First-time Royal Palm Players Director Sharon Ponte is new to the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium stage but she is undaunted by its demanding audience.
"It's always an adventure teaching and directing and I love it," Ponte said. "I knew when I was 5 years old that this was what I was meant to be."
Ponte, former music director at Edison College, has taught voice and piano lessons to hundreds of students since 1997 at her Ace Drums studio.
"My students inspire me every day - from my youngest student who is 5, to my 87-year-old piano student. I am truly blessed."
Here's how the RPP plugged Ponte into its first musical production in years.
QUESTION: Why do you have purple hair?
Sharon Ponte at a glance
Occupation: Has been teaching voice and piano lessons since 1997 at her studio at Ace Drums. Music director Edison College, 2010-12.
Credits: "The Wedding Singer," "Aida," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Curtains the Musical" and "Hairspray," "The Wizard of Oz," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and countless variety shows and performances.
Hometown: Assonet, Mass., about an hour south of Boston.
Residence: North Port
Family: Divorced. Wants to thank her sons, Noah and Luke, for their love and support and for listening to "Godspell" for six months straight. "You guys are the best sons any mom could ask for!"
Education: studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Discovered Boca Grande: My ex-husband works out here and we're great friends.
Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord Dan Headington and Co.
Save the People Wyatt Locke and Co.
Day by Day Wesley Locke and Co.
Learn Your Lessons Well Linda Noyes
O Bless the Lord, My Soul Val Cekovsky and Co.
All For The Best Wyatt Locke, Headington and Co.
All Good Gifts Jim Sullivan and Co.
Light of the World Bob Young, John Moenning, Jim Cowperthwait, Wesley Locke and Co.
Learn Your Lessons Well (reprise) Jim Sullivan
Turn Back O Man Cekovsky, Wyatt Locke and Co.
Alas For You Wyatt Locke
By My Side Lisa Arundale, Linda Rollyson and Co.
We Beseech Thee Jim Cowperthwait and Co.
Beautiful City Wyatt Locke
Day by Day (reprise) Wesley Locke and Co.
On the Willows Ross Witchonke, Bob Young, Len Saari
Finale Wyatt Locke and Co.
What: Royal Palm Players "Godspell"
Director: Sharon Ponte
When: 8 p.m. March 7-9, 2 p.m. March 10
Where: Boca Grande Community Center, 131 First St.
Contact: (941) 964-2670, e-mail RoyalPalmPlayers@embarqmail.com or go to RoyalPalmPlayers.com or ticketturtle.com.
ANSWER: So glad you asked me! (laughs). I'm directing a play in Boca Grande called "Godspell." It's fabulous. I got purple hair for this show.
Q: What does purple hair have to do with Godspell?
A: I told the cast I wanted them to come to rehearsal in their costume. I want you to walk around Boca Grande in your crazy outfits and bell-bottom pants. They said: "Really?" I said, "Listen, I have purple hair! If I have purple hair, you can come to rehearsal (in costume.)"
Q: Is Boca Grande ready for a musical?
A: Two of the four nights are sold out already. The buzz on the island is you have to come see it.
Q: How did you connect with "Godspell?"
A: A lot of the cast came to see "Hairspray." I was music director. They loved it. RPP Executive Director Erica Martin knows Kelly Locke, Wyatt and Wesley's mom. One thing led to another and Dan Headington called me and it was a perfect fit from the first day. We just hit it off. We had the same ideas. I finished his sentences. We had the same enthusiasm. You cannot do this unless you have your cheerleading pom-pons. And Dan Headington has just worked so hard. He's been invaluable and the entire cast has worked so hard. We had real auditions for the first time out here.
Q: Did Godspell cause you to take leave of Edison College?
A: I couldn't do both. Godspell is a big challenge. I have about 60 students per week I teach at my studio. The past three years I've been directing the spring musical at Edison College and before that I was at Lemon Bay High School.
Q: Why did three people quit the first day of rehearsals?
A: We did a run-through. No stopping. Just sing and read, sing and read. They hadn't done a musical in years. Some people said: "I can't do that."
Q: What can audiences expect of the production?
A: They are going to laugh, joke and cry when it takes a turn in the second half. If you've read the Bible you know what happens. It's not a surprise (laughs).
Q: Who will enjoy Godspell?
A: It really appeals to everyone. There's a reason you have 12 different characters. Every character is supposed to ring with someone in the audience.
Q: Is Godspell a religious experience?
A: It can be. But it's super-entertaining and fun. It is based on the Gospel of Matthew and the parables are in the Bible.
Q: How difficult was this production to cast?
A: It was easy to cast. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of talent out here. This is not my first gig. And audition after audition they sang beautifully. And I'm going yeah! You could see just looking at them who was going to be what character. I'm dumbfounded by how well it's turning out.
Q: What's next for you as a director?
A: I have "Sharon's Idol IV" coming for my private students at the end of March. Wesley Locke was in it last time. She painted herself green and sang the song from "Wicked." It was hysterical.
Q: Will you be back for RPP next year?
A: Oh yeah! I can't wait. We're kicking things around. But right now, I can't wait for this cast to do a show. I'm pretty sure they think I'm crazy. More than half have never been in a musical so they don't see what I see. When we rehearse now I watch it run and I see the magic. They haven't seen it and I can't wait because then it will all be worth it.
Q: On Oscar weekend, it must be asked: Are you a fan of the movie "Les Miserables?"
A: I did see Les Mis because I love the musical and have seen it four times. As vocal professionals, let's say they are great actors (laughs)
Q: How do you celebrate the end of a production?
A: A cruise. I'm leaving the Monday after Godspell for Haiti and Labadee, somewhere I haven't been. My sister booked the cruise.
Q: Do people still say: "Break a leg?"
A: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, break a leg. Thank you!