Published September 6, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor
Lyric Theatre of OKC has a history of unique story offerings. Their New Works Initiative has brought the world premieres of Triangle (2014), Bernice Bobs Her Hair (2015) and Mann… And Wife (2016). The tradition continues with their final show of the 2018 season, When We’re Gone. The Lyric is debuting this show, a new rock musical with an old twist. Set in 1349, in the (quite literally) plagued city of London, When We’re Gone features teenaged Todd on his quest to make “great art in a time of great need”. The book and lyrics were written by New York-based Alana Jacoby and Scotty Arnold. Arnold and Jacoby have collaborated with the Lyric, in an eight-year endeavor, to bring this rockin’ musical to life on the Lyric stage.
The mashup of multiple art forms- rock music, a history lesson, and a live stage, along with the novel concept of a brand-new production, must be a complex process. To enlighten me on the experience, I asked one of the show’s stars, Lyric Theatre favorite Matthew Alvin Brown, some questions regarding the upcoming show.
AP: Tell us about your character! Who do you play? How is this character different from other roles you’ve done?
Matthew Alvin Brown: I play William, father of the central character, Todd. William is a godly man who values faith and family above everything else. His wife has died and he feels as if he is about to lose his son to either rock-n-roll or the plague. He tries not to be a hard-ass, but he’s very serious about being right with God. William is somewhat different from the roles I often play. He is mature, responsible and reverent. I don’t always get to play the most reverent or responsible characters, so it’s very nice.
AP: This musical features a unique mix of modern punk-rock music with a 14th century setting. What has been the most challenging aspect of that combination? What has been the most fun?
MAB: I feel like the collision of modern rock and a 14th century setting really works. It frames the issues and the emotions in a way that makes it immediate and accessible. Also, it’s just cool. Spring Awakening did a similar thing. And Hamilton. Even Jesus Christ Superstar. So, I think it’s a natural fit for this kind of story-telling, which is my favorite kind of story-telling, by the way; the intersection of rock and theatre. Everyone plays guitar at some point. It’s the most exciting kind of theatre for me.
AP: When We’re Gone features a main character who seeks to make “great art in a time of great need”. How do you think that will resonate with modern audiences?
MAB: The main character wants to make his mark on the world through his art. It’s his way of contributing something important. That’s something we can all relate to. The play deals with basic human issues: faith, family, the need to make your mark on the world, service to your fellow human. Those things will always be important to us. So, it resonates today, for sure.
AP: What is the most exciting part about being in a world premiere production?
MAB: I really couldn’t pick a favorite aspect of being in a world premiere production. The whole thing is exciting! Working with the writers as you are building a character that didn’t really exist before… Just being part of a vision becoming reality. It’s super cool and pretty rare.
When We’re Gone stars Van Hughes as John, John Furey as the lead character Todd, Derrick Medrano as Ashton, and Antonio Rodriguez as Colin. Matthew Alvin Brown is William, and Kat Metcalfe is Rosie. Hughes, Furey and Metcalfe are making their Lyric Theatre debuts.
According to Lyric’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron, “When We’re Gone mashes up a rock musical with a morality play. Audiences who loved The Who’s Tommy will enjoy this wildly creative new musical that strikes a brilliant balance of modern-day characters with a pop-punk score.”
Baron will direct the production, with scenic design by Adam Koch. The inimitable costume design is by Jeffrey Meek, and lighting design is by Helena Kuukka. Sound design is by Sam Kusnetz, music direction is by James Dobinson, and Laurena Sherrill is stage manager.
Fresh off the heels of their hotter than hot Summer at the Civic series, The Lyric is back at their home in the Plaza district for this final production of the season. Don’t miss this rocking good time, lest you be plagued!