Area man working to bring ‘Save the Palace’ to the NYC stage
BY MICHAEL CHAIKEN REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
November 10, 2021
Roy O’Neil of Washington, Conn., has been grinding it out trying to get his musical “Save the Palace” on Broadway.
ROY O'NEIL and DIRECTOR JAMIBETH MARGOLIS
The musical ‘Save the Palace,’ which was written by Waterbury native Roy O’Neil, had an industrial showcase in New York City this fall. O’Neil hopes to bring the show about Waterbury’s Palace Theater to Broadway.
The author of the book and the lyricist for the show has made some headway. There have been some local productions of the show, which is about saving, well, the Palace Theater in Waterbury. And last month, the show had an industry reading in New York City in another step toward possible production.
But O’Neil, a former Waterbury resident, acknowledges there are still some monumental hurdles before you see “Save the Palace” in a theater next door to “Hamilton.”
“We had a terrific couple of performances (at the reading). The show went off great and sounded wonderful. Audience reaction was enthusiastic and Broadway producers attending were complimentary,” said O’Neil, 76, in an email. “We did have Broadway producers at our reading. The producers in attendance were responsible for shows such as: ‘Tootsie,’ ‘Come From Away,’ ‘Something Rotten,’ ‘Inheritance,’ ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Moulin Rouge,’ ‘Jagged Little Pill,’ ‘Be More Chill,’ ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ ‘Company.’ Additionally, there were a few folks from Connecticut theaters — Goodspeed Opera House and Westport Country Playhouse.”
Now that “Save the Palace” has had an industry reading, said the writer, “Another next step is following up with those people to elicit support for a commercial enterprise.”
But O’Neil isn’t expecting the show to be ready for a 2022 curtain date. “The average Broadway show has been eight years in development before opening night,” he said. “Mine is not average. “I am an unknown writer. The show is all original. So while I may be at the eight-year mark right about now, I think I have a ways to go before Broadway.”
Although the show is about Waterbury, it’s the Waterbury of O’Neil’s imagination. “The show is inspired by people, places and events in Waterbury but it is entirely fictional,” he said. “The band in the show is Eddie and The Palaceades. There was never such a band.”
However, the inspiration for “Save the Palace” is based on reality, not just Waterbury’s. “There are also numerous Palace Theaters across the country and several have gone through the same experience as the Waterbury Palace,” O’Neil said. “Some have been less fortunate and were demolished.” Demolition was never on the table for Waterbury’s venue.
O'NEIL introduces the cast and music director at start of performance
“Save the Palace” actually can trace its roots to 2002 in Waterbury at Broadway on the Green at St. John’s Church. "At the very start, it was titled ‘American Brass’ and the songs were all songs about Waterbury. There was no character development; no plot; no conflict,” O’Neil said. By 2012, I had a decent plot structure, but character development, plot progression and song selection and placement needed work. The songs tended to be ones I had written separately from the show and dropped into the various scenes.”
After some initial performances following an effort to make the piece more stageworthy, O’Neil said further changes to the plot were made and characters were cut. It wasn’t an easy process, he said, since the show was so close to his heart. The show continues to be a work in progress as O’Neil sets his eyes on the footlights of the “Great White Way.” O’Neil came to the world of stage musicals through a circuitous, unexpected route. But it left him prepared to write a show about Waterbury because his creative path traveled straight through the Brass City.
“The first 25 years of my career were in urban planning, community and economic development,” O’Neil said. “I served as project manager on Waterbury’s first comprehensive plan of development in the 1970s. I served as community development director for Waterbury during Mayor (Edward D.) Bergin’s time and later as interim city planner.”
The Palace and Waterbury also figure intimately in O’Neil’s memories as a youngster. “I grew up in Waterbury and raised my family there,” said the budding stage impresario, who moved to Watertown in 1960, but moved back to Waterbury after marriage in 1972. “As a kid on Baldwin Street, we could walk downtown to the Palace for the Saturday matinees. And in high school days, and into the’60s, you might take a date there. “In the’70s, after it closed as a movie house, it turned into the place for rock shows. When it was in decline and ready to close down for good late in the’80s, I was still living in Waterbury.”
Although he would like “Save the Palace” to be a Broadway baby, O’Neil would love to see his hometown get a look at it first. “My next ambition is to get a full production up on stage, and my preference would be at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury. The story should draw a crowd and the theater is the right size and very well-respected in the theater industry,” he said. “Of course, in a dream, it would be at the Palace, but that is a huge space to fill — twice the size of most Broadway houses.”
