Tutti Bravi Productions’ Fundraiser Celebrates John Taylor Thomas

Tutti Bravi Productions, Inc.

P.O. Box 62, New Rochelle, NY 10804


Tutti Bravi Productions’ Fundraiser Celebrates John Taylor Thomas:

A Most Happy Composer, Lyricist, Singer, and Instrumentalist


When you first meet John Taylor Thomas you might be reminded of the popular 1950s Broadway musical The Most Happy Fella for a few reasons. First, like the eponymous protagonist, Thomas is one happy guy. Despite his 70-plus years — the last 40 as a New Rochelle resident — he beams a youthful energy and zest that belies his age. Thomas is quick with a quip and overflowing with anecdotes from his long career as a multi-faceted musician and performer. More often, he’ll readily and zealously break into song in his John Raitt baritone — either one of the hundreds he has written, or one he has performed off-Broadway, in regional theater, summer stock, and in various places throughout Westchester. His enthusiasm and joy are catchy, as are the tunes and arias he writes.


The second reason The Most Happy Fella comes to mind is that Thomas’ work is akin to that of this Frank Loesser show: a Broadway musical with operatic tendencies. Brooks Atkinson, theatre critic for the New York Times called Happy Fella a “music drama…about as close to opera the rules of Broadway permit.” Atkinson was not around to review Thomas’ work, but it, too, might rightly be called “Broadway opera.” Thomas categorized his work (only because he was prodded to do so!) as somewhere on the continuum of operetta and folk opera, with a smattering of splashy show tunes mixed in.  Among his musical influences are the German composer Sigmund Romberg (The Student Prince), the great Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (La Boheme; Tosca) and the late Carlisle Floyd, a contemporary American composer (Susannah).


Like these composers, Thomas draws from literature and history for inspiration. Included among his 20-plus, full-length pieces are musical interpretations of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte), Return of the Native (by Thomas Hardy), and Robin of Sherwood (based on the legend of Robin Hood), the first show he wrote.


“I was in my late 20s, working as a counselor at the Rye Town Day Camp,” Thomas explained, offering the backstory on his eureka moment and how this show came to be. “Although I had spent years studying voice and was trained as a classical pianist at esteemed music conservatories such as Eastman and Oberlin, I had never composed anything formally. Then, while teaching a class in the camp library, a book about Robin Hood fell off a shelf and literally hit me in the head.” He wrote Robin of Sherwood in two weeks. The Spamalot-like musical comedy was performed at the camp, and subsequently at other venues in Westchester and Rockiand counties.


Mail Order Maggie, Thomas’ second show has a historical pedigree. It is based on life in hardscrabble Montana in the 1890s. It is also a testament to where Thomas finds his inspiration and one of the reasons he stays so vital. “I wrote this show in 1987, but harkened back to a summer I spent in Montana in 1966,” he said. “I preserve some of my youth by creating, by revisiting myself.” Thomas, an Eastern kid primarily, recounted how impressed he was by the rugged, outdoor lifestyle of the Mountain West. He hit the history books and transported himself to the era when the Wild West was becoming tame, when ranchers and cowboys clashed, when women were brought in from afar to be frontier brides.


Thomas’ current show is also based on history. Common Sense: The Story of Thomas Paine tells the story of the Revolutionary War rabble-rouser and notorious author of the political pamphlet whose clarity and plain language propelled American Patriots’ snowballing desire for independence into an avalanche of rebellion. The show, produced by New Rochelle-based Tutti Bravi Productions, debuted in Fall 2023 at the New Rochelle Public Library. It is slated for a performance at the Will Library in Yonkers on Saturday, March 16, at 2 pm. Admission is free.


Tutti Bravi is now in its 13th season bringing shows that celebrate the lives and achievements of Westchester residents, written by Westchester authors, to Westchester audiences. The company previously produced Thomas’ music-drama Anne Hutchinson, about the life of one of the earliest American feminists. But the Tutti Bravi-Thomas connection goes way back.


Billie Tucker, Tutti Bravi’s co-founder, first saw Thomas perform as part of the NRPL concert series. She often saw him perform with the New Rochelle Civic Theatre as well. Sharing a love for, and commitment to, the arts and community involvement, the pair struck up a friendship that grew into a creative partnership. Tucker was impressed by a production of Thomas’ musical adaptation of O. Henry stories at the Manor Club in Pelham. “I didn’t know John was a composer and writer,” said Tucker. “I enjoyed the O. Henry show very much. I didn’t think of it as operatic because it was so melodic and accessible. What’s more, John fit into the Tutti Bravi mission.” That led to Tutti Bravi producing Anne Hutchinson in 2018.


Tutti Bravi is continuing its collaboration with — and admiration for — Thomas. “John’s compositions are simple, direct, and heartfelt. He gets to the essence of a moment, of a feeling, and brings the audience to a place and time. He can take a nugget of a story and show how it fits into the larger whole.”


The composer, lyricist, and librettist will be feted on Sunday, March 3, at 2 pm with a retrospective of his work. “I am overwhelmingly grateful to Billie and Judy” (Judy Tucker, the director of the retrospective and also of Common Sense.)

“I have been lucky to have met these fine, talented, wonderful women who have been very generous with their time and support.”


The John Taylor Thomas musical extravaganza features more than 30 songs from ten shows performed by 12 actor-singers and an accompanist. Thomas will be part of the ensemble. “John is such a multi-talent,” said Billie Tucker. “A retrospective of his work is long overdue.” The fundraising fest — the first ever for Tutti Bravi — takes place at Trinity St. Paul’s Church, 311 Huguenot Street, New Rochelle, NY. The price is $75 per person ($50 tax deductible.) The event includes a buffet, concert, silent auction and raffle.  For tickets: https://a.purplepass.com/tuttibraviproductions

For further information:  tuttibraviproductions@gmail.com


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