Make a decision. Take a chance. See what’s out there. What are you afraid of?
“See Rock City and Other Destinations”
At Arthur Miller Theater
These are just a few of the take-home mantras provided by the Department of Musical Theatre’s latest production, “See Rock City and Other Destinations.” The new musical plays out like a series of short stories. It consists of six one-act segments, each with its own score with musical styles ranging from pop-rock to more traditional musical theater tunes.
“The play takes place at six different tourist locations, all with different expectations of what people expect from being there,”said Bret Wagner, Department of Musical Theatre chair and “See Rock City” director.
The plot doesn’t follow the same characters from start to finish. Each one-act segment introduces new characters with different sets of goals, challenges and hopes for what they will discover on their journey.
“Each (act) tells a different story, and they are connected by a theme of people trying to connect in relationships — different kinds of relationships,” Wagner said.
Audiences will be introduced to a diverse set of characters: a vengeful, recently dumped boyfriend hell-bent on encountering intelligent life in Roswell, N.M., two boys who play hooky from Dalton School in New York City to go to Coney Island and discover something shocking, and a girl who ditches her fiancé at the altar in Niagara Falls. The one constant character between each act, called “The Tourist,” acts as a conscience for the hit-or-miss connections between each character, guiding them through their journeys.
“It’s meant to have a cumulative effect,” Wagner said.
“It’s brave of the writers because I think when people see shows they don’t expect that. They expect a plot to follow the characters all the way through.”
Wagner believes that the common themes between the different characters and scenarios will be clear to the audience at the end: “I think you can relate to the characters, but you kind of have to let go of what preceded it and go to the next.”
Since this is the department’s studio production, the budget is limited and the show is much smaller in scale.
“People aren’t going to see large scenery or rolling sets, so really it’s a project for the actors,” Wagner explained.
Because only the department’s black rehearsal furniture is used to create the six different locations explored in “See Rock City,” audiences will need to come equipped with their imaginative thinking caps.
“It’s a chance for the public to see the work, the actors and to use their imaginations,” Wagner said.
The Department of Musical Theatre tries to produce at least one new show every year. This is because, according to Wagner, when performance graduates move to New York, a lot of their experiences will be in an off-Broadway setting working on new plays similar to “See Rock City.”
“I am trying to really prompt the student imagination — I’d say that there’s a lot of different kinds of writers out there and a lot of different approaches to the work,” Wagner said.
“It’s one of my goals to expose (students) to as (many productions) as possible.”
Music, Theatre & Dance senior Alle-Faye Monka said her experience acting in this show has been unique because the original writers and composers were in contact with the cast. When the department performs classic Broadway shows, the actors only have past performances, the director and the musical director on which to base their artistic interpretations.
“Actually hearing what (the writers) had to say about it was so great because you get the real insight,” Monka said.
“It’s interesting to know what you’re really being a part of. Especially because (‘See Rock City’) is not a completed work. It’s cool to know that (the writers) are going to come here and watch us perform, and if we do something that they like, they might just keep it.”
“See Rock City and Other Destinations” is a contemporary musical about contemporary people, places and experiences. The broad-ranging score and series of relatable circumstances and characters should leave audiences touched. And, with the production’s characters and musical numbers, the show just might be on its way to becoming established in the Broadway world.