What started as a 10-minute musical in the form of a class project has transformed over the course of three-and-a-half years, evolving into a two-hour, 18-song musical.
Aaron Krueger, senior from Campbell Hall, N.Y., wrote the music, lyrics and book for the production, a task he describes as “an undertaking, but a lot of fun.”
Inspired by his own love of theater and the lack of contemporary pop/rock musicals performed in this area, Krueger decided it was time to breathe life into his musical. He said he finished the script over the summer before approaching Sock ‘n’ Buskin about performing it on campus.
He said he hopes the production will open audience’s eyes to other types of musical theaters.
“When people think of musical theater they think of Rodgers and Hammerstein, they think of ‘Cinderella’ and stuff like that,” Krueger said. “With a lot of the musicals that are coming out lately – like ‘Next to Normal’ and ‘American Idiot’ – they’re complete rock scores. They’re musicals that speak to a wider range of people because suddenly you have music that people would listen to on the radio and you’re telling a story through that.”
To write the music Krueger said he immersed himself in as much pop and rock music as he could. This ranged from Rihanna to All-American Rejects and Katy Perry to Simple Plan. The opening number, which features no accompaniment, was inspired by videos of a cappella groups performing pop songs.
The story in “New Dawn” focuses on a broken family – a father, son and daughter in a situation where the mother walked out.
“You watch the family fall apart in front of you as the son struggles at school, the daughter gets into some trouble and the father tries to keep them together,” he said. “This is intermingled with the students they interact with all the time. Each student has their own deep, dark secret they’re not telling anyone.”
Krueger said he looked at his own experiences with bullying and high school when penning the story.
“With every single song in this show, every single scene, there is some part of a personal experience that I’ve had in there,” he said. “(Whenever a) playwright or anyone writes anything there has to be so much of themselves in there just for it to be alive. The first time we had people in the room singing any of the songs I was shaking. I was so scared, but I was (also) excited because it was so cool.”
Amanda Wicker, stage manager for the production and senior from Marion, Ky., became friends with Krueger through other productions on campus. She said she was dumbfounded when Krueger first told her he was writing a musical.
“I can remember just hanging out in his room and he would just go on and on about it for hours,” she said. “He would let me listen to little clips of songs that he had just created or things like that.”
She knew the task was daunting, but she said she was not surprised by his ambition.
“He is incredibly talented in music and theater, so it is no surprise that musical theater is his forte,”?she said. “I am so proud of (him).”
Wicker said the work that has gone into the show has been worth it.
“All of the actors and actresses are extremely talented and have all come so far in this show,” she said. “This show has been a lot of hard work and we have all dedicated countless hours to it, but knowing that you have helped one of your best friends achieve one of their lifetime goals is such a rewarding fact.”
The cast performed a few of the songs at Tent City where Krueger said he was surprised by the response to the production.
“We actually had a girl come up (after the performance) and said to Patrick Frame, who’s playing one of the lead characters, that he made her cry with one of the songs he sang,” he said.
Krueger said the experience of watching people perform what he had written was completely different from his previous experiences performing in productions.
“I love performing and it’s a rush getting to go out there on stage and do that, but when you’re sitting back there (directing) it’s terrifying,” he said. “When you’re on stage you’re the one doing it, but when you are sitting back there you have no control over anything and you just have to trust that your actors are going to do exactly what they know they should do.”
Krueger, however, said he did not have to worry about that with this cast.
“The actors we have (in this production) are absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “They’ve given their time and their sweat and tears. There are times that I forget that I wrote this because I’m getting to watch these people mold their characters into their own.”
Krueger said once the show runs this weekend he will continue writing and composing in addition to performing, as well as working more on this project.
“It’s a finished product right now but I’m not done tweaking it to exactly what I want it to be,” he said. “That’s what’s great about doing it in this setting – it’s much like a workshop that they do for musicals. I can still adjust things.”
“New Dawn” runs at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Actors Studio Theatre, located in Wilson Hall 310B. The box office opens an hour before showtime. Krueger said he recommends getting tickets early, as seating is limited. Admission is $5 and proceeds go to Sock ‘n’ Buskin.