‘Shout! The Mod Musical’ premieres on the outdoor stage of Lake Dillon Theatre Co.
At first, their voices were out of tune. Their movements were rusty. But after a year of not performing, these actors are now ready to take their place on the stage for “Shout! The Mod Musical.” Lake Dillon Theatre Co.’s outdoor summer season kicked off this week with the premiere of the 1960s-themed production Wednesday, July 14.
Associate Artistic Director Melissa Livingston is directing for the first time since “The Roommate” went on pause in 2020. With that play’s set still sitting on the stage awaiting a September run, along with wanting to take advantage of summer weather, “Shout!” is being presented on the outside stage of the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center.
Preparing for the show has been a challenging and unique experience. The company has to follow not only local health guidelines, but also those set by unions such as the Actor’s Equity Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Union. Livingston said they started working on a 26-page proposal for union approval in February but that it wasn’t accepted because the nature of the pandemic was changing. She later sent an eight-page proposal that was approved for outdoor theater on the basis of fully vaccinated cast and staff, including box office workers and bartenders.
The audition process was entirely video-based, which typically doesn’t happen unless a person auditioned in person first. A condensed timeline led to casting decisions made in mid-April instead of March and rehearsals starting in July.
Both “Shout!” and the upcoming “8-Track: The Sound of the ’70s” were selected by the theater to make things simpler since they use prerecorded accompaniment tracks rather than a live band. Livingston also chose “Shout!” because of its message.
Entirely about female empowerment, the off-Broadway musical by Phillip George and David Lowenstein centers on five women of various ages and backgrounds in the 1960s and 1970s writing to a magazine advice columnist for guidance on relationships and other issues. The soundtrack includes songs from the era, including cast favorites like “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “I Only Want to Be With You” and “Tell the Boys.”
“A lot of times in our culture, we see the mean girls,” Livingston said. “We see the women tearing each other down in order to get ahead. It’s really important to me to portray women supporting one another.”
The women only go by colors as their name: Orange (Kenya Hamilton), Blue (Carrie Lyn Brandon), Green (Abigail Gardner), Yellow (Alexa Hendrickson) and Red (Abby Matsusaka). The colors represent their different personalities — such as the wife and mother Orange or the sexual-freedom embodying Green — and tie into the costumes worn.
Abigail Gardner, from left, Alexa Hendrickson, Carrie Lyn Brandon and Abby Matsusaka sing while rehearsing for Lake Dillon Theatre Co.’s production of “Shout! The Mod Musical” on Wednesday, July 14. It is the first musical for the theater company’s outdoor summer season. | Photo by Michael Yearout / Michael Yearout Photography
What: “Shout! The Mod Musical”
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through July 25
Where: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center’s outdoor stage, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne
Cost: Tickets start at $32 for adults and $25 for students. Visit LakeDillonTheatre.org to purchase.
More info: Seating is reserved on the gridded lawn. Patrons must bring their own chairs or blankets. Outside food is allowed, but alcohol must be purchased from the theater bar. Pets are not allowed, and masks are not required. If the weather is worse than a light sprinkle, people can receive a refund or reschedule.
Brandon and Matsusaka have never acted with Lake Dillon before while Hendrickson, Gardner and Hamilton are returning performers. It’s the first in-person performance for most of them, and they’ve been adjusting to the altitude and rain delays as well as getting used to singing, dancing and using British accents again.
“It’s hard to get back into the groove of getting choreography in your body and harmonies in your brain,” Brandon said. “That’s been probably the biggest challenge for me, just getting back into the swing of eight-hour rehearsals and really retaining that information.”
Gardner likened it to riding a bike. Having spent time in Summit County for “Mama Mia!” in 2019, she said it has gone smoothly as her familiarity with the crew eased some anxiety. Others mentioned that the similar-sounding songs made it difficult to keep track of the musical’s order. Nevertheless, they recognize how lucky they are to be working because they said not many other theaters put out casting calls as early as Lake Dillon.
The actors have occupied their time over the past year by visiting family in their home states, such as California, North Carolina and Louisiana. They picked up hobbies like ukulele, biking, knitting, painting, starting a book, teaching voice lessons and more. Hamilton — returning to Summit having done “Sister Act,” “Ghost” and “Rock of Ages” — took advantage of the Actors’ Equity Association offer to take classes online for her to pursue a master’s degree in marketing.
Matsusaka got more involved in politics, and Brandon began volunteering with an organization that trains women to run for office. Matsusaka said shows post-pandemic such as “Shout!” can be used to elevate and spotlight issues.
“Coming back into this climate of theater, everyone is a little more aware of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Matsusaka said. “… We now all have passion projects and things that we’re very interested in, and now we get to carry that love and knowledge into our art, into our theater, and make sure everything we put on stage should still be on stage and still needs a voice that amplifies the things that haven’t had that before.”
Matsusaka said there are some darker moments but also plenty of joy and laughter while the shows still focus on the empowerment message. Gardner said the lightheartedness is especially needed right now and makes for a good public reintroduction to theater. Even though jukebox musicals are often looked down upon, she said audiences will adore the hit songs.
“Especially because I think it’s outdoors, we’re going to have a lot more people sitting in their chairs and clapping and dancing and tapping their feet,” Gardner said. “It’s not a dark theater where you feel like that’s not appropriate. It mixes the concert aspect with the theater.”
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