For information about “Save the Palace” and to hear some of the music written for the show, visit SavethePalaceMusical.com.
“"This original musical by Roy O'Neil has ties to Waterbury CT; the brand new CD contains 15 songs and one of them is a new one.By Nancy Sasso Janis Apr 18, 2018. The Patch'Eddie and the Palaceades Save the Palace' is a hometown musical written by Roy O'Neil. Just like 'The Music Man' and Lin Manuel Miranda's 'In the Heights,' this show is inspired by people, places and events in the writer's hometown. In this case- Waterbury, CT.'Eddie and the Palaceades' is the story of an over the hill rock star who literally runs for mayor to save the Palace Theater where his band got its start decades ago.CT residents will know that the magnificent Palace Theater was restored to its former glory and is now drawing theatregoers to downtown Waterbury, albeit not as often as city leaders would like.In the story, Eddie and his wife Gracie, a member of the band, are now empty-nesters facing a new coming of age crisis as they approach their sixties. Eddie wants to save the theater and their hometown (redubbed as Waterbury's nickname "Brass City") and Gracie wants to reboot their musical career and go back out on tour. The engaging tale is punctuated with a variety of musical numbers that move the action along.The show has played to sold out audiences at The Midtown International Theatre Festival and The Manhattan Theatre Mission New Musical Showcase. It was also the inaugural show in the Woods Hole Theatre Company New Works Series on Cape Cod. I had the pleasure of catching a performance seated at the author's table at The Square Foot Theatre Company in Wallingford, CT.Click here to read my review of the show; I was honored to see that the (top) quote from my review included on the CD liner notes is "A charming mix of freshness and nostalgia." WATR radio host Tom Chute called the music "immensely hummable" and I would concur. It was great to see that a very good photo of the interior of the Palace was included on the back of the CD case.Listening to the brand new CD during a commute to a show during a busy weekend for reviews, I was reminded of the charm of the 15 songs written for 'Eddie and the Palaceades.' I loved the energy of the opening number "Meet Me at the Palace" and the catchy signature tune "Bangarang." The writer in me responded to "Write About That," especially the references to Waterbury.The tone of the numbers sung by the Brass City officials are marked with an "official" tone and the driving tone of the two parts of "Come On Eddie, You Can Do It" works well. The two "wanna" songs are "Spread My Wings" and "I Need the Band Back Together." I was impressed with the professional quality of this album.Mr. O'Neil tells me that most of the songs were arranged and produced by Michael Holland (2011 'Godspell' revival) and a couple were produced by Galen Breen in Nashville.The writer also noted that a saying he has come across in musical theater writing is that the "rewriting never ends, the show just opens." Mr. O'Neil admits that even after his show's openings, he continues to tweak various scenes and songs. After receiving feedback from a panel of industry experts at an NYC workshop, he further adjusted the ending scenes and he added a new song.I would love to attend another production of this musical with local roots at one of the area community theatres. Maybe then I could figure out which one is the new song.Nancy Sasso Janis has been writing theatre reviews since 2012 as a way to support local theatre venues and she posts reviews of well over 100 productions each year. In 2016, she became a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. She continues to contribute theatre news, previews, and audition notices to local Patch sites. Reviews of all levels of theatrical productions are posted on Naugatuck Patch and the Patch sites closest to the venue. Follow the reviewer on her Facebook pages Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and Connecticut Theater Previews and on Twitter @nancysjanis417” - Nancy Sasso Janis
— The Patch
“By Nancy Sasso Janis Connecticut Critics Circle/OnStage Connecticut Critic April 10, 2017 9:26 pm ET Wallingford, CT - The Square Foot Theatre had the honor to present the world premiere of ‘Eddie and the Palaceades,’ a musical with book and lyrics by Roy O’Neil and music by Stephen Feigenbaum. It was at Mr. O’Neil’s invitation that I attended the final matinee on a beautifully spring-like Sunday afternoon. SFT is celebrating their tenth season and 59th production, and Executive and Artistic Director Jared Andrew Brown thanked the writer for trusting them with presenting his original musical. SFT does not always welcome reviewers, but I did get to see their wonderful production of ‘Children of Eden.’ The first thing I noticed is that they flipped the house so that the stage now runs along what was a side wall. It looked so different that I felt like I was in a different venue, but the new arrangement seemed to accommodate more patrons. Mr. O’Neil told me that his show has been running to sold-out crowds. ‘Eddie and the Palaceades’ (not to be confused with Gerry and the Pacemakers) is an all-original musical about a 60s era band from Waterbury, CT, referred to as “Brass City.” The fictional band appeared on American Bandstand as well as Ed Sullivan and they opened for the Beatles. After a 30 year hiatus to raise their children, the empty nesters are ready to restart their musical career with a benefit concert to save the Palace Theater. Yes, Waterbury’s Palace Theater, because the story was inspired by people, places and events associated with the Brass City, which was twice (!) rated by Money Magazine’s as the worst city in America. The writing team is made up of a baby boomer (Mr. O’Neil) and a millennial (Mr. Feigenbaum) but both are Yale graduates. (Coincidentally, the new home of the SFT is in the Yale Shopping Center on Yale Avenue in Wallingford.) The different generations of the writing team yielded what I thought was a charming mix of freshness and nostalgia in a story with original characters and more than 18 new songs. Those characters include lead singer Eddie Doyle (played by Brian Ozenne with a fine singing voice,) his wife Gracie and their now adult daughter Mary. Eddie’s best friend Vinny Moriarty was the third member of the band who has lost the wife, the best songwriter the band ever had. The officials trying to raze the beloved Palace Theater include Mayor Big E. Williams (played by Sarah Golley) and her three alderman cronies. The show opens with the band members singing “Welcome to the Palace” and then the very sixties “Bangarang.” Songs that moved along the plot included “Write About That,” “Spread My Wings,” and “I’m Fed Up, I’m Leaving.” Second act plot pushers included “Rip It Up,” (as in the Money Magazine) “C’mon Eddie You Can Do It,” and ‘Injunction.” Knowing that the final number before the bows is entitled “Back Together” is an indication of the ending. Both acts moved along quickly, with speedy set and costume changes and the entire piece struck me as perfect for Off-Broadway. I loved the antics of the trio of alderman. Mr. O’Neil shared with me that as a result of feedback received that the show was too long and had too many threads of subplots, he cut some 20 pages from the script. While I do not know what was cut, I wonder if some of it would have fleshed out the supporting characters a bit. It was fun keeping an eye and ear open for the Waterbury references in the script. Patrick Laffin directed this new work and Jennifer Kaye served as the choreographer. Alan Dougherty is the resident music director and conducted the three-piece orchestra from the back corner of the room. Mr. Ozenne had good stage presence in the leading role of Eddie. Francis Michael did well as his sidekick Vinny. Toniann Carey had the musical pipes to sing her big numbers “I Want to Go Out and Sing” and “Fires of Spring.” Heidi Schulte also sang well as the conflicted daughter and was a natural onstage. Ms. Golley had a big voice to match the personality of the shady mayor of Brass City and Mike Trzciensky, Jessica Giannone and Heather Bazinet had some funny moments as the trio of alderman. Karen Sportino was the only member of the ensemble and covered several parts. The set was decorated with old Palace Theater posters and there were references to WATR radio, as well as a conglomerate company with initials that spell LULU. As a show of solidarity on opening night, representatives from Waterbury’s Palace Theater included Frank Tavera, Jennifer Zembruski, Sheree Marcucci and WATR’s Tom Chute, the King of Culture. SFT is proudly sponsored by Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation. Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to Patch. Follow her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and on Twitter @nancysjanis417” - Nancy Sasso Janis
— OnStage, Connecticut
“By JOANNE BRIANA-GARTNER: Roy O’Neil, (right) author of “Eddie and The Palaceades” with Peter Cook of Falmouth, who will play Eddie when the Woods Hole Theatre Company presents a staged reading of the musical August 12 and 13 at the Woods Hole Community Hall. When Woods Hole Theater Company member Corinne Cameron was asked if the theater would consider staging new works (mainly musicals) that were still in development in order to give playwrights a chance to see their play rehearsed and performed and then receive feedback, Ms. Cameron knew it was a win/win. She and Annie Hart Cool took the idea to the board and the rest of the members agreed. After placing an ad in the online publication “Musical Writerszine,” Ms. Cameron found herself hip deep in manuscripts, librettos and background CDs. For the first in the WHTC’s New Works series of staged readings Ms. Cameron chose “Eddie and the Palaceades,” a musical about a rock band from the 1960s. The band opened for the Beatles, then the members gave up their musical dreams to raise their children. The show opens 30 years later when they are empty nesters looking to write the next chapter in their lives. “Eddie and the Palaceades” was chosen for a number of reasons, said