Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Asolo Conservatory Salutes Musical Theater with '[Title of Show]'

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Asolo Conservatory Salutes Musical Theater with '[Title of Show]'

Article excerpt

Students in the FSU/Asolo Conservatory get to sing now and again in their classes, workshops and a few special events. But general audiences don't usually see them perform in a full-fledged musical.

In fact, it has been six years since the Conservatory produced Craig Carnelia's musical "Three Postcards."

But this year, four second-year students bring the art form back to the Conservatory while celebrating the joys of musical theater in general with the Tony Award-nominated "."

The bracketed title is not a typographical error. It's part of the joke in the satirical and loving show about two writers and songwriters, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, who quickly put together an original musical to meet a deadline for a festival competition.

And the show they wrote is about two guys named Hunter and Jeff, with their friends and fellow performers Susan and Heidi, creating a show being written as you watch for a festival competition.

Bell and Bowen performed in the show with Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, taking it from the festival to an off-Broadway run and then to Broadway, where it was hailed as a rare example of an original musical not based on a book or a movie.

"The improbable story of this mini-musical's inception, creation and determined effort to break into the theatrical big leagues is precisely what this obsessively and hilariously self-referential show is all about," The New York Times said when the musical opened on Broadway in 2008.

In addition to celebrating and poking fun at the conventions of musicals, the show points out "what it takes in any field to make something out of nothing," said Kim Stephenson, who plays Heidi.

For the four cast members, it has been a perfect opportunity to apply the training they've had over the last three semesters to musical theater.

Stephenson, Evan Reynolds White (Hunter) and Joe Knispel (Jeff) all earned their undergraduate degrees in musical theater. Ally Farzetta, who plays Susan, has appeared in some musicals, but mostly in small or ensemble roles where she could hide.

So there's a good fit with her character "who feels insecure about singing and holding her parts and harmonies, all the stuff I feel insecure about," Farzetta said. "She isn't this experienced musical theater actress, either. I do take comfort in the fact that my character has the same struggles and insecurities that I do."

But it's not necessarily a breeze for the other performers simply because of their past musical experience. …

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