World Premiere Musical SMALL TOWN STORY At SOPAC Announces Casting
The South Orange Performing Arts Center will host American Theater Group's latest world premiere Small Town Story, a lively musical exploring the theater's power to open minds, from May 31 through June 10.
Featuring a book and lyrics from Sammy Buck and music and lyrics from Brandon James Gwinn, Small Town Story centers on a Texas community that grows deeply divided after its high school announces it will perform Rent for its annual musical. As parents and children clash over the production's subject matter, questions arise over what issues teens can handle. And as the characters grapple with their own fears and secrets, SOPAC audiences are guaranteed to form their own opinions-and feel comfortable enough to discuss them with others.
"After the readings we've done for the show, we've heard people say they've been able to have conversations that they were not able to have two hours prior," Buck said. "You see reflections of yourself in these characters, and some characters will surprise you. There will be people you think you don't agree with, but over the course of the story you realize 'Oh, I really get what they're saying now. And, oh gosh, I believe that!'"
Buck and Gwinn acknowledge Small Town Story reflects the country's current political climate, with the debate over topics like sex, drugs, and gender identity helping to inform what goes on in the story. But the musical is far from a heavy melodrama. Instead, it features numerous upbeat, fun songs fusing pop with country that are sure to lift listeners' hearts.
"There are multiple moments where I think you can really rock out with what's going on onstage," Gwinn said. "So you can feel some things, have a great time, and then have a really meaningful conversation with your loved ones after."
These show is brought to life by a highly talented cast featuring several New Jersey-based performers. The actors include Zack Blanchette, Jessi Clayton, Sunnie Eraso, Thursday Farrar, AJ Foggiano, Ilana Gabrielle, Stacey Todd Holt, Nia Marche, Claire McClanahan, Jaqueline Neeley, Frank Paiva, Lionel Ruland, Nick Siccone and Joanna Young. Eddie Prunoske serves as director.
Leads Joanna Young and Stacey Todd Holt are residents of South Orange-Maplewood, while Claire McLanahan hails from Metuchen. Nick Siccone, who plays outspoken teen Scott Ames, is a native of Basking Ridge.
Also steering the show is American Theater Group's producing artistic director James Vagias, who is excited to bring Small Town Story to the stage through ATG's partnership with SOPAC. Several years after being impressed by a reading of the show, Vagias is eager for audiences to finally see how "phenomenal" the musical is. And he does not think anyone will go home disappointed.
"It's very entertaining," Vagias said. "A lot of the things in it are going to resonate with audiences. And finally, I just think it's going to be a terrific, terrific show."
To learn more about Small Town Story, visit https://www.sopacnow.org/small-town-story/ or call the box office at 973-313-2787.
Photo: Stacey Todd Holt plays Larry Ames in Small Town Story