Students collaborate with theater pros for Darling

Students+collaborate+with+theater+pros+for+Darling

Romantic, familial, and musical drama will take the stage of Emerson’s Semel Theater tonight in Darling, a new work presented by Retrop Productions and Rareworks Theatre Company in association with New York-based label Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records.

Tonight’s showing will be the first time the show is presented “on its feet,” according to Darling producer and Retrop Productions Founder Jacob Porter, a junior marketing communication major. The musical has been developed by students and industry professionals over the last few months, making it a brand new production.

“There is nothing quite like, or more challenging than, collaborating to bring a new musical to life,” said Darling director Michael Bello, a senior performing arts major. “We have been lucky enough to welcome the writers to Emerson to change lines, create new songs…We may leave rehearsal on Tuesday with a scene that will change radically by Wednesday morning.”

Darling’s music was composed by Ryan Scott Oliver, and the book (the storyline and dialogue) was written by Brett Ryback. The two are up-and-coming faces in the theater world. This collaboration of professionals and students came about after Porter’s time working at Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records this past summer. Kurt Deutsch, president and founder of Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight, was able to contact Oliver and Ryback and offer them the opportunity to have their musical developed by Emerson students. The writers obliged, and the project began last December.

Developing a musical, according to Porter, is a grueling process that involves creating and shaping the show through essentially trial-and-error, rehearsing and remolding. First, the playwrights came to Emerson to hold preliminary workshops. They discussed the musical with students, which allowed them to question, adjust, and expand upon the material. After the workshops, Oliver and Ryback worked to develop the show with students by taking weekend trips or making video calls.

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“They definitely were a part of the process,” said Porter. “They wanted to be Skyped into rehearsals; they wanted to be involved with the music.”

Darling stars Lauren Chapman, a performing arts major, as Ursula, a Boston teenager who is neglected by her well-to-do, snobbish parents. Junior Maximilian Sangerman, a performing arts major, portrays Peter, an edgy rent-boy — a young male escort — who is being pursued by the police. 

With so little to lose, Ursula decides to join him for an adventure of a lifetime that is filled with love, jazz, and drugs. Set in 1929, the musical has an aura of sensuality and decadence that characterizes the roaring twenties. Despite its risqué nature, the core theme is a concept that any college-aged individual can identify with: finding oneself or getting lost forever.

Porter said the tale contains several nods to the classic fairytale Peter Pan. Although the content is much darker, there are many parallels: Peter and the other rent-boys are representative of the lost boys, and Ursula of Wendy Darling, the young girl whisked away to a carefree life by Peter Pan. The name of the production even alludes to the character, and Peter refers to Ursula as “darling” throughout the production. The magic in Peter Pan also carries over to Darling, albeit in a less whimsical way — scenes depict characters snorting lines of cocaine, or “fairy dust,” so that they can “fly.”

This collaborative production,  which has already managed to sell out both nights at the Semel Theater, will showcase months of work from people with several different perspectives and levels of expertise.

According to Nick Medvescek, the directing producer of RareWorks Theatre Company and a junior performing arts major, “The show that audiences will see on Thursday and Friday night is a testament to the professionalism of theater artists at this school.”

Though both nights of Darling have sold out, a waitlist is available at RareworksTheatreCompany.com. The show premieres tonight at 7 p.m., and will also run tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the Semel Theater.