Notre Dame Prep choir director set to manage school's first all-alumni musical

Notre Dame Prep Choir Director Dave Fazzini is bringing the school's first all-alumni musical production to the Meadow Brook Theatre stage in August. Fazzini has been teaching on Notre Dame Prep's Pontiac campus for 25 years. (Photos courtesy of Notre Dame Preparatory)

Dave Fazzini writing, directing production of 'Alyce' at Meadow Brook Theatre in August, with help from past students

PONTIAC — On Aug. 23, the musical "Alyce" opens at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester. It will be the culmination of a years-long effort to stage the musical fairy tale about an indentured servant, a scarecrow, a witch and a witch finder. It's loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Feathertop,” which was first published in 1852.

It also will be the first time that veteran Notre Dame Preparatory choir director Dave Fazzini has managed an all-alumni cast musical.

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"It's never been done before," said Fazzini, who wrote all the music for the play. "The initial response was positive and the enthusiasm has steadily risen all along. Our alumni have in the past returned and performed at various concerts and video projects over the years and we've had a few alumni choir concerts in the past as well, but this will be different."

Matthew Croft, a 2006 Notre Dame Prep graduate who currently is traveling the country as the music director, conductor and keyboard player for the "Mamma Mia! 25th Anniversary National Tour," has agreed to provide the orchestration for "Alyce." He said his former teacher first contacted him about the project in 2022.

"Dave had asked for some thoughts about arrangements for the show and whether I might be available or interested in orchestrating the show," said Croft, who currently lives in Omaha, Neb. "So we started there and began to more fully work on the project late last summer to start the scoring process."

Croft said it’s truly exciting to work on an original score and show.

"Plus, to have an orchestra of 15 professional musicians to work with is quite the treat," Croft said. "I’m hoping to be able to come and be a part of the production in August if I'm able to work it in my schedule."

Another Notre Dame Prep alum, Michael Kurowski (class of 2012), has been cast in the new musical as one of the leads, Feathertop, an inanimate scarecrow driven by love for Alyce who comes to life in order to win her. He's had numerous television and film roles, such as Josh in Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (2008), and has worked in theaters across the United States during his nationwide tours of "Once the Musical" and "The Play That Goes Wrong."

He recalled fondly his Notre Dame Prep years with Fazzini.

"I was deeply involved with Dave’s choir programs and musicals," said Kurowski, now residing in Chicago. "I had heard about 'Alyce' when he asked me to listen to the music, specifically the song 'Alyce.' I knew Fuzz could play and sing great music, but I had never heard music he’d written. It was gorgeous and incredibly heartfelt. I was immediately in love with the show and wanted to be a part of it."

Michael Kurowski (class of 2012) played a memory-challenged actor in "The Play That Goes Wrong," at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago (2022). He will be Feathertop in Notre Dame Prep's "Alyce."
Michael Kurowski (class of 2012) played a memory-challenged actor in "The Play That Goes Wrong," at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago (2022). He will be Feathertop in Notre Dame Prep's "Alyce."

Inspired by students

The initial call for auditions for "Alyce" went out last summer, and most of the main characters have been cast, according to Fazzini, and there have been a number of read-throughs. There are a total of six leads, a dozen supporting roles, two choruses, dancers, non-singing actors, the production team, crew and administration. With rehearsals beginning in earnest in early July, it's a huge undertaking for anyone, let alone someone who's teaching full-time and planning and directing a school musical in March.

But for Fazzini, now in his 25th year at Notre Dame Prep, he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've been fascinated by the theater since I was a child myself," Fazzini said. "Directing plays and musicals at NDP has deepened my understanding and love of the genre. It seemed like a natural progression to combine my need to write music with my love of the theater. And I have to say that while I've been composing music my whole life, it wasn't until I recently explored writing for the stage that music seemed to just pour out of me."

And while some of the stage's most famous performers, such as singer Julie Andrews and composer Stephen Sondheim, have influenced Fazzini, he says his greatest inspiration always comes from working with young people.

"If that sounds corny, so be it," he said. "Directing them in more than two dozen musicals over my career — each one a treasured memory — was the main prompt for me to tackle something as ambitious as 'Alyce.'"

Former student Croft says he in turn holds special memories of working with Fazzini.

"Dave was a fantastic teacher; I owe a great deal of my musical development to both Dave and Joe Martin," Croft said. "Dave always encouraged me to write and arrange, and has been a big fan of my work. His gospel and film music background was part of a really great learning opportunity for me as a student, and I took a lot of lessons from him into my college experience and beyond."

Captivated by the stage

Fazzini grew up in Farmington and attended Farmington High School and Wayne State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music composition. He's been playing piano since he was a child, but says singing has always been his true passion.

"My father was a music minister at a large Protestant church in Southfield called Brightmoore Tabernacle," he said. "So from my early elementary school days, I was put on stage to sing in front of hundreds of people. In fact, most of my early experience with music came from that church, and much of it under my father's direction."

He also played cello in middle school and eventually joined the choir in high school.

For the past 15 years, Fazzini has been a member of a local band called "Cancel Monday," which plays around 80 dates a year — weddings, corporate parties and some clubs. He's also the sound engineer for St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion.
For the past 15 years, Fazzini has been a member of a local band called "Cancel Monday," which plays around 80 dates a year — weddings, corporate parties and some clubs. He's also the sound engineer for St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion.

"My high school choir teacher took us to see a few musicals one year, and I was captivated by the magic of the stage," recalls Fazzini. "So much so that during my senior year, I auditioned for my high school's production of 'Annie Get Your Gun.' I got the lead role and experienced the magic from the other side of the curtain, which had such a profound effect on me that since then, I've been compelled to stay as close to the theater stage as possible."

A Christian man

Now well into his third decade at Notre Dame Prep, Fazzini easily reflects on what it means to work at a Catholic and Marist school.

"Teaching at a Catholic school is an amazing blessing," he said. "My childhood was full of church activity, participating sometimes four or more times a week. But like many, my church attendance lessened in my college and early career days."

Fazzini is pictured with his family, from left, wife Suzie, son Ben, Ben's girlfriend Elena, daughter Chloe, and her boyfriend Nathan.
Fazzini is pictured with his family, from left, wife Suzie, son Ben, Ben's girlfriend Elena, daughter Chloe, and her boyfriend Nathan.

He said working at Notre Dame Prep put him close to the Church once again. So close, in fact, that he's proud to say that last year he attended the RCIA program at St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion and was confirmed last Easter.

"Now I also get to more fully explore both my Catholic faith and the school mission with my students," he said. "I always pray that I can be a good example of a Christian man to the kids. The choir classroom and the cast of a musical are both great models of citizenship. In addition, classes like choir explore parts of the human condition that can't be explained by science. Things like beauty, faith, love and joy. I believe that this kind of scholarship is not only worthwhile, but essential to a complete education."

This article was first published on the website of Notre Dame Preparatory. It is republished with permission.



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