Sparta native takes to the big screen

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:43

SPARTA — What can a 26-year-old scrap hauler in need of money do to get his foreclosed home out of hock? In the madcap comedy film, “Virgin Alexander,” Alexander Mann cooks up a scheme by transforming his home into a brothel. Alexander’s irony is he falls for Ruby, the prostitute helping him, and he is still a virgin. The brainchild and first feature film of directors and writers Charlotte Barrett and Sean Fallon, and starring Rick Faugno, who hails from Sparta, “Virgin Alexander” has been gaining popular momentum and garnering awards at film festivals around the country. Although not yet released, it has been screened at the Black Hills Film Festival in South Dakota, and the D.C. Independent Film Festival. It is scheduled for the Las Vegas Film Festival, deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City, VisionFest in New York City, and closer to home at the New Jersey International Film Festival held at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick on Saturday, June 4 at 7 p.m. Faugno moved to Sparta at age 4 with his parents, Patricia and Rick Faugno, and attended school at Hilltop Country Day School before transferring to the Reverend Brown School in the fourth grade, to avoid the conflict of his mother as a fourth grade Hilltop teacher. He was also a student at Dance by Kempson of Sparta. Not his first time in the spotlight Faugno landed his first major audition, and then job, in the sixth grade, as Will Rogers Jr. in Broadway’s “The Will Rogers Follies.” “It was quite a first job,” he mused, having the opportunity to star with Keith Carradine, and work with Tommy Tune. He transferred back to Hilltop to accommodate the rigors of his demanding work schedule, and received supplemental tutoring on the set. He stayed with “The Will Rogers Follies,” until he exceeded the height requirements of his role, and then played Judd Hirsch’s son in the show, “Conversations With My Father,” while in the eighth grade. Faugno commuted with his mother to high school in New York City, and he and his mother eventually relocated to Manhattan, while his father maintained their Sparta home, and they visited each other on the weekends. The move was to better accommodate Faugno’s audition and ballet, jazz, and tap schedules. While in high school, Faugno performed at Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Faugno earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in acting and musical theater from NYU. He was a part of the Fosse National Tour, and also “Wonderful Town,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Boy Friend,” directed by Julie Andrews. Finding Faugno Faugno met his wife Joyce Chittick on the show, who, coincidentally watched Faugno from the audience once in “The Will Rogers Follies.” The couple married in 2010, and purchased a home in Las Vegas, to accommodate Faugno’s role of Frankie Valli in the Las Vegas company of “Jersey Boys.” Frankie Valli chose Faugno after he played Valli in the national tour. Chittick currently stars in Broadway’s “Anything Goes.” Charlotte Barrett and Sean Fallon watched Faugno burst onstage one evening while watching “Jersey Boys,” and realized they had their lead for “Virgin Alexander.” It was confirmed when Faugno appeared on the JumboTron screen, during a scene onstage in which he was filmed with a 1950s style camera. All questions of how he might appear on camera were answered. “That’s Alexander,” they both said. The team connected with Faugno, who accepted the role. Faugno took a leave from “Jersey Boys” for three weeks in 2010, to film in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “He is a terrific actor, singer, and incredible tap dancer,” said Barrett and Fallon. “We were grateful he wanted to be a part. He’s a fantastic performer.” Faugno speaks as highly about his work on the film. “They are a very talented team, and it is a great film.” Faugno had some film experience prior, including parts in “Two Bits,” “Looking for an Echo” and the TV series, “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.” He compared the differences of working on the stage, against the screen. “It’s a completely different art form, you adjust to the smallness of the screen versus the bigness of the stage,” Faugno said. “Everything is dialed up and has to be big to be seen and heard onstage.” When asked if he relates to the character of Alexander, his response is a surprising yes. “I was never the popular kid in school, I was shyer around others back then, and in social situations, I was more to myself,” Faugno said. He also considers himself a strong match for the role of Frankie Valli, who is a private person, Faugno said. In addition to “Jersey Boys,” Faugno just performed in his one-man show, “Body & Soul,” at the Las Vegas Hilton on May 27. He described it as a mix of funk, jazz, Latin, rock, jazz, and more. Faugno regrets he will not be able to attend the screening of “Virgin Alexander” in New Jersey, due to his “Jersey Boys” schedule. But both New Jersey and Sparta hold a place in his heart. His first one-man show, “Songs My Idols Sang (And Danced),” was a montage of his life with his parents, and even reflections of his Kempson dance days. “It was quiet, and a great place to grow up,” Faugno said of Sparta and Lake Mohawk. “My dad had a boat, we used to ride to the Boardwalk for lunch, and we used to swim in Lake Mohawk. I have many fond memories.” The New Jersey International Film Festival is screening the award winning independent comedy, “Virgin Alexander”, on Saturday June 4 at 7 p.m. in Voorhees Hall on the campus of Rutgers University. “Virgin Alexander” also stars Paige Howard and Bronson Pinchot.