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March 2, 2011

Behind the Scenes of the Last Play at Shea

Former Joel Band Member David Rosenthal, Joel Archivist Jeff Schock & Executive Producer Todd Kamelhar

Old and young music fans gathered in St. Francis College’s Founders Hall on Wednesday, March 2 to watch Billy Joel’s documentary, “The Last Play at Shea.” Following the documentary, the audience was treated to a discussion with musician David Rosenthal, who toured with Joel for 15 years, the Executive Producer of the film Todd Kamelhar and Joel’s archivist Jeff Schock.

St. Francis Professor David Gewirtz, from the College’s Communication Arts department put together the event and said it was a privilege to provide students with the opportunity to meet the key players behind the filming and production of Last Play.

The movie was both historical and musical; highlighting Shea Stadium, the New York Mets and Billy Joel’s music career, which began in 1964, the same year Shea Stadium opened and hosted the legendary Beatles concert. A quote from the film, “Out with the old and in with the new” expressed the history and music behind Shea Stadium. Joel’s concerts at the stadium, with Paul McCartney as a special guest, were an appropriate bookend for the building.

During the question and answer session, Kamelhar spoke about the storyline for the documentary and the parallels between the stadium and Joel. He said the Beatles are the beginning of everything in Joel’s career.

One question asked about how Joel was recovering financially from an ex-manager who he sued for stealing $30 million from him. The response was that Joel has never harbored any ill-will and that he is now enjoying his semi-retirement and recovering from hip-replacement surgery.

Rosenthal, who arranged and conducted music for The Last Play at Shea and composed part of the film's score, said it was an enjoyable process working on the film. He spoke about how the orchestrations are written and recorded to match the editing of the film.

In response to a question about the actual filming of the documentary, Rosenthal explained that they had to place the cameras in less than ideal locations because they could not get in the way of the performance. But at the same time, they had to capture the focus of the event and document the sounds and emotions of the concerts. “You had the feeling that something big was captured and what we did in the production did not get in the way of the event,” said Rosenthal. “Billy Joel was very happy with the film. It was an overall great experience.

Kamelhar also spoke about what it was like working with Joel. “What makes Billy so different is that you can get to know him as a person,” said Kamelhar. “He’s not caught up with his music.” By inviting people like McCartney, Tony Bennett and Roger Daltry, Joel made the closing concerts about more than just himself.

Jeff Schock concluded the event by teasing the audience with the announcement of Joel’s autobiography, “The Book of Joel,” expected to be published in June of this year. A few lucky fans also got copies of the now released DVD and CD of the full Shea Stadium concerts, Live at Shea Stadium, which was officially released the day after the event.

By Richard Loutfi

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.
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St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201
www.sfc.edu