Ms. Cameron, who will direct the production. First, because it was “fully thought-out and worthy. Several people read it and agreed it had potential.” The play might still need some tweaks, but mostly “it’s in its final form,” Ms. Cameron said. “It’s been performed successfully in workshop competitions; the August 12 and 13 shows will be the first time it’s been shown to a paying audience.” “We’re excited and hoping to get a large audience for feedback,” said Ms. Cameron, who said she imagined how cool it would be to make a suggestion and “have it become part of the show.” The play was also chosen because the playwright, Roy O’Neil of Connecticut, has a summer home in Eastham. By choosing this play “we are supporting a local artisan,” said Ms. Cameron, adding Mr. O’Neil’s “been great to work with.” Finally the play appealed to Ms. Cameron because it’s family friendly. “It’s got a wide reach. The musical style should especially appeal to baby boomers,” said Ms. Cameron, who described the sound as a “Beach Boys feel.” Stage readings are important not only for the feedback, but also so the playwrights can see for themselves what works. Mr. O’Neil has been to several rehearsals, Ms. Cameron said. “He can see where things don’t work lyrically and he can make changes,” she noted, adding, “The music director, Marcia Wytrwal, has also made musical changes and presented those changes to Mr. O’Neil.” When auditioning actors and actresses for the show Ms. Cameron not only chose performers for Eddie and the Palaceades, but some extra performers she hopes will make up a core group of performers to tackle New Works pieces going forward. Ms. Cameron hopes to be able to stage at least two new works a year. Members of the core group who are not part of “Eddie and the Palaceades” will still attend the show and give feedback. “Eddie and the Palaceades” will be performed Friday, August 12, st 7 PM, and Saturday, August 13, at 1:30 and 7 PM. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.woodsholetheater.org or at the door on a first-come, first-served basis On August 13, following the matinee, a panel of invited guests will provide feedback on the show. “Basically they’ll review it,” Ms. Cameron said. While WHTC will continue to stage three to four full-length productions a year plus continue with its Tales and Anecdotes series, it is Ms. Cameron’s hope that WHTC will become a go-to place for new musicals, adding the community hall is a “great space with great acoustics.”” - Joanne-Briana-Gartner
— The Enterprise
“ DG National Report: Connecticut by Charlene Donaghy @dramatistsguild In Connecticut, as in other states, we inspire each other: dramatists like Emma Palzere-rae and Judith Clinton who organize productive writing retreats in southeastern CT, Steven Otfinoski who elevates our dramatist community, William Squier of Curtain Call who was instrumental in bringing together dramatists for our June event, and many more. Another dramatist who comes to mind is Roy O’Neil who is an inspiration not only in his writing but also in his musical skills and determination to his craft. Roy and I met a few years ago at the Warner Theater where I first heard of his musical Eddie and the Palaceades. The piece was in an early draft but, even back then, the music was infectious and the story universal. And, perhaps more important to our CT dramatists’ community, it is a story born in our state, of our state. Eddie and the Palaceades is the story of a one hit wonder from the 1960s. He runs for mayor 30 years later to save the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT, where his band got its start and its name. Somewhere in my romanticized version of this story, the musical premieres at The Palace in Waterbury and, quite frankly, they should snap this up before an NYC theatre steals it. At the Midtown International Theater Festival it was nominated for nine awards including “Best Musical Production” and “Best Book, Lyrics, and Music” for Roy and his co-writer Stephen Feigenbaum. At the Manhattan Theater Mission’s New Musicals Showcase it won “Catchiest Song” for “Bangarang,” “Best Comedic Couple,” and “Audience Favorite.” The seed and passion for the show sprouts from Roy’s Waterbury, CT hometown. Everything in the show - the band, Palace Theater, crooked politicians, planning and zoning deals, historic architecture, salt of the earth citizens, Italian restaurants, primary elections, write-in campaigns - is traceable back to Waterbury. But the show itself is fiction: what make it a success are the characters and the emotional roller-coaster they each ride from start to finish. x x In the beginning, Roy was writing alone: trial-and-error, self-education, classes here and there including auditing several ASCAP Musical Theater Workshops with Stephen Schwartz. At the start of 2012, Roy knew in his heart that many of the songs were “chop and drop” items rather than tunes that sprung from the story and the characters…and then on the Yale School of Music bulletin board he found Stephen Feigenbaum. Stephen “prodded and poked and forced…provided