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University Theatre to Present World War II Musical

Friday, April 11, 2014

The University Theatre finishes its 2013-2014 season with the big band musical, Over Here! in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith. Performances run April 25, 26 and May 2, 3 at 7:30 p.m. and April 27 and May 4 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for Over Here! are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center, (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $20 for the public, $19 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for students and children 5-18.

"Over Here! is a big dance show that really portrays the sheer joy and excitement of musical theatre. The music of the 1940s is a genre that truly says ‘this is American music;’ it is just out-of-this-world good,” said John Staniunas, director, choreographer and professor of theatre. “This performance also celebrates the lives of the Sherman brothers and their prolific writing history.”

With a score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and book by Will Holt, Over Here! is a pastiche big band concert set in 1940s America. It takes a nostalgic look back at this period while commenting on fears of war and discrimination. The story is about what was happening over here versus what was happening over there. 

“The musical is staged in a period that many young people don’t know much about, but is so important to our history as a nation,” Staniunas added. “Audience members will walk away with a renewed sense of what it means to be an American, what it means to come together as a society. The show is filled with nostalgic patriotism.”

Staniunas along with orchestra conductor, Carlos Espinosa, orchestra supervisor, Maestro David Neely, and musical director, Ryan McCall, lead cast and crew through the story of a train full of draftees headed to Europe. Also on board are Singing sisters, Paulette and Pauline DePaul, played by Kristen Larsen, Lindenhurst, Il. sophomore, and Jessica Brink, Wichita senior, who are looking for a new singer to join their group when they find Mitzi played by Lilly Karrer, Kirkwood, Mo. freshman. Although Over Here! is not produced as often as other musicals, it was nominated for and won several Tony and Drama Desk awards in 1974.

Wanting to embrace and do the 1940s justice, The University Theatre sought out guest designer, Shannon Smith-Regnier, a freelance designer from Kansas City, Mo., whom Staniunas refers to as “an impeccable researcher.” The rest of the design team includes scenic designer, Del Unruh, professor of theatre, and lighting designer, Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre. Together they created an atmosphere of a ‘supper club,’ where people would go to listen to a big band orchestra and to dance. The design generates a sense of movement and nostalgia for the patriotism of the 1940s.

The company also includes Bronwen Capshaw, Burbank, Ca. freshman, as assistant director of the production; Cassidy Huscher, Andover sophomore, as stage manager; Frankie Jay Baker, Mission sophomore, as Sam; Cale Morrow, Dodge City freshman, as Bill; Justin Petty, Olathe senior, as Rankin; Jaclyn Amber Nischbach, St. Louis, Mo. sophomore, as Maggie; Joseph Husband, Sammamish, Wa. freshman, as Misfit; Luke Reddig, Clive, Ia. junior, as Utah; Kevin Thomas Smith, Hastings, Ne. masters student, as Norwin Spokesman/Sarge; Justin Kelly, Garden City senior, as Lucky; Mackenzie Rogers, Norman, Ok. masters student, as Betty; Abby Sharp, Rossville freshman, as June; Taylor Zitnik, Seattle, Wa. sophomore, as Wilma; Lily Lancaster, Lawrence sophomore, as Donna; Jake Thede, Urbandale, Ia. junior, as Makeout; Brody Horn, Columbus junior, as Father; and Hailey Lapin, Overland Park senior, as Mother.

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