“You’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”– 42ND Street (1933)
“Ambition“- thy name be the talented students of the Hartt School at the University of Hartford. We most recently shared our singular thoughts on this current class as they each make their own distinct way in becoming a rising “star”. This graduating group of “actors” are determined and hardworking – each having a strong desire to achieve, and so it was with greatest expectations that we were able to take in their next progression – from the “SMILE” student production stage to taking over the stage of the historic “Goodspeed Opera House” during their most recent “10th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals”
The Goodspeed Festival: For the theater goer- Welcome to GoodSpeed-Opolis – a three day emersion into the exciting world of the theater. For three glorious January days, participants are invited to a roster of special events, screenings, and seminars such as “The Untold Stories of Broadway” or “Vocal Arranging 101” taking place during the day, but it is the evenings that everyone is in suspense for – the pièce de résistance – “The Readings”. Three brand new works, staged readings of new musicals developed and staged during a two-week long program. During this period, three teams of writers and composers are now united with senior musical theater students from The Hartt School and Boston Conservatory, who take part in rehearsals and continued development of the upcoming productions.
According to Hartt graduating student, Carly Glenn, (who’s parents we most recently met at the “SMILE” production), in describing the “process”, – “from 10am – 6pm we are kept extremely busy. The Tuesday that we got there we had our auditions at 10am for the writers, callbacks were at 3 PM and then we were cast that night with a first rehearsal! I was also asked to be in both cabarets (Friday night and Saturday night) and learned four songs in 4-5 days”. Carly continues, “These past two weeks at Goodspeed have been two of the best weeks of my life. I had the chance to work with Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond of Kooman and Dimond, a team that I highly respect on their new musical THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES. However, Saturday night would not have been possible without Lee Overtree, our amazing director, and Brad Gardner, our fabulous music director. This amazing team of four brought out the best in us. I am so proud of the work my classmates have done these past two weeks. I will miss this experience tremendously.”
Three Nights – Three Productions – Fridays reading is of OUTLAWS with Music and Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen and Book by James Preston. The premise-Frustrated with Washington and hard-up for cash, Jesse James and his brother Frank take matters into their own hands – robbing banks, courting the press, and killing anyone who gets in their way. Alternating between sprawling epic and intimate family drama, Outlaws examines the blurred lines between hero and villain, bravery and recklessness, and man and god. My thoughts- the students from Hartt – exceptionally superb- kudos to them all especially Nate Whipple who steals the show as “Bob Ford” and his rendition of “Glory”. Good historic piece- but play needs to strengthen romantic moments and add some comedic interplay throughout to lighten up tragic outcome. Musical numbers a bit monochromatic – look to other western musicals for inspiration ie: “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Oklahoma” or even the tragic “Rent”
Saturday’s reading, THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES, Book and Lyrics by Christopher Dimond, Music by Michael Kooman. The premise: Howard Barnes is a perfectly average man until he discovers that his life has become a musical. Equal parts satire, romantic comedy, and love letter to the American musical, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is a musical for people who love musical theater and their spouses who hate it. My thoughts- highly enjoyable, uplifting and smart! Some might even say it was fun-lovingly infectious! The cast and audience are both in sync in their travels with Howard through the wonderful world of musical theater. Kudos to our leads, Michael Mahady as the musically challenged “Howard”,(don’t Ya just love anyone named Howard?) and “star in the making” Cassandra Dupler as Maggie. Cassie does a super-Dupler turn as the 100 words a minute Maggie. In fact I would like to make one suggestion to Chris Dimond, recreate Maggie’s mile a minute diatribe at the conclusion of the play, Howard reacts by placing his forefinger to her lips, shutting her up, they kiss, fade to black. I would be amiss if I did not mention, the vibrant vocal nuances and the sensitive, moment to moment portrayal of Miss Carly Glenn, who is absolutely stellar in her various roles in this evenings performance.
Sunday’s afternoon reading: FOR TONIGHT, Music & Lyrics by Shenelle Williams and Spencer Williams. Book by Whitney Rhodes, Spencer Williams, and Shenelle Williams. When their parents die of a mysterious illness in their small Welsh village, surviving siblings Thomas, Haydon, and Nettie are forced to fend for themselves. Inspired by the gypsies who once shared their home, Haydon heads off to Liverpool, guitar in hand, to find what he’s been missing. There he meets Mirela who speaks to his wandering soul. Through a riveting indie-rock/folk score, For Tonight explores the indelible power of home. My thoughts: Unfortunately, a New England style ice storm prevented me from taking in the last of the three readings. Hopefully we will see it at a future date.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, and already yearn to see what is developed for “The Readings” next year – another three brand new works!
I send kudos not only to the wonderful creative staff of The GoodSpeed Opera for this 10th Annual Festival but also to the students, teachers and staff at Hartt School- what a remarkable job you are all doing-please keep it up- BRAVO!! What’s next for these students you ask? For Carly Glenn she states, “I’m on my way back to complete my final semester at Hartt. I will be heading to Second City in Chicago post graduation as I was accepted to study with them in their conservatory”. I personally wish all these students, all the luck in the world, and hopefully they will continue to invite me to their upcoming student productions at the Hartt School. Till we meet again….