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Monday, August 16, 2010

"Everybody's Buddy" = a huge success

"Everybody's Buddy", a musical about the life of Cincinnati pizza-king Buddy LaRosa, premiered at the College of Mount St. Joseph last week. A 16 member orchestra from University of Cincinnati College and Conservatory of Music played the catchy tunes while the 15 member cast portrayed vital scenes from LaRosa's life, from birth to the present day.

Jared Moore, a Northern Kentucky University graduate, starred as Buddy. Other key parts were Gabby (Buddy's guardian angel) played by Patrick Thernes, a student at the College of Mount St. Joseph; JoAnn (Buddy's wife) played by Becca Trimbur, a student at Western Kentucky University; Grandma Pizano (Buddy's maternal grandmother) played by the famous Stacey Sands of the Cincinnati Opera, and Aunt Deena (Buddy's aunt who created LaRosa's famous pizza sauce) played by Buddy's niece, Patricia LaRosa. The other cast members took on several different parts: Heather Roush, a graduate of Northern Kentucky University, played Mary (Buddy's mother) and was a member of the chorus; Neil Geoppinger, Jeremy Aldridge, and Sebastian LaRosa all played Buddy's cousins along with being members of the chorus; Sebastian, Buddy's grandson, also acted as Tony (Buddy's father). Andrew Maloney and Hannah Barteck, both students at Northern Kentucky University, had a featured tap number as the "Cotton Club Dancers", and held several other parts throughout the show; and finally, Courtni Nicolaci (Mrs. Russo), Heather Kailholz, Molly Moran, and Anna Marsala (Sciano's Pizzeria vendor) all starred as chorus members. A crew of 9 made sure things ran smoothly on the logistical side of the show: Pete (head sound technician) and Barb (head stage manager) Hamilton, Barry Leinhart (head lighting technician), Michael Heckmann (follow spot), Kat Taylor (assistant stage manager), and Ben Hamilton, Rick Norris, Shelby Heinrich, and Andi Schmidt (running crew).

The show highlighted key events and major accomplishments in LaRosa's life, from the time he was 14, helping Aunt Deena with her sauce at the Italian Festival Weekend; through his time in the Navy in Philadelphia, where he came up with the idea for LaRosa's Pizzeria; to the opening of the first restaurant, which quickly blossomed into 15 pizzerias and a commissary. Fighting obstacles of all shapes and sizes - from losing his initial business partners to having to rebuild his commissary after a four-alarm fire - did not make LaRosa's climb to success simple. Yet throughout it all, he maintained a generous, compassionate nature, which he has become so famous for.

The musical was produced as an 80th birthday gift to its inspiration. "I never thought I'd make it to 80," said LaRosa with a chuckle. Director Dick Ruehrwein and wife Lillian have been working on the production for 9 months and were overjoyed to see their labors come to fruition. "Everybody's Buddy" ran at the College from August 11-14. Large, appreciative crowds really seemed to enjoy the show each night, with Saturday being a sold out performance. And in a spirit of giving - as usual - all proceeds from the show went to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. I think it's safe to say that "Everybody's Buddy" deserved the nightly standing ovation it received.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

World Peace...

... it may be easier to achieve than you'd think.

As I was heading into work today, I was observing the life of my community unfolding around me. Two women were out for a jog, approaching the young paper boy who was passing through the yards on that street. At the intersection ahead, more people were bustling past the cars, which were coasting along on their journeys as their drivers headed to work, daycare to drop their kids off, the doctor's office, God only knows where. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, I could feel the breeze hitting my face as it blew in the open window. For this moment, I felt as if though all was right with the world. I had an epiphany of harmony, and of way of life. Everyone was going about their morning, presumably wrapped up in their own thoughts. Yet what if each person had only one moment a day like I had this morning; what if, for just a moment, each person's eyes were opened to those around them, to their surrounding environment, and they realized just how interconnected everyone and everything is. This would enable compassion, which is the only thing that has a chance of saving this world from spiraling downward. If we could open our hearts to the plight of others and sympathize, even empathize, then perhaps we would not be so quick to judge. Who knows. I implore each of you reading this, though, to open your hearts to compassion. It could change the world.