Tonawanda News

July 15, 2013

Leading roles a challenge (a good one) for In Good Company actors

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — With less than a month now until the premiere of In Good Company’s production of “Back to the ‘80s,” even the rainy weather can’t stop the beat.

Director Melissa Tober said the company is already at the tail end of teaching its young actors and actresses the music for the show and is ready to move on to the next steps. (Literally.)

“I think the music’s just about done,” she said. “Everything’s been taught, now we just need to put things together. We’re in good shape.

“We’re actually ahead of schedule. It’s amazing.”

While everyone involved has been working to get to that point, a lot of the pressure and practice has fallen onto those in the show’s lead roles, that of Corey Palmer, the narrator and central character. Corey, a 17-year-old high school student and member of the graduating class of 1989, is played by Andrew Zuccari, 15, a two-year member of the group, Tober said.

“We’re putting a lot of stuff on the our leads this year. A lot of homework,” she said. “He was great last year and this year he’s our leading man role. He’s fit into the role fabulously.”

Zuccari said that he was recruited by Olivia Tober for In Good Company’s production of “Once On This Island” last year and was hooked.

“This year, I decided to come back because I had a lot of fun last year and it’s mostly the same people,” he said. “It’s a rather tough show, but it’s a great show. It’s advanced, because we have all age groups. You have to find ways to fit them all it.”

Other challenges have been the range of music (all hailing from the 1980s era) and the minimalist nature of the show’s venue at Niawanda Park, Zuccari said. “This is one of those things where you don’t have a set, so you have to engage the crowd with just your acting.”

That said, he’s enjoying himself.

“It’s a fun part to play,” Zuccari said of the role of Corey. “Originally the part I went for was Michael (the show’s football star character and antagonist), but obviously I’m not going to say no to the lead. I’ve always liked ‘heel’ characters, but being the lead isn’t too bad. No matter what generation of high school you’re in, he’s really relatable.”

Just to make things even more interesting, Zuccari is friends with Connor Maxwell, who landed the role of Michael. That makes the dynamic a little tough, but fun, he said.

Tober said the pair pulls it off well.

“They’re funny, really great together,” she said. “They’ve all taken to their characters really well.”

Another one of the lead roles is played by Ali Birner, an eight-year veteran of In Good Company who landed the role of Eileen, the new girl in school. Tober said that Birner performed in the shows’ choruses for years.

“She was so shy for so long, then one year she came along and just blew us away in auditions,” Tober said. “She has this amazing voice. She earns her leads. It’s a great part for her and she delivers it. 

“We’ve watched her grow up because she started when she was about 7.”

Birner, now 15, said the biggest challenge for the company this year has been the weather, but they’ve dealt with it.

“I think she’s fun,” Birner said of her character. “The play this year, I like all the music and we have a really good cast. It was cast really well, so it will be a lot of fun to watch.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: In Good Company Productions' performances of "Back to the '80s" • WHEN: 7 p.m. July 29 and 30 and Aug. 1, 5, 6 and 8 • WHERE: Bandshell, Niawanda Park, Niagara Street, City of Tonawnada • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit