Lantern Theater Company Presents The World Premiere Of MINORS, A New Musical
Lantern Theater Company's 25th anniversary season comes to a musical close with the world premiere of Minors, which opens tonight. Commissioned and developed through the Lantern's New Works Program, this intimate American roots rock drama is the inaugural work of Kittson O'Neill and Tony Award-winning sound designer and composer Robert Kaplowitz. Barrymore Award-winner Matthew Decker directs an ensemble cast of Philadelphia musical theater veterans and newcomers, including Ben Dibble, Jennie Eisenhower, Brady Fritz, Marybeth Gorman, Paul L. Nolan, Terran Scott, Sav Souza, Grace Tarves, and Mekhi Williams. Amanda Morton serves as the production's music director.
The expanded six-week performance schedule runs Thursday, May 23 through Sunday, June 30, 2019; opening night is Wednesday, May 29 at 7 p.m. A complete schedule of performances and audience enrichment events is included in the fact sheet below.
Inspired by the "kids for cash" scandal in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County in the early 2000s, this compelling new work of musical theater tells the story of four families fighting against a corrupt political machine that turned their children into commodities. The musical follows the children - middle and high school students, played by young professional actors - on their journey through the local criminal justice system. Incarcerated for minor infractions and without proper due process, they and their parents try to overcome a sense of helplessness in the face of institutional corruption, including judges taking bribes from the privately-owned prison operator who seeks to keep the cells fully occupied. Through song, the families express their frustrations with their present lives buffeted by economic and educational limitations, and their hopes for a better future.
Lantern Artistic Director Charles McMahon commissioned Lantern collaborators Kittson O'Neill and Robert Kaplowitz to create Minors, believing they were uniquely qualified to bring this story to the stage. "The scandal was seared into my memory as a quintessential example of the negative unintended consequences when public goods like justice are privatized," McMahon said. McMahon was also confident that a musical was the theatrical form best suited to tell this story: "Musical theater, like opera, can often best serve as the emotionally resonant form of storytelling when injustice and tragedy are at stake. Music can play a powerful role in rousing our emotions - and in healing them."
Philadelphia director, actor, and new play dramaturg Kittson O'Neill created the book and co-wrote the lyrics for Minors. In describing her inspiration, O'Neill explains "the potency of this story is that this injustice was visited on kids. For me, there is a really precious and magical thing that happens when you're a teenager, which is this coming to understand the world you live in and your place in it. This kind of exploitation radically disrupts that in a way that, for some of these kids, was very difficult to ever repair."
Robert Kaplowitz, O'Neill's husband and writing partner, found his own inspiration in composing the play's American roots rock music. While acknowledging that roots rock might be unexpected for a musical, Kaplowitz felt it was the right choice to tell the story of Minors. "Finding that way to have the driving energy of an electrically amplified instrument that sings in the same vocal range as the human and tells story has been a really interesting adventure."
Lantern Theater Company will delve into the world of Minors on its Lantern Searchlight blog, available online at lanterntheater.org/searchlight. Published articles will explore the judicial scandal that inspired Minors, the push for privatization of our public services, polemical theater from Shaw to Brecht to today, the stylistic and thematic range of the modern American musical, and an expanded interview with creators Kittson O'Neill and Robert Kaplowitz. New content will be added throughout the production's run.
Tickets for Minors are $28 - $43 and are available online at lanterntheater.org or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. Discounts are available for students, seniors 65 and up, U.S. military personnel, and groups of 10 or more. Lantern Theater Company is located at St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Sts. in Center City Philadelphia.