Lyric Stage’s Unexpected Spring Season Begins
Rehearsals are underway for “Closer Than Ever,” Lyric Stage’s spring show announced just weeks ago.
Aven Hall’s Jean Pittman Williams Auditorium is now filled with the sounds of Lyric Stage student performers rehearsing for the spring musical – but not the one they auditioned for.
Lyric Stage held a spring season interest meeting on Oct. 26. At the meeting, the MC Department of Music’s flagship lyric theater program announced auditions for their Spring 2024 show. It was “Side by Side by Sondheim,” a revue of songs from legendary composer Stephen Sondheim’s early works, including perennial musicals like “Company” and “Gypsy.” Auditions took place on Nov. 16. For those who tried out, the wait for the cast list’s release would stretch on until the next month.
On Dec. 9, auditioners were met with a surprise when Lyric Stage released not the cast list for “Side by Side by Sondheim,” but rather an announcement that the spring musical had changed.
Lyric Stage’s official Instagram page posted a public show change announcement on Jan. 8, a month after notifying those within the program: “Due to an executive decision, Lyric Stage will now be performing “Closer Than Ever” by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire this spring.”
“We auditioned in late November, and we found out they were going to change it – I think it was just because of the part types we had – to Closer Than Ever,” said Maggie Triplett, sophomore Lyric Stage veteran and member of the “Closer Than Ever” cast. Other performers declined comment on the production change, and the directors could not be reached for interviews.
Rehearsals for “Closer Than Ever” began Jan. 9. In their ongoing preparations for the show, set to run April 11-14, student performers are adjusting to the show’s distinct musical stylings.
“The rhythms and the harmonies – I guess the way the music’s written – is different. I mean, it’s not Sondheim – like, you can hear it, and it’s not Sondheim,” Triplett said. “But I would say the end goal of their subject matter is the same.”
“Closer Than Ever,” like “Side by Side by Sondheim,” is a musical revue – that is, a collection of songs without an overarching storyline. Rather than being connected by narrative, the songs in “Closer Than Ever” are connected by theme. Each song deals with the trials of love and everyday life, from aging to marriage to unrequited love.
“Me and another guy are playing this couple who is very career-driven,” Triplett said of the character she plays in one of the show’s songs. “We have a child, and we’re both going back and forth over who’s going to take care of the child while one of us has to go to work, and it’s this very fast-paced, upbeat, syncopated song that I’m really excited to sing. It’s things like that – normal people facing everyday life problems and having to deal with them.”
Other events on Lyric Stage’s spring calendar include their event in collaboration with Opera Mississippi, “Wizards of Broadway – An Evening of Sondheim & Schwartz,” a concert event held at Duling Hall in Jackson. Many members of the “Closer Than Ever” cast, including Triplett, will also be featured performers at “Wizards of Broadway” on March 4.
Lyric Stage’s spring calendar may have undergone unexpected changes, but Triplett says she and her castmates are excited to tackle the new material and bring Maltby and Shire’s work to life in April.
“I think that [audiences] should come and see [Closer Than Ever] for themselves,” Triplett said. “I think they’ll really enjoy it, and they’ll find something to relate to.”
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