Tommy Tinker was a scoundrel. He hadn’t started out that way but fast-paced city living changed the small-town country boy and he died a scoundrel.
Or so they thought.
This is the opening of the musical performance of “A Tinker’s Tale” during the second annual Silver Lake Experience in Perry.
Written by local authors Jim and Jeanne Morey, the story is based loosely on the life of Robert LeRoy Ripley. The musical was produced by Josh Rice and directed by Chad Bradford, both founding members of the theater company Shake on the Lake in Perry.
“We were looking for a place to stay in March to get away from the snowflakes,” Jim said. “We went to a few places in Florida and Georgia and we ended up in St. Augustine (Fla.) and went to a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum. When we came out of there we thought what a quirky, interesting guy he was and wondered why no one had written a musical based on his life. He had such an interesting life and so we said, ‘All right. Let’s do it.’ “
That was about seven years ago.
However, after learning that it would cost a couple of million to buy the rights from the Ripley estate, “A Tinker’s Tale” was born.
Jim and Jeanne are no strangers to the theater. Jim, a graduate of Columbia University with a degree in Modern Drama, had been in the advertising business, writing and producing commercial music for radio and television. One such jingle was even written for Batavia Downs “years and years ago.”
Jeanne was in theater in high school and college and after she had retired, decided to try out for a role in Genesee Community College’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“I got the role of Nurse Ratched and I had the time of my life,” Jeanne said.
Her role in the production put her in contact with Maryanne Arena, a Theater professor at the college. In turn, she had asked if she would be interested in reading the play and working with them to refine the work. The couple worked with both Arena and Rice. After looking over their notes, Rice had asked the Moreys if they could put together an hour-long production of the play.
“I think one of the exciting things is having half the cast being professionals,” Jeanne said. “Because when Jim and I were writing -- this is a full-length play -- he said we didn’t have enough jokes, but because I have done theater work, I told him we needed to depend on the actors to bring themselves into the part and see what they do with it.
“That was the fun part, to see the life they breathed into them.”
Tommy Tinker, a cartoonist from a small town in Ohio, made his way to New York City. As the story unfolds, Tinker finds himself developing and growing in his career and he decides he wants to do something different with his life so he creates Tink’s Incredible Kingdom – a show of misfits and incredible oddities. Over time, he gets sort of cocky and begins to exploit the people who are making him successful.
His montage of misfits got tired of being exploited and band together to go against him. However, on the way to start a career in television Tinker has a “heart attack” in his car and “dies.”
Thursday’s performance featured just 16 of the 36 songs in the musical. Jim was even able to work with the composer he had worked with in the ’60s and ‘70s. Although they had worked on the play sporadically for the past seven years, they completed composing and recording all 36 songs in one year.
“We needed a composer and I wanted to work with the guy I had in the past,” Jim said. “He is living in South Carolina so it was all done long distance.”
“It was interesting to see the progression of the characters,” Jeanne said. “What an empty spot we will have because where the characters were just figments of our imagination in our head, they are now flesh and blood before us and now they are gone. Seeing it live brings a reality to it.”
In the end, the play is about a boy who rides a wave of good, to exploiting the people who have helped him along the way, to his untimely “demise.” Those who he’s exploited end up missing him and become relieved when they find out he isn’t dead.
“The boy makes good but leaves some corpses along the way,” Jim said. “In the end, it’s about reconciliation.”
And the underlying theme is about diversity – accepting people for who they are, Jeanne says.
However, the production in Silver Lake was just a sampling of the play. A full performance is anticipated at GCC next April, tying it into the college’s 50th anniversary.