University Theater ‘revues’ and celebrates 50 years

Performers from the Youngstown State University Theater sing and dance to the classic broadway hit “Big Spender.” Photo by Gabrielle Fellows/The Jambar.

Each year, the Youngstown State University Theater produces a musical to open its musical theater season. However, this season, the department of theater and dance decided to dedicate a musical revue to the theater’s 50 years worth of performances and history.

“A Musical Commemoration: Celebrating 50 Years of University Theater” will include songs from productions such as “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “West Side Story,” “Guys ‘n Dolls,” and “Chicago.”

Rebecca Anderson, assistant director of the anniversary celebration, said that she and three other seniors helped pick the theme of the fall play, which also doubles as their senior project.

“The thought started over a year ago,” Anderson said. “Each of us were given a different decade to do, and then we made a complete list of what songs we wanted to have featured in the show from that list.”

(Left to right) Joseph Alvey, John Cruz, Kelly Sullivan practice for the revue during dress rehearsal. The salute to 50 years of theater will premier Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ford Theater in Bliss Hall. Photo by Gabrielle Fellows/ The Jambar.

The cast of 18 began preparing and rehearsing for this production at the beginning of the semester. Anderson said the process of producing the play was very different than other productions that she has directed.

“It is very different because everything in the play is out of context,” she said. “Instead of acts, the show goes through different themes including friendship, romance, heartache, money and power.”

The cast and crew have also had a different experience producing the play than they have with any production they have been in before.

Matthew Malloy, junior and cast member, said that putting together the play was a lot harder than other productions he has been in.

“We had a minimal rehearsal time and there are so many songs in the show to learn,” Malloy said. “There are also a lot of big dance numbers, too, so not only do we have to know the song, we have to know the dance too.”

Ashley Whited, junior and assistant lighting designer, said practices could be a challenge.

“It’s a revue, so it’s a compilation of different plays,” Whited said. “Even though the characters have one set costume, they have to differentiate their characters, and it can sometimes be a challenge to portray the different characters with the same actors.”

The goal of the play is to provide audiences with the joys University Theater has brought to the community and campus over the past 50 years and also to celebrate those who are graduating in the program.

Anderson said that directing the play was bittersweet for her.

“It’s a nice send off for me,” Anderson said. “It’s good to see a big collaborative production like this. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast and crew, so I’m really excited for everyone to come see it.”

“A Musical Commemoration: Celebrating 50 Years of University Theater” will premiere Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ford Theater in Bliss Hall. The musical will run through Nov. 17 with matinee performances at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets for YSU students are free, and tickets to the public cost $10.