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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Broadway Lights

Four University of Evansville theatre alums bring a new musical to the big stage

Editor’s Note: On April 30, “Stereophonic” received 13 nominations for the 2024 Tony Awards, tying with “Hell’s Kitchen” for the most-nominated play in Tony Awards history.

The University of Evansville’s acclaimed Theatre Department has notched another achievement. Four alumni rank as essential elements in the Broadway debut of “Stereophonic.”

Focusing on a studio recording session in 1976, the David Adjmi-penned script for “Stereophonic” offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of an up-and-coming rock band experiencing internal and external pressure to deliver the next big hit. Buffering the dialog are original songs written by Arcade Fire musician Will Butler.

In his Oct. 29, 2023, Critics Pick column, New York Times Chief Theater Critic Jesse Green called the off-Broadway production showing at Playwrights Horizon “ingenious,” “operatic,” “compelling,” and “superior work.” Now, “Stereophonic” is moving to Broadway with help from a quartet of UE theatre grads.

Producer Nick Mills and co-producer Wes Grantom, both 2003 UE theatre graduates, have built a strong professional relationship over the last 21 years. As a lead producer — a job he shares with seven others — Mills reached out to Grantom during the initial steps to take the musical to Broadway in spring 2024. Grantom, who also serves as an assistant theatre professor at UE, was quick to ask to be included, much to Mills’ delight.

Grantom wanted in on “Stereophonic,” he says, because it “is a completely original work that really defies genre in a lot of ways. I think what people are going to get this spring is something very different on Broadway, which I find thrilling.”

As producers, once their Broadway venue was secured — in this case, the John Golden Theatre, formerly known as the Masque Theater, on West 45th Street in Midtown Manhattan — Mills and Grantom moved to assembling the cast and set crews through talent and labor groups, respectively.

“Producers need to be there all the time to make sure that everything is going well and … to put out any fires,” Mills says. “One of the first things is raising the money… the show stays within budget, that people show up on time, that things get done when they say they’re going to.”

Both producers are pleased that two more UE alumni are involved. Cover actor Ben Anderson received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2015, and costume team member Miriam Cortes graduated from UE in 2021.

Cortes was an assistant costume designer when “Stereophonic” performed off-Broadway in October, making this her Broadway debut. Under the direction of costume design head Enver Chakartash and associate costumer John Polles, Cortes’ days begin at rehearsal to see what clothing and accessories work with the script or need adjusting.

“As part of the costume team, I help organize,” she says. “What’s so great about the Broadway remount is a lot is now custom made.”

Anderson, who covers two roles, spent his days leading to the production’s April 3 previews running lines, learning stage direction, and absorbing the nuances of two unique characters.

“‘Stereophonic’ is the most beautiful production on every level,” he says. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”

Previews of director Daniel Aukin’s “Stereophonic” began on April 3. The opening night performance is April 19 at 7 p.m. at New York City’s Golden Theatre. “Stereophonic” runs through July 7.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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