Premiere of the musical “Dreamland” for teenagers in West Chester

“Dreamland” was conceived by writers Nathan Theissen and Chris Miller for performers like Scherer: young people who are fond of theater. Concord Theatricals Licensed Theater Company and Association of Educational Theaters commissioned Thyssen and Miller to develop a musical specifically for school theater programs.

This production is staged by the Uptown Education Department! and the Knauer Center for the Performing Arts in West Chester, which draws its performers from several district high schools. It only works this weekend.

The Dreamland, housed at the Uptown Knauer Center for the Performing Arts in West Chester, is well suited for youth theater, with a large cast and songs written for young actors. (Emma Lee / WHY)

All the main characters in “Neverland” are young people, the music is written in the keys that best suit their developing voice, and the cast can be as big as a set of talents.

“The high school theater program means you have a lot of kids who want to be participants in it. There are only so many lead roles, there is a certain amount of chorus. So you break someone’s heart all the time, ”Tyssen said. “If you can build a show with flexible acting – we have aliens. In this show you can have as many aliens as you like. You can have five, you can have 10, you can have 80! ”

The content – love and aliens – is more in line with the ideas of teenagers. No need to personify, for example, a Jewish elder in a Russian village (Violinist on the Roof) or a French revolutionary who is destined to die (Les Miserables).

Star fans of “Dreamland” – scientists who fall victim to the cunning of an invisible alien. (Emma Lee / WHY)

Music director Scott Anthony says he has often had to manipulate popular Broadway shows to fit a younger cast.

“One of those I can think of was hard, was Pippin,” he said. “The ranges don’t match the male roles. At this age it is very difficult to get boys to sing these tall mothers. There are other scores that are just very good scores, but they just aren’t suitable for young singers to sing. ”

Uptown music director Scott Anthony provides off-stage musical accompaniment while players rehearse. (Emma Lee / WHY)

Anthony says the music in Dreamland is easy to master, and holds your ear.

“It’s not muted. In fact, it is well written, ”he said. “I like music, but it’s simple, and the kids didn’t have much trouble picking it up.”

One of the great numbers for Anthony is the title song “Dreamland,” sung by one of the teens who suddenly dumps her boyfriend after Pak has put a love bowl on her.

“It’s right after she ran into two guys fighting for her boyfriend,” said 17-year-old Darby Spockman, who sings the part. “She’s angry at Dreamland for losing her chances of getting what she wants. It will change her mind: it sucks, but I’m going to go through it. ”

Darby Spockman sings the title song from “Dreamland.” She portrays Rebecca, a teenage pilot who dreams of joining the Air Force. (Emma Lee / WHY)

Songwriters Thyssen and Miller have serious powers. Together they wrote the music for the Broadway show “Tuck Everlasting”. Thyssen also wrote lyrics for the Broadway show Paradise Square, for which he is now nominated for a Tony Award, one of the 10 nominations for the show.

“It’s a really big deal. And, to tell the truth, they haven’t buried it yet. ” he said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write.”

“Dreamland” differs from “Paradise Square” in that the show has never been staged on Broadway. It is part of the musical theater industry designed for non-professionals.

Licensing companies often offer popular Broadway musicals that have been rewritten and reworked for high schools and community theater groups. But in a decade of professional writing for the Thyssen Theater, no one has ever been asked to come up with a whole show from scratch designed for young performers.

“I don’t think it’s a common thing. This was the first time I was approached to do so. I would like to do it every year of my life, ”he said. “Everyone seems to be watching Broadway, no matter what the project. That’s why it’s so long to develop and raise money, get a theater and see if it’s successful. ”


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