Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Neal Mayer

Currently, Neal Mayer can be seen performing on the stage of the Imperial Theatre in New York City in Les Miserables. For the past year and a half, he has had the pleasure and artistic fulfillment of portraying Claquesous, as well as being the understudy for the role of Thenardier. But Mr. Mayer is quick to point out that his success on the Broadway stage was built on two solid foundations of his educational and professional preparation. These were his extensive experience in portraying a variety of roles in regional theaters across the country and his early positive theater experiences while in the Toms River Schools, especially as a member of the Dover Township Savoyards, a performing arts group under the sponsorship of the Dover Township Parks and Recreation Commission. Each year the Savoyards presented a different American musical or Gilbert & Sullivan production under the inspired and unique direction of the late Leona Landon and musically directed by Gerry Rich. When Mr. Mayer attended college, he found his early, extensive exposure to Gilbert & Sullivan had provided him with a discipline and artistic experience, unlike most of his fellow students at Susquehanna. He received a B.A. in Communications/Theater, magna cum laude, in 1982.

Mr. Mayer first became interested in the fine arts through his involvement in the arts program at High School South where he played clarinet, tenor saxophone and bassoon with the Symphonic, Marching and Stage Bands under the guidance of Ernest Milkovitz and was a member of the Chorus directed by Dorothea Lillie. While Drama Club president his senior year, he portrayed Henry Higgins in South's production of My Fair Lady. Other extracurricular activities included involvement in the performing arts and poetry divisions of the Cultural Olympics, editor-in-chief of The Cedar Chest, writer for the Chieftan and member of the National Honor Society.

During the summers of his high school years while working with the Savoyards, Neal gained training in such musical classics as The King And I, Carnival, Oklahoma, The Pajama Game, Wonderful Town, and Kismet. After college, Neal returned to the Savoyards to direct productions of Lil' Abner, Godspell and The Mikado with Gerry Rich, once again, providing musical direction.

While still in college, Mr. Mayer toured the country with the Susquehanna University Choir, was President of Alpha Psi Omega, a national theater fraternity, and directed and performed in numerous college productions. Favorite roles included J. Pierpont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Marcellus in The Music Man, and John/Judas in Godspell. During his freshman year in college, he also appeared in a series of TV and radio commercials for Hostess products.

Following college, Mr. Mayer combined his interests in education and the arts as an English/Drama teacher at Ocean City High School in Ocean City, N.J. from 1983-86. Among the shows he directed was the multilingual The Primary English Class, which went on to win Best Ensemble and Best Actor awards at the Bucks County Playhouse Performing Arts Festival. His participation in the Teen Arts Festival in 1986 led to an invitation to tour the state with a select group of Ocean City High School students.

In the late 1980's, Mr. Mayer decided to take a leave of absence from teaching to pursue a career in the performing arts. His professional career started with a tour of Evita that performed in 36 states. Following the tour, Mr. Mayer did intensive professional training with Betty Buckley (acting), Jack Lee and Charles Kakatsakis (musical theater), Andrea Brown, Lois Englund, and Frank Ventura (jazz), Joan See and Suzanne Hevner (commercials) and Joan Kobin (voice). He is a member of Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors.

In addition to appearing in Les Miserables, Mr. Mayer's Off-Broadway appearances include Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back!, (in which he parodied such stars as Manny Patinkin, Elton John, Michael Crawford, and Alan Cumming), The Wizard of Oz in Concert (also televised on TNT and PBS with Nathan Lane, Jewel and an all-star cast) at Avery Fisher Hall, and Winchell (a workshop) at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. His Regional work too extensive to list entirely, included Animal Crackers at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC; the Los Angeles premiere of Jim Lehrer's Chili Queen; the Boston and Cleveland companies of Forbidden Broadway; and various roles at Goodspeed-at-Chester, Skylight Opera Theatre, Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, Weston Playhouse, Depot Theatre, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, and Lake Placid Center for Arts.

Mr. Mayer, who lives in Manhattan, is a humanitarian as well as an accomplished and successful actor. He is a dedicated worker for the Humane Society of New York City. On March 8 of this year, he even appeared as a "walker" for an Art Expo at the Javits center in a fashion show for dogs where "shelter" dogs were the stars of the show with all profits going to the Humane Society. Only in New York!

The Toms River Schools Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Neal Mayer as one of this year's honorees. His professional success as a working actor is an achievement realized by very few of the thousands of young men and women who dream and train for a theatrical life.

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