Tickets are $15, with all seats reserved, and can be purchased online at www.moorestowntheatercompany.org or by calling (856) 778-8357.
And after Mark is done with this and has a chance to give himself a well-deserved breather, I am going to meet with him and pitch this idea I have had for years: “Talk Radio: The Musical.” It’s got Broadway potential.
And I know just the guy who would be perfect for the lead role!
Provided he does not have to sing. Or act. Or dance.