An online musical for the digital books
[title of show] is a comedy musical about making a musical. The cast is made up of four characters, and the main characters, Hunter and Jeff, are writers racing against a deadline to submit their original music to a festival in three weeks. The musical focuses on their journey as not only writers but as friends.
The concept of watching a musical about writing a musical is meta, but with director Luke Yankee, the cast of four were able to translate the concept perfectly through a screen.
The cast members included Cory Peoples as Jeff Bowen, Colden Lamb as Hunter Bell, Alexa Parvaneh as Susan Blackwell, and Sierra Sutphin as Heidi Blickenstaff. The bubbly Heidi and cynical Susan are quirky counterparts that accompany Jeff and Hunter along for the musical writing ride.
“My favorite part about playing Heida was that I was able to relate to her in a way I never have been able to relate to a character before,” Sutphin said. “Since I am also pursuing a dream of performing on Broadway, I was able to put a lot of myself into the performance.”
Yankee is a man of many talents, including writer, film director, actor, and author. Saddleback College was truly lucky to have him as a virtual director, and his direction helped the musical in the long run.
“Directing this musical was very different from anything I’ve done before,” Yankee said. “Seeing that there were more cons than pros in directing an online musical during a pandemic, the cast made the process just about as easy as they could have. It was certainly a memorable experience.”
The amount of effort and time that went into preparing this musical for an online format was very impressive. Almost all of the jokes landed, and the cast was able to eliminate any disconnect between their characters from their individual homes, where they recorded themselves in front of green screens.
Seeing that this musical was, in fact, a musical, there was a certain level of musical production expected from it. Cast members were expected to learn all of the 17 songs for this 90-minute long musical and were able to keep up with Yankee’s fast pacing.
“Because the cast was only made up of four characters, each actor carried a heavy load,” Parvaneh said. “Nevertheless, it was a blast learning all our songs. Performing ‘Secondary Characters’ with Sierra was the number I always looked forward to.”
The overall set design looked quite simple in Saddleback’s rendition of [title of show]. Upon further research, the actual musical’s set design isn’t very complicated in itself either. The original set consists of four chairs, a radiator, two doors, two windows, a calendar and a framed poster.
The simple set design allows the audience to give their full attention to the four characters as they handle the stress that comes from their impending deadline. One of the best parts of the musical is the sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle, test of friendship between Jeff, the lyricist, and Hunter, the writer.
Overall, the students did a great job following Yankee’s direction and embodying their characters. Some college musicals cross the line that is between good and cringey, and, despite the disadvantage these actors faced, this cast of four did a great job. The plot, music, and emotions translated seamlessly through the screen, which provided a good watch.