The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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June 9, 2013

'Grand' farewell

Popular MSU Theatre instructor directing two more shows before departure, including musical revue opening Wednesday

(Continued)

Finocchiaro said he's been waiting to direct a revue-style show since 2008's "Smoky Joe's Cafe."

In this case, he said, "A Grand Night for Singing" will include Rodgers and Hammerstein standards from shows such as "The Sound of Music," "The Kind and I," "Oklahoma!" and "South Pacific," as well as lesser-known numbers. Altogether the production consists of 37 songs, all of which will be documented on a marquee near the stage with the name of the musical from which it originated.

The show includes live orchestration and arrangements that audience members might find unfamiliar.

"People are going to hear classic songs," Finocchiaro said, "but not in the way they've been done."

As for his new position, Finocchiaro said it will include expanding the institution's theatre program and focusing more on practical musical theatre instruction. His first production will be "Thoroughly Modern Millie" -- a musical Finocchiaro directed in 2008 at MSU and one that colleague Nicholas Wayne remembers well.

Finocchiaro and Wayne were hired the same year, the latter as a musical director who has worked alongside Finocchiaro on almost every musical MSU has produced since. Along the way, Wayne said he has found Finocchiaro to be a caring and empathetic instructor -- last week, for instance, he brought snacks and energy bars to his exhausted cast during back-to-back days of eight-hour rehearsals -- as well as a valued friend.

Five years ago, when Wayne's daughter was born during the thick of the rehearsal schedule for MSU's "Thoroughly Modern Millie," Wayne said his friend re-organized the schedule to allow him more time with his new family.

"I was impressed because I really felt like he cared," Wayne said. "It gave me so much more appreciation for who he is."

During his MSU career, Finocchiaro taught a variety of classes and directed many productions, but many who know him singled out "Rent" as Finocchiaro's pinnacle achievement.

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