It isn’t every day that the creators of a Broadway hit hand over the creative reins to a bunch of student thespians.
Enter stage left: A little Interlochen magic.
This fall, musical theatre students at Interlochen Arts Academy (IAA) are collaborating with the creators of the award-winning Broadway musical [title of show] – yes, that is the actual name of the production – and will be the first to expand its cast for the stage.
[title of show] – its name taken from the blank space on a festival application form – was co-created by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen. Both men won Obie (Off-Broadway) Awards for the show, and Bell was a Tony Award-nominee for Best Book of a Musical.
In a nutshell, [title of show] is about “two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical,” says Bill Church, director of theatre and comparative arts at IAA. “It’s a love song to the art of collaboration.”
How’d Interlochen get a shot at re-shaping the Broadway show? Church had been on the hunt for a forward-thinking musical he and his students could take to New York as part of the Academy’s 50th anniversary celebration this year. He wanted to perform [title of show], but there was a problem – it has a cast of just four. Knowing that Bell and Bowen had developed a version of the show for high school students, Church threw out some ideas about how to incorporate more talent into the show and got the thumbs up.
“With those brilliant ideas, combined with my hands-on experiences with the students, and the reputation of Interlochen, we knew this was a serendipitous opportunity to continue [title of show]'s journey,” says Bell.
A little credit for this Interlochen-Broadway collaboration also goes back a couple of decades when Church was suitemates with Bell during his freshman year at the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis.
Though Bell ultimately went on to New York and the stage, and Church returned to his alma mater in 2005 as an instructor in the theatre department, the two have kept in touch. Bell has also been a guest artist at Interlochen twice – most recently this past summer working with camp students.
Adds Church, “The creators have granted us some permission to play around a bit … that is rare. This interaction [with Bell and Bowen] will give the cast a new window into the creative process and a deep sense of ownership of the final product.”
The new, expanded version of [title of show] opens Nov. 8 at Interlochen’s Harvey Theatre and runs through the 10th. The show will then be transported to New York for a Nov. 16-18 run at the Helen Mills Theater. Tickets for the Interlochen debut go on sale Oct. 8 at 9 a.m. $22 adult, $18 senior, $9 student. Call the Interlochen Box Office at 800-681-5920.