“29” to kick off production

Lacey Alexander

Staff Writer

Troy University’s Department of Theatre and Dance will present a musical written by one of its own faculty members this weekend.

“29,” a one-act musical about 10 young adults as they struggle with the transition into their 30s, will open to the public Saturday.

“29” has lyrics and a score written by Gaby Alter, and a book, which is the script outside the music, by Tommy Newman, a lecturer at Troy University.

Newman, who also directs the show, teaches play writing and drama courses at Troy University and serves as an adviser for many theater majors.

Newman and Alter met at auditions for the musical theater writing program at New York University, with “29” serving as their master’s thesis three years later.

Newman and Alter wrote the first drafts of the show in 2004, and a concert of the musical numbers premiered in New York in 2005. Newman said that the show is much different now than it was 10 years ago.

“This cast has gotten roughly six or seven different scripts,” Newman said. “The show was done before as a pop-rock song cycle, and it’s much more than that now… It has a narrative now, and you get to know the people in the show… as opposed to before, where everyone was playing a different character in every song.”

Newman said his cast had a big influence on the changes in the show.

“The characters would not be who they are had it not been for the contributions of the actors,” Newman said. “I’m extremely proud of all of the work they’ve done to make this show what it is.”

One of those contributions is the cast playing parts of the music. A ukulele, guitar and tambourine are some of the instruments that the cast members play.

“I think because DJ plays the guitar, his character of Jeff really started to make sense to me,” Newman said. “It felt like the show was really leaning in his direction… this show is about him struggling as an artist.”

DJ Gilroy, who plays the lead role of songwriter Jeff, said the cast worked well together and made the experience what it was.

“Everyone’s character started to become a part of themselves,” said Gilroy, a senior theater major from Enterprise. “When you work with people you know very well, you collaborate easier… You tend to form a different kind of ensemble.”

Gilroy also put in hours as a carpenter for the show, building things needed for the set.

The set, which includes boxes of alcohol and poles, is inspired by a bar named CBGB, a hot spot for musicians in the New York area before it closed in 2006.

“It has a very distinct look and style, and that’s what we were going for,” said student set designer Nathan Maxwell, a junior theater major from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  “It’s just a big conglomeration of New York.”

“It’s very nostalgic,” Newman said. “The show has kind of evolved into a love letter to New York.”

Newman also said that this show has a good message for Troy students.

“It’s about growing up,” Newman said. “It’s about embracing the journey rather than the destination… It’s the hardships that make us who we are.”

“29” will be in the Blackbox Theater upstairs in Malone Hall on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be bought for $5 at the Theatre and Dance box office in the Trojan Center.

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