encouragement” as he and Roy shared craft, discipline, and most of all persistence. Roy cut out the “boring”, raised the stakes, and developed his protagonist into that over the hill one hit wonder who gets into a fist fight with the Mayor in the opening scene. In true collaborative nature, sometimes Roy and Stephen argued but that usually led to something better. Conversations prevailed, Roy wrote the lyrics, Stephen composed, and then they listened together, Roy saying things like “too fast” or “make it more like Aretha Franklin”. They worked like that for almost a year, fully dedicated to each other, to Eddie, the Palaceades, to CT. And, now, Eddie and the Palaceades is fun and uplifting, with just the right blend of what is worth fighting for in this life, intertwined with love, friendship, and 22 songs that you can’t stop singing. Eddie and the Palaceades is on the National New Play Exchange as well as their web-site: www.eddieandthepalaceades.com. A true CT story, written by one of our own, and that, to me, is inspirational for dramatists in every state. [photo caption: Eddie and the Palaceades performance in the 2014 Midtown International Theater Festival. Photo credit: Faith/Focus/Flash (Dlo Slaughter).] firstname.lastname@example.org” - Charlene Donaghy
— The Dramatist
“Dear Eddie, Thanks for the Memories! “Eddie and the Palaceades” Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival reviewed by Mary Ann Randazzo What fun the audience had especially for those born of the Baby Boomer generation longing for the good old days and realizing it’s never too late to dream! This was definitely the theme “Eddie and the Palaceades” demonstrated with so much energy, laughter and a touching moment where I found my eyes welled with tears from the heart-touching song “I Miss My Wife.” Kudos to Shelly Valfer, the unlikeable Mayor, though short on vocals but full of comic relief along with his three Aldermen created roars of laughter. The cast did an amazing job keeping the audience engrossed while the stage crew expertly and flawlessly changed scenes. Thanks to the playwright/lyricist Roy O’Neil for being an exemplary model that you’re never too old to do what you love and to have a dream come true. This show was unquestionably two hours of pure enjoyment! ” - Mary Ann Randazzo
“Off BroadwayEddie and the PalaceadesTheatre Review by Howard Miller Eddie and the Palaceades Eddie and the Palaceades, the self-proclaimed “corny and square” musical now on view at the June Havoc Theatre as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, taps into the yearning of many a baby boomer to find one more moment in the spotlight and one more cause to get the heart thumping. An aging “one-hit wonder” ‘60s band, Eddie and the Palaceades, has gathered to perform a fundraising concert aimed at saving the hometown Palace Theater, one of those grand old performance spaces that has gone to seed and is about to be demolished to make way for the mayor’s pet project. It is to be replaced by a revenue-enhancing enterprise that will include a disposal facility for medical waste, another one for spent radioactive rods, and a pornographic video store. The band’s leader, Eddie Doyle (Bill E. Dietrich), is determined to stop Mayor Biggie Williams (Shelley Valfer) at any cost. At the urging of his friend and bandmate Vinny (Tony Triano), Eddie decides the only way to stop his archenemy is to run against him in the upcoming mayoral election. His plans run him afoul of his wife Gracie (Sheila Egan), who wants the band to go on tour one last time, and their daughter Mary (Kayleen Seidl), who has left home to find her fame and fortune as a writer for a New York-based magazine that has ranked her town as the worst place to live. Playwright and lyricist Roy O’Neil has eschewed the potential for satire (aging hippies fighting City Hall) in favor of straightforward storytelling, and he and composer Stephen Feigenbaum have opted for songs that are driven by the plot and characters. Like the nostalgic values it offers up, Eddie and the Palaceades brings to mind old-fashioned musicals. It has a couple of lovely ballads, including “I Miss My Wife,” sung as a duet by Eddie, whose wife has left in anger, and by Vinny, whose wife has passed away. There is also a number about Italian cooking that seems inspired by The Most Happy Fella, and a couple of politically-tinged ditties like those in Fiorello!. These political numbers are performed by a trio of aldermen played with goofy comic charm by Luke Hoback, Robert J. Dyckman, and Joseph Peterson — abetted by Merete Muenter’s amusing choreography and Jamibeth Margolis’s overall direction. Eddie and the Palaceades, with a running time of just under two hours, is still a work-in-progress. You will have to squint your eyes to get past the minimal production values and squint your ears to get past some of the occasionally less-than-stellar singing. But even with a few wrong notes here and there, the show hits the right notes when it comes to its heartfelt expression of love, friendship, and the things worth fighting for.” - Howard Miller