By GUY D’ASTOLFO
For its main-stage musical this season, Youngstown State University Theater will take a trip through its past.
It’s an appropriate way to mark the half-century of theater produced at the school.
Titled “Celebrating 50 Years of University Theater: A Musical Commemoration,” the show will open Friday at Ford Theater and run for two weekends.
In the hands of director Nancy Andersen Wolfgang, “50 Years” became a teachable moment for four of her students.
Every senior theater major at YSU has to do a project, explained Wolfgang. She enlisted four — Rebecca Anderson of Cortland, Joseph Alvey of Parma, John Cruz of Mineral Ridge and Kelly Sullivan of Youngstown — to do the leg work that formed the foundation of the show.
The students researched school records and old playbills to compile a list of more than 200 plays and musicals that had been done by the school over the past five decades. Then they identified the musicals that would be good for inclusion in the commemorative show.
“Each student then had to build a show — present me with a list of songs to use and the order in which to use them,” said Wolfgang. “We had meetings about how they would conceptualize it, and why they made their decisions. Then I took their lists and narrowed it down into one show. We had to account for things like solos, duets, large group numbers and having a good flow, without having too many songs by any one composer.”
Numbers from the following musicals made the final cut: “West Side Story,” “Chicago,” “Carousel,” “Rent,” “Into the Woods,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Kiss Me, Kate” and “The Rainmaker.”
Although the students researched as far back as they could, Wolfgang pointed out that YSU Theater did not begin staging musicals until the ’80s.
“Celebrating 50 Years of University Theater” will be in revue format with 34 scenes and is appropriate for families with young children.
It has a cast of nine male and nine female students: Alvey, Cruz, Sullivan, Connor Bezeredi, Justin Brown, Katelyn Deladurantey, Rebecca Enlow, Michael Free, Anthony Humphrey, Katie Jerome, Nikita Jones, Matt Malloy, Carly Magnuson, Zara Markman, Natalie Martzial, Emily Shipley, Eric Shonk and Kiyan Taghaboni.
Musicians are Cory Davis, piano/conductor; Dan Kalosky, bass; and Troy Schaltenbrand, percussion.
The multilevel set will include a “mini” grand staircase, said Wolfgang.
In a statement, Bryan DePoy, dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communication at YSU, noted the role the theater has played since its inception.
“Over the course of the past 50 years, University Theater has brought live theater to tens of thousands of patrons in our community,” he said. “We are fortunate to have such strong community support of our program, and our student performers reciprocate with their extraordinary commitment and sharing of talents.”