For those of you who don't know, the Jimmy Awards are the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Students from all over the country compete in regional qualifiers, and the winners from each qualifier make their Broadway debut in a nationwide competition.
I was selected as the Student Reporter for my regional awards, The Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance. It was there that I met the absolute powerhouse that is Andrew Barth Feldman. He won the RRAs and went on to win the Jimmys for his performance as Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can.
In addition to his immense talent, he has been doing a lot of amazing philanthropy work, even years prior to the Jimmys. I got the chance to interview Andrew this past week, and we had a great conversation about theatre and his upcoming plans.
1. What first got you into theatre?
"I didn't think theatre was something you could just "do." I thought it was something you were chosen for by God, or something like that! I eventually realized that wasn't the case and started auditioning right away. My first performance was as Mr. Bundles in Annie... from then on, I just never stopped. I fell in love."
2. Tell us a little about Zneefrock Productions. How did it start?
"This is probably the most Jewish way of answering this question, but it started out as my Bar Mitzvah project. I put on a cabaret with some of my friends, and we all sang some of our favorite musical theatre songs. We raised about $1000 for NEXT for AUTISM. It took off from there, and we're currently starting our 6th season!"
3. Why NEXT for AUTISM?
"I have a cousin living with autism who is very close to me, so this organization was the obvious choice."
4. Do you know approximately how much money you've raised for the organization?
Prior to this upcoming show, we've proudly raised over $21,000!
5. What inspired the name of your nonprofit?
"Oh, this is a STORY... There used to be a restaurant called Mars 2112, and it was an alien-themed restaurant. We didn't know the names of the aliens, so my family and I would name them, and we named one of them Zneefrock. It was my username on everything for a very long time, and it just kinda stuck. We went through a few other names initially, but ended up choosing Zneefrock."
6. What shows have Zneefrock Productions put on recently?
"We did a re-imagining of Seussical, which was a more stripped-down and socially conscious version, which was really cool. Before that, we did an original Star Wars musical parody that my friend Adrian Dickson and I wrote, and that was our first full-fledged production. The album is available on Spotify! We also put on Be More Chill this past summer."
7. You have some interesting plans for your upcoming production of The Last Five Years. Can you elaborate?
"As written, the show is about a man and a woman in a relationship that blossoms and falls apart over the course of five years. The story is told from beginning to end in the man's point of view, and vice versa for the woman, meeting in the middle. What we are doing with it is having shows that flip the genders on its head.
We have performances done traditionally, as well as with the genders swapped, and homosexual couples, in order to explore the actors' takes on the roles and the reactions of the audience. It's been enlightening for me already, and the audience has yet to experience it.
I've learned so much on gender roles and how they handle different situations differently based on how we're brought up in society."
8. There's a deal for those planning to see the show more than once, correct?
"Yeah! Tickets are $15 for the first time to see the show. If you plan to see an additional performance, it's only $5 for your next ticket and any ticket after that. We highly encourage coming to see the show more than once in order to compare not only the actors portraying the roles, but also how the gender/sexuality swap impacts the overall story."
9. Lastly... if you had to explain to someone why you think theatre is important, what would you say?
"I think theatre more than any other art form is communication, and it's a relationship between the performer and the audience that you'd get more here than anywhere else. Since it's life, it's more of a conversation than something you hand to someone.
Your job is to change, help, and entertain people standing right in front of you, and it's magic. It's not like a movie, where everything is frozen right there for you. You're feeding as much off of the audience as they are of you."
Our conversation made it even more clear to me that Andrew is beyond his years. Not only is he an incredible performer, but his heart is clearly in the right place... as the daughter of a special education teacher, I grew up helping out in my mom's classroom whenever I could, so I truly admire and am inspired by what Andrew has created and continues to work on.
The Last Five Years will run from November 2-11. Performances will be held at Lawrence Woodmere Academy (336 Woodmere Blvd, Woodmere NY 11598).
Personally, The Last Five Years is one of my favorite musicals of all time. The story of Jamie and Cathy (or Cary, in certain performances this time around) is an emotional roller coaster, and Jason Robert Brown's music is unbelievably symbolic and truly beautiful. Paired with Zneefrock's spin on the traditional telling of the story, this production will no doubt take this beautiful story to new heights. Unfortunately, I will be away at college for this show, so please do so I can live vicariously through you.
Tickets and other information can be found at https://www.zneefrockproductions.com, and the theatre company's social media handle is @zneefrockproductions (except for Twitter, which is @Zneefrockprod).
Thanks so much, Andrew, for taking some time to talk about your work with me, and congrats on everything so far! All the best; I have no doubt we'll be hearing remarkable things. To everyone else involved in ZP... break a leg!