Cedar Rapids – We’re trying out a new type of article today called Google Preview. We have Backstage articles which feature interviews with artists working on a particular show and, of course, we have Reviews. Google Previews are a little different in that we’re going to scour the internet (and our own brains) to present to you interesting facts about upcoming shows. For this inaugural post, we’re going to look at two upcoming shows.
Theatre Cedar Rapids will present two very different shows in June. One is a classic 1970s musical and the other is a lesser known musical from this decade. Let’s take a quick look at these two shows, The Burnt Part Boys and A Chorus Line.
Opening first on June 19 in the Grandon Studio, The Burnt Part Boys is a coming of age story set in West Virginia’s coal country in 1962. The music was written by Chris Miller and the lyrics were written by Nathan Tysen. As I was Googling the show, I found this response from Miller and Tysen.
What’s your favorite song or moment in the show?
“The sequence that includes the songs “The Climbing Song” and “Disappear.” We set out to write a coming-of-age adventure musical in the spirit of The Goonies and Stand By Me, and this sequence is a perfect blend of cinematic and theatrical storytelling. “The Climbing Song” works like film underscoring (It is the soundtrack to the boys’ adventure); which deftly segues into “Disappear” which is a more straight-forward musical theatre song that focuses on the inner turmoil of one of the boys. It’s also important to note the boys are climbing to an abandoned mine for nearly 80% of the show, and by the time “Disappear” ends, they have reached their destination. This makes the sequence both thrilling and dangerous. We also have a song called “Dusty Plays the Saw” where a teenage boy literally sings and plays a saw. I think we made musical theatre history with that one.”
These two artists also recently wrote the score to a musical based on Natalie Babbit’s fantasy children’s novel, Tuck Everlasting. (Next season, TCR?)
When this musical first premiered off Broadway April 30, 2010, the country was dealing with a devastating explosion on April 5 that caused the deaths of 29 miners in West Virginia, the nation’s worst coal-mining disaster in 40 years. And then on April 28, the roof collapsed in a western Kentucky mine, claiming the lives of two more men, both in their 20s.
In a New York Times article about the show, Marina Elder, who wrote the book of the musical, was asked about the impact of this tragedy on the show.
On a recent Saturday afternoon between preview performances, Ms. Elder described the impact of reading a news brief with wording almost identical to a radio announcement heard in the play about a partial mine collapse. “It immediately sharpened my sense of the ache, because I realized there were people right at that moment waiting to hear if their loved ones were going to come home,” she said.
Ms. Elder wiped away tears as she recalled a television interview with a West Virginia woman whose 13-year-old son went to bed that night not knowing if his father was still alive. The woman got a 2 a.m. call confirming that her husband was dead, but she decided not to wake her son and tell him, allowing him one more night of hope.
News coverage of the recent accidents, as well as historical research, has constantly underscored for the creative team the nobility of people in mining communities who face daily reminders of their loved ones’ mortality.
And let’s end our quick look with this quote from the New York Times review:
“A tuneful and warm-spirited, family-friendly new show – the spirit of youthful high jinks recall the exploits of Mark Twain’s beloved roughhousers, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.” -Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
But here’s the scary news, folks: the first Friday and Saturday performances of The Burnt Part Boys are SOLD OUT! So if you want tickets, you might want to order them soon!
In contrast to the Burnt Part Boys, most theatregoers have heard of the famous musical, A Chorus Line, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante. It opened on Broadway in 1975, won nine Tony awards, and ran for 6,137 performances. Here’s a quick synopsis from the TCR website:
Set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for a musical, A Chorus Line tells the story of several dancers who aspire to be on Broadway. All the performers come from different backgrounds and have varying abilities. In between learning audition steps, they each reveal their most personal stories in interviews with the director, Zach.
Here are some fun facts about the show:
- A Chorus Line was originally choreographed by Michael Bennett. Bennett has won seven Tony Awards for choreographing and directing and has been nominated for an additional eleven.
- The original name of the production was to be Chorus Line, but the show’s producers added the ‘A’ so that the show would be listed first alphabetically in all materials.
- A Chorus Line is based on the true stories of actual performers who came together to tell their tales during a series of taped workshops. They sold their stories to director Michael Bennett for a dollar each. Eight of these performers actually played their own characters in the Broadway production.
- A Chorus Line was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976.
- The night President Gerald Ford attended a performance of A Chorus Line on Broadway, the lighting board failed and was patched with paperclips, scotch tape and chewing gum.
TCR’s production opens June 26 in the main auditorium. Two of the actors who were asked why they auditioned for the show and gave these responses:
“The story of these characters is the story of every artist, in some way. It’s important.” –Kevin Moore, Zach
“To do what you feel naturally, or what inspires you, to let the inner artistic rebel out-as opposed to fighting your instincts and pleasing others around you. That speaks to me.” –Alisabeth Von Presley, Cassie
Tickets for both of these shows through the TCR website.