U.S. pizza team invades Germany

Members of the U.S. Pizza Team’s acrobatic squad added another stamp to their passports this year. It seems that they have become somewhat famous.

Once each year, there is a massive gathering of grocery store owners in Munich, Germany for the Edeka show. Each year, the event has a theme in which they base the entire show around and this year it was Italian food. John Barker, entertainment agent for John Barker Corporate Entertainment, heard about the U.S. Pizza Team and called to invite them to perform on the main stage for two nights. You’ll be glad to know they represented the U.S. pizza industry with rock star flare and a stellar performance that captured the attention of everyone in the room…all 3,000.

I have been witness to the evolution of this team for the past four years and this performance really opened my eyes to the commitment and talent we have on the U.S. Pizza Team. We arrived in Munich at about 9 a.m. after an exhausting eight-hour transatlantic flight. This didn’t include the flight time from cities like San Francisco, Columbus, Memphis and Charlotte to Atlanta or the time difference between the U.S. and Germany. Needless to say, we were exhausted when we got there. Some had been traveling for almost 20 hours, but, that’s where the commitment from each and every team member came in.

It was Thursday in Germany and the performance was to take place Friday and Saturday night. The acrobatic team had talked about the routine, practiced individual moves and a couple had went over the concept at previous trade shows, but the entire team had not rehearsed together at all before arriving in Germany. As we check in to the hotel, the team decided that after a short nap, it was time to go to work. I ambled aimlessly up the stairs daydreaming about 10 hours of sleep and settled for a five-hour nap.

We all awoke and gathered in the lobby, except for Siler “Hammer Time” Chapman, who needed a little encouragement to get up. It was about 40˚ outside, but that was the only place in this quaint little hotel where there was enough room to go over the routine. As I stood and watched, I was amazed at how quickly the routine came together. For two hours, in the German cold, the team worked on timing, dough tricks and the choreography.

The routine was based around music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It was a Western routine about the good guys battling it out with the bad guys and started with Michael Shepherd and Joe Carlucci, who were playing the bad guys, tying up Missy Green and making her the damsel in distress. Tony Gemignani, who played the ringleader of the bad guys, then faces off with Chris Green, who plays the sheriff. As they start to duel, doing acrobatic dough tricks, Tony calls in his band of hoodlums and Chris calls in his trusty sidekick…Siler. The two groups do some amazing choreographed dough tossing and it ends up with Tony and Joe doing tricks blindfolded. Yes, that’s right, these guys can do acrobatic dough tossing blindfolded. In the end, Siler and Chris rope the bad guys and save the fair maiden.

The day of the show, the team did dress rehearsals for about five hours in the dressing room perfecting things. For the performances at the convention, each team member did an individual routine first and was interviewed on stage. After each member was finished, the entire team performed. I am not just saying this because I have been a part of this team for going on four years now, I am saying it because it is the truth…they were truly amazing. Everyone stepped up their performance two notches. The crowd, the largest live crowd the team has ever performed for, was mesmerized. This was something they had never seen before and probably something you have never seen. As good as Friday’s performance was, Saturday, they were even tighter. John Barker, who had pop musicians from Italy, magicians and other performers scheduled, came to the dressing rooms to congratulate them on a super performance.

Saturday, the team had a much-needed break during the day and took the train into downtown Munich. Many said this was the highlight of the trip for them, but personally, the sight of these guys wowing the crowd was tops for me. After Saturday’s performance, the team boarded the Eurorail and headed off into the sunset bound for the World Pizza Competition in Salsomaggiore, Italy. At the team competition there, they competed against teams that work together in the same shops and practice their routines almost everyday for the entire year leading up to the competition. Needless to say, competition is tough there. Our team, with only three days of group practice, just missed out on winning a medal, coming in a very close fourth place. But, don’t worry guys, I saw concern in the eyes of the Italians…they know the Americans are coming back again next year.

The U.S. Pizza Team acrobatic members are all pizzeria owners. They love what they do. Several have appeared on shows like ESPN’s Cold Pizza, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Jay Leno and also performed for Universal Studios, Walt Disney and many festivals and trade shows around the country. If you would like to have them come out to an event in your area, call 662-234-5481 and see if the dates are available.

If you would like to tryout for the U.S. Pizza Team, acrobatic competitions (individual dough tossing, dough stretching, and fastest pizza maker) take place at various event around the country. One place you can either tryout, or just come to watch, the events is at the New York Pizza Show in New York City (at the Jacob Javits Center, Nov. 2-3, 2004, (www.newyorkpizzashow.com). Another venue is the NAPICS show in Columbus, Ohio (at the Columbus Convention Center, Feb. 26-28, 2005, www.napics.com). Other venues will become available and you can keep up with these by visiting www.uspizzateam.com and www.worldpizzachampionship.com or checking the newsroom at www.pmq.com.

 Practicing

Talk about commitment…the team, with only about five hours of sleep, rehearsed in 40˚ temperatures to get the timing of the routine down.
 Routine 1

Tony and Chris, the good and bad guys, face off in the beginning of the routine.
 Routine 2

Missy Green, who plays the damsel in distress, awaits her rescue from the bad guys (L-R Michael Shepherd, Tony Gemignani, Joe Carlucci).
 Routine 3

As the good guys clash with the bad guys, the tricks become more difficult as each group tries to out-perform the other.
 Routine 4

In the end, Siler and Chris prevail, rope the bandits, and save the lady.
 Routine 5

And they ride off into the sunset…bound for Italy….hmmm…Spaghetti Western??!!
 Stageshot

Nice crowd! The team performed for over 3,000 people each night in Germany.