New musicals presented in festival settings are generally a bit dicey because there is never enough time to perfect everything you want to perfect. The Class Act Players Theatre Company, which is made up entirely of 2015 high school graduates from Fairfax County has done the impossible. They have created, from scratch, a brand new musical that is as good as anything I’ve seen created lately by professionals. The story is focused from beginning to end and the score is pretty darn good as well.
…an impressive piece presented by a very impressive group of young artists.
The book by Sarah Marksteiner who also directs is set in depression era Hagerstown, Illinois. Tobiah (Preston Kemp) and his parents Anna (Chloe Gilfoil) and Tobin (Alex Bulova) have fallen on hard times. It’s been a very dry year with virtually no rain. Tobin is now blind and can no longer work. His former partner Gabriel Rosen (played by Marksteiner) is now quite wealthy and living in NY with her daughter Scarlett (Andrea Matten) who is a successful jazz singer. Scarlett has a manager who is the epitome of controlling and sleaziness named Damian (Rob Condas.) This guy is so greasy that he even poisons a potential suitor for Scarlett so he can have her for himself. That plan is thrown off when Tobiah, at the request of his father, is asked to go to NY to collect a debt from Gabriel. He is accompanied there by an enterprising newsboy named Ralph (Rachel Ingle). If you like this setup, the rest of the plot is just as good. See for yourself.
The score is written by Andrea Matten, Chris Mayhew and Sarah Marksteiner (sensing a pattern here) and I must say the songs are in a word excellent. Everything moves the plot along and the songs are perfectly suited to the characters they are written for. Chris Mayhew primarily plays the piano, but he has help from the cast as well on multiple guitars, drums, banjo and even washboard. Yep, they even orchestrated the score. Well done everyone!!!
I am very impressed with all of the performances in this show in both the acting and singing departments. The score is not easy musically but everyone rose to the challenge.
Kemp and Matten have a dynamite duet called “Let’s Make a Memory,” while Toby’s family has the powerful “Pray for Rain.” Condas really landed “Afterthought” with plenty of sincerity and power. Ingle and Kemp deliver “And We Walk” with much fun.
Marksteiner’s direction is well paced and everyone is shown off to their best abilities.
If I can make just one suggestion to these talented youngsters, it would be to maybe try and fix the balance between the piano and the vocals. Maybe try deadening the instrument with some carpeting or something so the sound doesn’t go up and hang in the performance space. You want the audience to hear all of your hard work so this will work in your favor.
Overall Dust to Dust is an impressive piece presented by a very impressive group of young artists. The Class Act Players Theatre Company definitely lives up to its name.
Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.
Dust to Dust runs through July 24th 2015 at Gallaudet University’s Eastman Studio Theatre, which is located at 800 Florida Ave NE in Washington DC.
For tickets, click here.
For info in Capital Fringe, click here.