Nov 7, 2021
Scott Raneri wants to be a star! His show, “EXTRA! EXTRA” directed by Mark Corpron at the Triad on Sunday, Nov 7 centered on his dogged pursuit of legitimate work in the theatre, TV and film. The songs he selected came out of this elusive goal as well as his personal life. The story he told is one that anyone who has lived the NY actor life can relate to. From showing up as an “extra” on the set, to making the rounds with agent workshops, getting a manager and trying to be seen for something bigger than the sidekick or as background.
There was something very brave about the way he approached this discussion and even in using the term “extra” as some actors prefer to be called “background artists.” The performance began with an audio clip of the newsboys from “Gypsy” chanting “extra-extra!” Raneri’s first song was also from “Gypsy,” Let Me Entertain You and Raneri took command of the stage with ease. He was accompanied by music director Fred Barton on the piano, Dr. David Ashton on woodwinds and Steve Picataggio on drums. Barton’s arrangements were exciting and new and Raneri sold this and the other songs in the show with great skill. He was a master at holding the vowels at the end of a phrase and then adjusting it to find that pocket of sound that makes his voice really “pop.”
The next song choice was I’m The Greatest Star from “Funny Girl.” The lyrics had been cleverly rewritten- “Because I’m a natural at dyin” and at the song’s climax “Mr. Spielberg, here I am!” The following songs supported Raneri’s narrative about doing survival jobs waiting for his big break: Something’s Coming (Bernstein/Sondheim), Where Was I When They Passed Out Luck? (Grossman, Hackady) and Everybody Wants to Do A Musical (Strouse/Maltby). In between the songs, Raneri spoke about waiting tables and being a substitute teacher as he strove to finally be seen as more than background or a secondary character and could come front and center as a leading man.
In a departure from the predominant theme of the evening, Last One Picked (Gallagher/Waldrop) told the tale of being lined up in gym and being the final guy to be picked for a team. Raneri transitioned from this story to the time he picked someone in a love relationship only to lose him when the demands of being on the road put too much of a strain on the relationship. Janis Ian’s Watercolors which explored this more vulnerable, introspective side of Raneri, also allowed him to express a gentler vocal quality and show his considerable range.
Raneri found more vulnerable moments throughout the program. He shared that working on the set of ” Uncut Gems”, Adam Sandler made sure that everyone on the set felt loved. Raneri made the connection that his need for recognition came from the desire to be loved. He told how he persisted in being let go from an agency that was restructuring and finally ended up with an agent and the opportunity to audition for bigger roles in all of the industries. Into this section of his narrative Raneri included the songs I Can Be An Icon Too (Barton), Look At That Face (Bricusse/Newley), Big Time (Wildhorn/Murphy), Back In Business (Sondheim) and Only In New York(Tesori/Scanlan). Many of these songs ended with a big, belted sustained note sitting comfortably in Raneri’s range.
Raneri acknowledged that creating and performing in this show placed him centerstage in his life and work. He thanked the audience and came to the front of the stage for the powerful finale, a medley of It’s Not Where You Start/Nothing Can Stop Me Now (Coleman/Fields) (Bricusse/Newley) which also included a recap of many of the evening’s songs retracing the steps of his showbiz journey and he finally hit the high note at the end of the song! For the encore, Raneri stood very comfortably in the crook of the piano and delivered a delicately sung, beautifully interpreted version of When You Wish Upon A Star (Harline/Washington). He ended the piece in a beautiful falsetto. I enjoyed this new color to Raneri’s voice. We had seen some of it earlier in the evening in Watercolors but the quality he found here was very special. It was good that Raneri ended the evening with a reminder of the original passion and innocence which he and many of us begin our journeys in art and life and that inspired him to pursue and persist in the performing arts.
Extra! Extra Plays again at the Triad on December 5, 2021 (3pm)
Photos: John Sefaris