My Very Own British Invasion …
A 5 Star Musical
by James Dombrowski
Just when you thought the 80th season of the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, New Jersey could not top past seasons of award winning shows, you underestimated the creative team that leads the Tony Award winning Best Regional Theatre in America. Producer – Director Mark Hoebee and newly hired Managing Director Michael Stotts have scored a 5 Star show – “My Very Own British Invasion” – which debuted the same night that the Grammy’s were aired.
In photo: The management and creative team of the Paper Mill Playhouse pose with the stars of The British Invasion and a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. (from left to right) Mark Hoebee (Producing Artistic Director), Erika Olson (Pamela: the woman who is sought after by Peter & Trip), Peter Noone (lead singer of Herman’s Hermits), Jonnie Aimes (who plays Peter); Conor Ryan (Trip), and Michael Stotts (Managing Director). This was Michael’s first production at the Paper Mill as he was recently appointed managing director. Paper Mill found Michael Stotts after an extensive search conducted by the Paper Mill Board of Trustees. He comes to the Paper Mill after spending 12 years as the Director of Hartford Stage in Connecticut.
The stunning musical which runs through March 3rd is based on a book written by Brit Rick Elice in conjunction with Peter Noone, the founder and lead singer of the famed British 60’s band “Herman’s Hermits.” The British Invasion is a must see family musical which I’m sure will be headed to Broadway with a theme that is as solid as a 60’s Chevy bringing big bucks at a Barrett Jackson Auto Auction.
Photo: Talia Dombrowski, daughter of Post Eagle reporter James Dombrowski, chats with Tony Award winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell at the Opening Night Party for the National Debut of “My Very Own British Invasion” held at the PAR 440 Restaurant & Lounge on the grounds of the East Orange Country Club In Short Hills, NJ. The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ won the Tony Award in 2016 as the best Regional Theater in America and it is a terrific example of a not-for-profit arts organization doing everything right to make Millburn, NJ a theater destination. The management team of Mark Hoebee and Michael Stotts are steering the Paper Mill Playhouse to become the number one stage in America to launch a Broadway production. Jerry Mitchell who hails from Michigan is no stranger to success having won two Tony Awards. The personable and modest Mitchell won for the revival of “La Cage aux Folles” and the current “Kinky Boots.” Besides choreographing “The British Invasion” which is running through March 3rd at The Paper Mill, Jerry is also on Broadway with the smash hit “Pretty Woman.” It would be an understatement to call him a genius. Talia asked him why he was so successful. “I’m having a good time and it’s fun to be a choreographer,” a smiling Jerry noted. He’s more competitive than he may want to admit having played sports in high school. I asked him how the high technology innovations have affected the theatre industry. Mitchell expressed a benefit from high tech which make the productions better and more spectacular.
In photo: Talia Dombrowski only 11 years old and in 6th Grade loves to attend the shows I review at the Paper Mill Playhouse and, she’s a big help with my reviews. The current running production “My Very Own British Invasion “ playing through March 3 conjures up the musical memories of the over 60’s crowd and their grand kids and great grand kids who are discovering and rediscovering the “British Invasion”of the 1960’s. Jonny Amies plays Peter the lead singer of “Herman’s Hermits” which the show revolves around its triangle love story. Amies is a recent graduate of the Italia Conti Academy in London. His starring role is his professional acting debut in the USA; and the Paper Mill Playhouse will be forever remembered as debuting his theater career. At 22 years old Amies was ecstatic to be chosen by the writer of the play Rick Elice, a fellow Brit, who was assisted by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits in putting the musical to a script that is a look back to the fantastic music of the 1960’s and a love story of two singers vying for the heart of a beautiful songstress. Jonny Amies in my interview quickly noted he was aware of the Tony Award the Paper Mill had won as best Regional Theater in America. “I never thought I would be making my debut in such a fantastic show and portraying such a famous singer,” voiced Amies. The 22 year old star was glowing with enthusiasm at the Opening Night Party.
In Photo: Peter Noone, the lead singer of the legendary British Band “Herman’s Hermits”, praises fellow Brit Jonny Amies on his fantastic debut at the Paper Mill Playhouse. “You hit all the notes and songs, you were terrific,” Noone explains to Amies.