The work of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen King don’t often come together, but they do this summer in performances by Capital City Theatre.
Capital City Theatre, which tries to build connections between Broadway and the local theater community, kicked off its summer season with “On the Town,” the classic Bernstein comedy and musical in tribute to him during his 100th birthday year.
That production had a lot of musical and dance elements that make it one of the more complicated productions CCT has done, said Andrew Abrams, Capital City Theatre Artistic Director. The show ran at Overture Center through June 2.
“This is the first fully-produced, big show with all bells and whistles and a big 20-piece orchestra in the pit,” he said. “It has big, jazzy numbers and big dance and big sound.”
Madison Ballet also collaborated and dancers from the ballet company performed in the show, as well as actors from New York and Chicago and local and regional talent. “On the Town” is the story of three young sailors home on leave during World War II and exploring New York City. Capital City Theatre made the classic tale more timely by casting the three main roles with actors of different ethnicities.
“One of the things I love about doing this show is, I think about how it was written when WWII was still going on,” Abrams said. “It just blows my mind that they were writing this show while this was going on. And they were able to capture that moment of time.”
Capital City Theatre also conducts an educational theatre program, Capital City Theatre Conservatory. The training programs, primarily for high school and college-age performers, provide training and professional guidance in the musical theater field.
In August, their educational conservatory program Find Your Light is performing a play. “Carrie” will be performed by the conservatory actors Aug. 9 to 11.
“We wanted to add a production so students had a place to use these techniques they’ve learned,” Abrams said. “We didn’t start out with a huge show — ‘Carrie’ has 15 people in it so it’s not a huge, huge show. But the thing I love about ‘Carrie’ for high school or college students is it’s young … the whole point of ‘Carrie’ is teen angst. What if you amped up teen angst? You’ve multiplied it by 10 and therefore it’s now great on stage.”
“Carrie” the play has a storied career in theatre. When the musical first debuted on Broadway in 1988, it was considered one of the greatest flops in history. Recent years have found a resurgence of the play, which has been revised to be more like the original book. Its now becoming a popular choice in some youth theater programs.
Abrams saw a revival of the play in 2012.
“I had a really good time,” he said. “And it is just like the book and the movie. You have to be clever about it, it has to have an artistic hook, and this one does.”
Capital City Conservatory Programs help young theater professionals focus on technique, history of musical theater, and the functioning aspects of how to become a performer.
This summer, the program plans to have a Broadway casting director meet students, describe casting, and critique auditions.
Meeting casting directors, meeting actors, practicing auditions, these are all the practical sides of the theater business, Abrams said. A key, but crucial element that’s harder to teach is acting through song.
“Once you know how to sing and dance, the acting is what gets you hired,” he said. “How do you learn how to be you in the room, how to give somebody your personality so that they want to hire you? That’s something high school kids don’t learn because there’s no time in a school production. And then they perform, we give them roles, they get choreography, the advanced group has ballet intensive. They spend 4-5 hours a week learning ballet technique. This all culminates in a showcase style performance where they all perform everything.”