BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Charles Seller Foundation Talent Time Players will be presenting, this week and next week, its 67th annual stage production to benefit a local resident with extraordinary medical expenses.
Seven performances of “Footloose: The Musical” will be presented at Bloomfield High School beginning tonight at 8 p.m. Additional shows are scheduled for Aug. 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, at 8 p.m. and Aug. 7, at 2 p.m. A fee will be charged.
The beneficiary of Talent Time this year is 8-year-old Bloomfield resident Jordan Williams, a third-grader at Fairview Elementary School.
Jordan was diagnosed in February 2015 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A Carteret Elementary School second-grader at the time, she was immediately started on chemotherapy and remained for three weeks at Goryeb Children’s Hospital, at Morristown Medical Center. Both of her parents stopped working to look after her while the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation helped the family with its bills. Jordan is currently on 15 chemotherapy medications. If all goes well, she will be coming off them June 2017, her mother said.
Courtney Charatsaris, president of the Talent Time Players, said the matinee performance is something new for the annual benefit. It has been scheduled to give Jordan’s classmates the opportunity to see the show. Jordan is also expected to perform in the finale of “Footloose.” She is scheduled to appear in the Aug. 7 and 13 performances.
Charles Seller also noticed the unique matinee performance. In a telephone interview on Monday, he said that it was the first time, to his recollection, that one was ever scheduled. Seller was the first beneficiary of a Talent Time production.
In a July 17, 1950, accident at the Benson Street train station, in Glen Ridge, Seller, who had recently graduated from BHS, fell under a moving train while attempting to board it. A wheel of the train went over his right leg which had to be amputated at the knee.
When his friends found out about the accident, they decided to put on a variety show to help Seller with his medical bills. The first presentation, titled “Talent Time,” was an original variety show with four performances. It was so successful that its founders determined to continue the benefit annually.
Seller, now 84 and a resident of Pennsylvania, said he would not be able to attend the show this year. He was hoping to come to Bloomfield and visit with a friend living in Princeton. His friend was a founding member of Talent Time.
“Not too many days ago my wife and I were trying to come up with a plan to come to Bloomfield and visit with him,” Seller said. “But we can’t fit it all in. I really feel bad that it’s not in the cards.”
He said compared to a big national campaign, Talent Time is a “small operation,” but “incredible” nonetheless.
One of the reasons Talent Time has lasted for so long, Seller believes, is that it draws interested people not just from Bloomfield but from across north Jersey and other places.
Another reason for its continued success, Seller said, was that the focus on one guy, himself, became a search for people with physical problems.
“That’s been an intelligent move,” he said.
Seller also said there was the good sense in not having an original production every year.
“That would be a tremendous challenge,” he said.
Seller said his view of Talent Time was that people who become involved with it took away the idea of how they can help people.
“You’d be surprised how many people give me credit,” he said. “I didn’t do anything the first time.”
As far as getting started that first time, Seller thought Talent Time had a three bits of luck in the summer of 1950. The first one, he said, was the willingness of people to get involved with a project. The second was that the accident occurred soon after high school graduation.
“It was only three weeks later,” he said. “A lot of people were still there.”
The third lucky part was having BHS English and drama teacher “Tink” Martin around.
“She lived on Montgomery Street,” Seller said. “She and her husband turned their house over as a headquarters.”
Seller said Martin devoted all her time to shepherding and shaping the first Talent Time production.
“I’m not comfortable in the limelight,” he said. “When I do talk about this, that is what I like to focus on.”
“Footloose: The Musical” will be directed by Josh Cohen, a resident of Somerset. He appeared in the 2013 Talent Time production of “Urinetown.”
Cohen said it was his first time directing such a large cast. The chief problem facing a director with a large cast was balancing all the voices into one sound. The show has a cast of 38, ranging in age from 14 t0 32.
Charatsaris said it was decided that “Footloose” would be a good, community choice in that it was child-friendly. This friendliness was an important consideration for Charatsaris.
“We chose Jordan back in June,” she said. “We try to keep the beneficiary from Bloomfield.”
But over the last few years, she said this was not the case.
“Going forward, we wanted a fun and child-friendly show,” Charatsaris said. “Jordan is such a ray of light. We choreographed her in the finale.”
The musical director for the show is Tom Russo. The running time of the show, with intermission, is 2:40.