By Gail McCarthy
---- — The show “Greasy Pole, The Musical” will go on, starting tonight.
But the popular Fiesta show has left a trail of tension between two local arts collaborators and business partners.
This is the third year of the show, which was conceived by Henry Allen, but is also the result of a collaboration of local talent, including Robert Newton, who heads up Cape Ann Community Cinema and was Allen’s former business partner in the now closed Cape Ann Theater, referred to as “The Annie,” in the downtown Blackburn Building.
As the show prepares for its next staging of a story that evolves each year about the St. Peter’s Fiesta, Newton has raised concerns and challenges over songs for which he wrote the lyrics and that, he says, have been used without his permission.
He wrote the words for four songs in the original “Greasy Pole: The Musical.” Those songs are titled: “Don’t Forget The Cannoli,” “I Ain’t No Saint,” “Welcome To Fiesta,” and “We Will All Walk Together (When We Walk).”
Newton noted that Everett Harlow, the musical director for the 2011 run, wrote the chord charts based on his melodies for three of those songs.
“These four songs are my intellectual property ... all registered with the Library of Congress, and I did not give permission for them to be performed beyond the 2011 incarnation,” said Newton.
Allen sees it another way.
“He was not the sole writer of any song,” Allen said. “There is not one piece in the show that wasn’t collaborative. In the beginning, there was an understanding from the creative team — who created the music, lyrics and dialogue — that this was a gift to the community.
“Nobody received any remuneration. Greasy Pole is a popular success but it’s not a financial success because every ticket is a donation,” Allen said. “I believe theater should be accessible to everyone, if a family of five can only afford so much, that is fine.”
This year, Inge Berge is music director, and Allen said new songs have been added to the show for this season’s production. There is one completely new scene with a new song, while another scene was extended to which was added a new song.
“Both songs were collaborative. Every aspect of this production is collaborative and every aspect of everything I do is collaborative and that’s why people love our shows because they see their voices reflected,” said Allen, who closed The Annie last fall and who now works with Henry Allen’s North Shore Folklore Theater Company.
Newton believes he is due a percentage of the box office receipts.
Last year, Newton explained that he went to Salem court last June 27 seeking attachment of the box office receipts as a result of his role in the work. The result was that someone was in the box office to certify the total. But Newton said he did not receive any money, and recovering that would require further legal action should he go forward.
Newton recalled that he received such positive feedback after the show’s debut in 2011, particularly for the song “We Will All Walk Together,” which brought tears to several members of the audience, including a few burly Italian men.
“I can’t tell you how many strangers hugged me because of the song,” recalled Newton. “They said it moved them and thanked me for writing it.”
When the show opens this year, Allen said that, like the previous two years, he will acknowledge Newton and everyone else who contributed in the curtain speech and in the playbill.
About the musical
“Greasy Pole, The Musical” will run from tonight through July 7 at The American Legion in Gloucester
Back for its third season, the original musical is about the history of Gloucester’s famed Greasy Pole tournament, which is part of the St. Peter’s Fiesta.
The synopsis notes that the musical tells the story of four generations of Scolafazza men who, because of Mama’s curse in 1931, never walked the Greasy Pole.
“A story of redemption and courage, food, family and faith, this show has lots of laughs and exciting original music that will have you dancing in the aisles,” the synopsis reads.
There is mostly a new cast this year, though Timothy “Cowboy” Edwards returns as Filippo Scolafazza.
The show will run two weekends at the American Legion Hall, in front of St. Joan, opening on June 27 and carrying through to July 7.
There are two additional performances — one this Sunday at 10 p.m., so that right after the show, the audience can join the procession to put St. Peter back to its normal resting place in the St. Peter’s Club. There also will be a show on July 4 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.HenryAllen.org.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.