AU Theatre To Transport Audiences With Smash-Hit, Off-Broadway Musical

AU Theatre To Transport Audiences With Smash-Hit, Off-Broadway Musical

1/23/14 ASHLAND, Ohio - Ashland University Department of Theatre continues its 2013-2014 season "Exploring World and Self” with the Smash-Hit, Off-Broadway musical “Songs for a New World” by Jason Robert Brown. Co-directed by Dr. Teresa Durbin-Ames, associate professor of theatre, and senior musical theatre major Emily Jeppesen (Jefferson, Ohio), evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in Hugo Young Theatre on Feb. 14, 15, 21 and 22, along with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Feb. 16.

Billed as a series of songs connected by the theme "It's about one moment," this Pop, Gospel, Jazz musical revue transports audiences through time and across the world from the deck of a 1492 Spanish ship to a ledge 57 stories above Fifth Avenue.

Cast members introduce those attending to a startling array of characters ranging from a young man who has determined that basketball is his ticket out of the ghetto, to a woman whose dream of marrying rich nabs her the man of her dreams and a soulless marriage.

As explained by Jeppesen, “Each one [character] is somewhere in the midst of a major upheaval where they must make a choice; some make that choice during or immediately after the song, while others reflect on the decisions they have made in their lives and where those decisions have taken them. All of these people are on the edge of the cliff about to throw themselves off, and some turn to God for strength while others look within themselves for the power to take that step into the unknown.”

The driving, exquisitely crafted score by Brown runs the gamut of today's popular music. Dr. Durbin-Ames emphasizes, "He was only 25 when the show opened [in 1995], yet the structure and content of the songs show a maturity beyond his years. The score was recorded by RCA in January of 1996 allowing another generation of musical theatre artists the opportunity to listen over and over again to the songs as Brown himself did as a child. Since “Songs for a New World,” Brown has worked not only as a composer and lyricist, but as a rehearsal accompanist, keyboard player, music director and orchestrator. A few years later, Brown would have the chance to write the music and lyrics for “Parade,” directed by Harold Prince. The show won a Tony Award for Best Score gaining Brown recognition of his work.

The five cast members who portray multiple characters in the show include senior musical theatre majors Katie Mounts (Ashland), Kelsey Bowens (Willoughby), Jacob Poiner (Wellington) and Christian Neely (Amherst), along with junior theatre major De'Andre Peterson (Garfield Heights). 

In addition to co-directing the production, Dr. Durbin-Ames and Jeppesen are choreographers for the show while Dr. Rowland Blackley, professor of music and director of choral activities, is the music director. The production crew includes senior theatre major Kelli Lennox (Gahanna) as the set designer, lighting design by Jason Coale, assistant professor of theatre and resident scenic designer; costume design by Sarah Russell, assistant professor of theatre and resident costume designer; and technical director J. Michael Desper as the sound designer. Sophomore theatre major Natalyn Baisden (Wooster) and junior theatre major Taylor Stepp (Atwater) are the show's stage manager and assistant stage manager, respectively.

New for the 2013-2014 theatre season is "Inside the Season" pre-show talks, which are offered before the second Friday performance of each production. The "Inside the Season" pre-show talk for “Songs for a New World” will be held Friday, Feb. 21, at 6:45 p.m. Patrons will have an opportunity to discuss the show with the directors who will lead the pre-show talk. They will give audience members the inside story as they learn more about the production and its creators.

Tickets for the performances are $10 for adults; $9 for senior citizens, students, University faculty/staff; $8 for groups of 10 or more; and $2 for Ashland University students.

To purchase tickets, call the Ashland University Box Office at 419-289-5125, Monday through Friday, 12 to 6 p.m.; or purchase online 24/7 at www.ashland.edu/tickets. For more information about the department of theatre, visit www.ashland.edu/theatre, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AshlandUniversityTheatre or contact Tricia Applegate, coordinator of performing arts publicity and events, at 419-289-5950 or tapplega@ashland.edu.

Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###