Musical Theater Society fundraises for homeless with musical.
The discovery of Broadway flop Brooklyn when he was in the seventh grade forever changed the musical styling of junior visual and media arts major Andrew Barret Cox. With the help of online fundraising website Kickstarter and the Musical Theater Society, Cox realized saw his dream of eight years come to life on Monday night with the premiere of Brooklyn in the Cabaret.
The musical follows the characters as they stagea play. Five homeless men and women present an “urban fairytale” of struggling musician Taylor Collins and Faith, the love of his life. In Paris, Collins unknowingly got Faith pregnant before leaving for the Vietnam War. Feeling abandoned Faith killed herself, leaving her five-year-old daughter an orphan. That orphan, named Brooklyn after the borough her father lived in, grew up to be an adored singer who only wants to be reunited with her dad.
Cox’s production, through the Musical Theater Society, was put together in only six rehearsals, with the five member cast learning all the songs during the first practice.
“Andrew is legally insane,” said sophomore musical theater major Gabe Gibbs, who played Collins in the show. “He operates on a different brain level. There was no place for goofing around during our time crunch and with his artistic vision.”
A dirty tarp with the phrase “once upon a time” adorned the stage, covered in an urban, orange glow from stage lights. Milk crates, boxy television sets and a trashcan worthy of Oscar the Grouch added to the decayed, homeless flavor of the text and the music of the show.
For Cox, realizing his dream musical wasn’t daunting; it was the moment he’d been waiting for.
“Everything I’ve ever done is based off this show,” said Cox, who gained notice last semester for his Rocky Horror-esque musical creation Pokémon: The 90s Rock Show. “And I had so many ideas for Brooklyn from eight years of listening to it and planning.”
One of Cox’s ideas was to cut the show’s running time.
“I can see this show’s mistakes,” said Cox of the 2004 Broadway production that failed to gain traction amongst theatergoers and shut down after less than 300 performances. “But I also saw what it could be.”
For comparison, Broadway sensation Wicked, which opened around the same time, is still running with well over 3000 performances in the can.
The role of the character Taylor Collins, who became a heroin addicted war veteran, was reduced in Cox’s version of the play. In the original musical, audience members saw Collins murdering a family in Vietnam, even offering the visual of him shooting the family with his guitar, trying to be clever but coming across laughable according to Cox. He was adamant that his version wouldn’t be that ‘silly’ and didn’t want it to bite off more than it could chew.
“They tried to make it this big production,” said Cox. “I wanted more of a Godspell ‘we are throwing a show together’ vibe.”
While Cox strived for a thrown together ambiance, the almost $1,500 raised on Kickstarter helped pay for skilled musicians from other schools, who only had three days to learn the music.
Hayley Moir, portraying Paradice, a past-her-prime diva jealous of upstart singing sensation Brooklyn, said she found the production’s schedule stressful but the working environment fun.
“Andrew powered through and taught us all the music,” said Moir, a sophomore musical theater major. “It was a great bonding experience and together we put on a little show with a big heart.”
Cox and his producer Samantha Gold teamed up with Friends of Boston’s Homeless to collect donations for the organization. Additionally, costumes made for the show, such as a dress created entirely of caution tape, are being auctioned off, with all proceeds going to Boston’s Homeless.
“I don’t care about making money for myself,” said Cox, who expects that the production collected a few hundred dollars for the organization. “It was just nice to get the experience and be able to be an advocate for the homeless.”