Director and choreographer Stacey Tirro apparently has a thing for tap musicals. Last year, her students at Spring Valley High School presented “42nd Street.” This year, it’s “Crazy for You,” another tap-heavy show.
So Michael Roberts, a Spring Valley senior who uses a wheelchair, might have figured there’d be no place for him.
Tirro figured otherwise, creating the position of “pit singer” to put Roberts talents to full use. He’ll be there tonight, when “Crazy for You” opens, singing full out.
“We’re not really handicapped-accessible, the way we should be, on the stage,” Tirro says. “If I could get him on the stage, if it were bigger and we had ramps, I would love to get him on the stage some way. We just cannot physically do that. His chair is too heavy and it would put him at risk.”
So it’s pit singer for Roberts, who is genuinely happy to contribute, even putting show posters on his wheelchair to help advertise “Crazy for You” as he wheels around school.
Asked about his role, Roberts says “Tirro kind of invented it, because the stage isn’t accessible. I really wanted to do something on ’42nd Street,’ so last year she said, ‘OK, you can sing in the pit.’ They always need male voices.”
This year, he sings “all the songs they need male support on, all the choral stuff,” including his favorite, “Bidin’ My Time,” which goes:
“I’m bidin’ my time,
‘Cause that’s the kinda guy I’m.
While other folks grow dizzy
I keep busy
Bidin’ my time”
“It reminds me of me during the summer,” Roberts says. “Not doing anything.”
“Another reason it’s my favorite is it’s the easiest song, too,” he says with a little laugh. “Except when there’s a reprise and it’s in French. French is not my strongest thing. I barely survived Spanish four years.”
As a singer in the pit, he’ll wear what the pit wears, which, in Spring Valley, varies from show to show. Tonight, it’ll be black and white; tomorrow will be T-shirts and black pants; Saturday they’ll be in full-dress blacks, Roberts says.
Being in the musical gives him a feeling of accomplishment, “Like ‘Oh my God! I actually did something.’ A lot of things you do in school aren’t as fulfilling. This is tangible. You’ll have memories of this.”
When he’s not needed vocally, he’ll watch the show – which is wall-to-wall Gershwin songs with plenty of tap-dance numbers.
It’s about a New York banker who really just wants to dance. He falls in love with Polly Baker, the only girl in Deadrock, Nev., and, together, they work to save her father’s theater. It’s escapist stuff, but Roberts can’t get too caught up in it. He’s part of the show.
He says he’s learned that precision and detail go a long way to making musicals work.
Of course, he knew that from his days playing trumpet in the school’s marching band, before the diving accident that left him unable to use his legs and with limited use of his hands.
But he can sing.
His work on the musicals will earn him membership in the International Thespian Society Troupe 721 – another Spring Valley tradition.
Before he graduates, he hopes to finish his work toward becoming an Eagle scout, with just a few badges and one project – to provide access to the garden at his church, St. Boniface in Wesley Hills – between him and that goal.
This weekend, his goal is to sing out, to take part and to make “Crazy for You” a success – from his just-for-him spot in the pit.
Before the show, Tirro tells her cast to “sparkle in your eyes.”
Roberts does that, on stage or not.
“Crazy for You”
Where: Spring Valley High School, 361 Route 59, Spring Valley.
When: 7:30 p.m. today; 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door; $5 for seniors and students.
With: Kristen Santos, Lindsay Strasser, Alexander Domini, Christopher Mazis, Jaclyn Henderson, Izra Izzadeen, Ashley Niedleman, Jacqueline Smith, Johnny Nash, Veronica Agard, Melissa Neils, Christopher Smith, Horatio Joey Andrean, Jahmar Davis, Alexa Gibney, Jessica Butler, Michael Roberts, Lorie Ann Tabudlo, Laura Ventura, Elya Shavrova, Simona Drapkin, Emily Littman, Stephanie Lauredent, Julie Ventura, Renee Evans, Eason Hahm, Malaysia Shells, Juliette Collazo, Ozzie Gooen, Mikhael Villegas, Dakendy Benoit, Branden Hunt, Verna Krishnamurthy, Nina Navarro, Gladys Alonzo, Tony Luciano, Charlotte Collazo, Samuel Mesidor, Alton Taylor, Helar Aricaya, Gabriel Felix, Stanley Beauvoir, Sarah Kaufman, Andrew Bronson, Aadesh Boodoosingh, Alex Spiteri, Ian Thomas, Maria Martinez, Atiya Raja, Igo Lashkul, Nikki Cole, Teri Mastronardi, David Bryant, Michael Poli, Brian Leslie, Caylin Acosta, Meghan Poli, Miljana Monic, Paige Berman, Kyle Naugle, Alyse Borkan, Cynthia Lamonthe.