Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Great Work Begins

By Victoria Chatfield (Executive Director)

There's literally nothing better than the first week of rehearsal. NOTHING. Walking into a studio for the first time and seeing a team of students coming together to develop a new musical? That's one magical moment. Especially since we've been assembling this particular team for over nine months. Yesterday, I told the cast and crew: "We don't hire anyone unless we absolutely love them." That's completely true. Our librettist, the esteemed I.B. Hopkins, might even say that we "court" the artists that we want to work with (because that's apparently what they say down South).

Looking around at that first read-through, I saw our directors Sam French and Kyle Wilson, both newly-minted Carnegie Mellon graduates, who we knew we wanted to hire even before we had a script selected. (We interviewed both of them back in 2012 during an overnight in Pittsburgh, PA. They were hilarious and charming; we fell in love immediately.) I saw Stephanie Malaspina, our stage manager, who I interviewed in the basement of LaGuardia Arts after all of our previous crew members declared in rousing chorus: "Hire Stephanie!" I saw Reed Lancaster and Tommaso Di Blasi (our Jimmy Carter and Hamilton Jordan respectively); we scouted both of them in their spring musical and knew that we needed to get them onboard. I saw our fantastic WCCS Apprentice Team -- many of whom I've known for years, all of whom work tirelessly to ensure that Jimmy!'s an unequivocal success.

Perhaps most importantly, I saw I.B. Hopkins and Noah Haines -- two musical theater writers who were recommended to me by the Educational Theatre Association's Thespian Playworks staff. For the past few weeks, these two distinguished gentlemen from Georgia have been residing in my guest room, so that they can revise the script and score during the rehearsal process. Before they wheeled their suitcases up to my front door, we hadn't spoken for more than fifteen minutes on the telephone, and I was (quite honestly) terrified of spending almost every waking moment with them. Little did I know that Haines and Hopkins are two of the most passionate, intelligent, and cordial gentlemen you will ever meet. I also did not know that they're two of the hardest-working writers in the business. They went back to the drawing board with Jimmy! and cut over an hour off of the running time -- narrowing in on the heart of the story with laser-focus. I will be forever thankful to them for writing this outstanding musical and teaching me all about the history and geography of Georgia (including the chicken obelisk of Gainesville . . . someone please write a musical about the chicken obelisk of Gainesville . . . please?).

Jimmy!: A Musical Fable with Almost No Historical Basis promises to be one rip-roaring sci-fi spectacular. (With a bevvy of sexy peanuts. Yes, you read that correctly: Sexy. Peanuts.) Everyone who grabs tickets before July 15 gets $5 off -- so embrace the Spirit of a Peanut and buy your Jimmy! tickets today!

We leave you with this footage from today's musical stumble-through. It's the cast working through the opening number, "Yes or No." Did YOU see the UFO?

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