SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Marni Raab is used to being caked in stage makeup and being under a spotlight, but now she’s taking a turn behind the curtain to produce “Fear,” an off-Broadway show that opened Oct. 15 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York. The show, written by Matt Williams, was developed at Maplewood’s MidTownDirect Theater Company when the script came across Raab’s desk a few years ago.
“I was looking for new plays that hadn’t been produced,” Raab, who lives in South Orange and was the company’s literary director at the time, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Oct. 11. “Matt’s came across my desk and I loved it. So we got a cast together and had a read through, and then one thing led to another and it got produced. I’m glad they asked me continue on.”
Raab, who is known for playing the role of Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway as well as many other theater credits, said that many who work in theater do more than one job these days. A lot of actors are also producers; a lot of writers are also directors.
“It’s pretty common now for people in the arts to wear a lot of hats,” Raab said. “Producing sounds like a shocking turn, but it was a lot of steps. I did a master’s degree in theater history and criticism to fill in some of the gaps. I understand the actors and I love watching them evolve. It felt like the logical next step.”
Raab said she and the other producers each bring their own skill sets to the table on the show, and, having spent so much time onstage herself, she loves working with actors.
“It helps describe my taste and how I develop my opinion,” Raab said. “I read a whole lot of scripts. And when you do something over and over, you either get better at it or at least have experience. These things come together in a lot of different ways, so when I had an opinion I would weigh in. I had a wonderful team who also had ideas and I knew I would always be heard.”
“Fear” stars Obi Abili, Enrico Colantoni and Alexander Garfin in a psychological thriller about a girl who goes missing. The three cast members play a college professor, a plumber and a teenage boy who are all neighbors and trying to solve the girl’s disappearance.
“It’s intense, but there’s also humor in it,” Raab said. “Matt’s writing leapt off the page.”
Producing a show is still new to Raab, but she’s enjoying a new aspect of something she’s been doing for a long time.
“I’ve seen things from a few perspectives now,” she said. “I’m learning new things every day. It’s the result of 20 years in theater in general, and how do you apply that in real time? We get to work together and I fill in where I can.”
“Fear” will be performed at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through Sunday, Dec. 8. For tickets, visit www.FearthePlay.com or call 866-811-4111.