Kevin McGuire Brings World Premiere of SOME PEOPLE HEAR THUNDER to Capital Repertory Theatre
Some People Hear Thunder is a powerful musical love story-an uplifting tale of a young reporter, his true love in America, and Armenians fighting for dignity and survival in the face of brutality. Set between 1914 and 1915, in New York and southern Turkey, in the midst of shocking historical events, Some People Hear Thunder comes to life through song, dance and beautiful storytelling.
The world premiere of Some People Hear Thunder-written by Gerson Smoger and Jeffrey Sorkin-is being brought to Albany by longtime Capital Region and Broadway performer Kevin McGuire, who directs and stars. This independent production debuts at Capital Repertory Theatre, April 28-May 21.
"I am always interested in telling stories rooted in the truth," McGuire says. "Plays and musicals about real people excite me, shows like Frost/Nixon, The Sound of Music, Hamilton. I feel that way about Some People Hear Thunder. While Gerson has created characters and situations, the tale is woven throughout with fact. The events really happened."
"There's a responsibility that comes with telling this kind of story, and I'm attracted to that."
McGuire, who previously starred at theREP in Man of La Mancha, Red, A Christmas Carol, Other Desert Cities and Hamlet (which he also directed), met Smoger-a noted environmental and human rights lawyer-nearly 30 years ago, and their decades-long artistic discussion helped result in the creation of Thunder.
Smoger first became involved with the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide while working in Geneva at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
"As a result, Gerson is uniquely invested in this topic and he uses his deep knowledge to make a complex story very clear and remarkably musical," says McGuire, who has been involved in every aspect of Some People Hear Thunder, from an initial San Francisco workshop performance in 2015 to the seven weeks of New York casting leading to this production.
"The play speaks to repression, it speaks directly to the global refugee crisis, it speaks to lost peoples looking for a home. It is very pertinent to our time."
Remarkably, the play also has local roots-some of those fleeing the contested region early in the century arrived in Albany, Troy and the surrounding areas, creating a tightly-knit Armenian community.
As he did at the Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall, McGuire has unearthed nationally-credited talent with local ties, and is presenting them in their home region for the first time, alongside a bevy of other New York professionals making their Albany premiere.
Hoosick Falls native McGuire, in addition to his work locally at Hubbard Hall and theREP, has played the lead on Broadway in both Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, and is also hailed for his work in touring and regional theatre. He plays Zoravar Der Kaloustian in Some People Hear Thunder, while Joan Hess (Broadway-Mamma Mia!, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Kiss Me Kate, Crazy for You-and TV-the "leggy blonde" in HBO's Flight of the Conchords) plays his wife, Angelique.
Newsies tour star Alex Prakken plays reporter Jason Karras. Albany native Rachel Rhodes-Devey, who recently appeared at Proctors in the national tour of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, is Karras' love interest, Carole Chapin, who relates the story.
They are joined by popular Penguin Random House narrator and descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors Grace Experience (Anoush Andreasian); Spamalot tour veteran Michael Berry, who has relatives in Albany (Dikran Andreasian); Capital Region native and Capital Repertory Theatre favorite Shayne David Cameris (Daniel Der Kaloustian); Berkshires resident, Mac-Haydn Theatre regular and star of the national tour of My Fair Lady Steve Hassmer (Nicholas Karras, Reverend Nokhoudian); and Ghent resident and renewed actor James Occhio (Charles Chapin, Effendi).
Brianna Barnes, Matthew Winning (co-director of theREP's recent On-The-Go! production of They Built America) and Jessica Wockenfuss (national tours of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, The Little Mermaid and Spamalot) complete the ensemble, along with show choreographer/dance captain Freddy Ramirez, who returns to theREP following work in Gypsy, The Secret Garden, A Christmas Story and Camelot.
In addition to composing Some People Hear Thunder alongside Smoger (the two have also created Tobit: The Oratorio), Sorkin orchestrated much of the piece and created vocal arrangements, which will be supervised by Music Director/Orchestrator Josh D. Smith (Camelot, The Secret Garden, A Christmas Story, The Trip to Bountiful).
"I've worked at theREP as an associate artist for five years now," says McGuire, "and I have seen it build and expand in every way-from artistic intent to workforce development. And (Producing Artistic Director) Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill has really focused her vision on developing new works. I proposed to Gerson that Some People Hear Thunder be brought to Albany as an independent production-as a gift-because the people here support theatre and support growth. They see the future in new plays and musicals."
"This is just the very beginning, and Albany will get to see this story first."
Preview performances for Some People Hear Thunder take place April 28-May 4. Opening night is Friday, May 5. Regular performances continue through Sunday, May 21. Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday-with matinees 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $25 to $55. Children 17 and under: $15 all shows. For tickets and information, call Tickets By Proctors, (518) 445-SHOW (7469) or visit capitalrep.org or somepeoplehearthunder.com.