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Looking for a place to call home

The University of Michigan Department of Musical Theatre announces its production of Gibson Fleck, an original musical created by a trio of current U-M students.

A work-in-progress, Gibson Fleck features a book by Ali Gordon (below right) with music and lyrics by A .J. Holmes (below left) and Carlos Valdes (below middle).

Gibson Fleck plays for five performances on November 18 at 7:30 p.m., November 19 & 20 at 8:00 p.m., and November 20 & 21 at 2:00 the Arthur Miller Theatre on north campus. Limited seats remain for all performances.

Since the inception of the Department of Musical Theatre, graduates have gone on not only to grace the stage, but to create works for the stage. From Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party; The Addams Family), to Nick Blaemire (Glory Days), to Jeff Marx (Avenue Q), to Pasek & Paul (Edges), MT alumni have made their mark on Broadway and in regional theatre. The Department has also regularly presented new works including See Rock City, Ella Minnow Pea, A Good Boy, and The Pursuit of Persephone.

“Staging new works is becoming more and more necessary in a performance training program,” Brent Wagner, chair of the Department of Musical Theatre. “After graduation, most Musical Theatre alumni have the opportunity to participate in readings and workshops of new musicals. These help the writers, and often the producers, to understand whether the show is ready for commercial production,” he said.

“For new works, this is a valuable tool in the overall process, one that costs far less than the traditional out-of-town tryout. Almost every musical on Broadway today began in a small-scale workshop,” said Wagner.

The Department’s production of Gibson Fleck continues these traditions in a unique way by featuring an original work by a trio of multi-talented current undergraduates – Ali Gordon (Claire in See Rock City and Other Destinations), A. J. Holmes (who played Tateh in Ragtime), and Carlos Valdes (composer/musician for Trafford Tanzi and Che in Evita). Holmes and Valdes had previously collaborated on the score for the Basement Arts production and internet sensation, Me and My Dick; Gordon joined the pair earlier this year.

“It’s an ambitious project without a doubt,” said Wagner. “The writing team has dedicated themselves with a level of commitment and passion that is impressive. The Department encourages their creative energy, imagination, and depth of exploration. We are very excited by the potential for the show.”

Associate Professor Linda Goodrich, whose recent UM work includes Evita, directs this production with musical direction by Assistant Professor Catherine Walker Adams.

“The writers and I are thankful to have found a home for this story at the Arthur Miller Theatre,” said Goodrich. “It is our hope that the connectivity between this community and this theatre, coupled with the collective support for developing new works and emerging artists, will perpetuate the great American musical theatre tradition.”

The trio has been working with Goodrich since March.

“The choice of Gibson Fleck for the November musical evolved from a unique alignment of creative energies,” said Goodrich. “I am committed to seeking out and developing new work for musical theatre, for without new works, there can be no continuity of tradition. The writers and I were drawn together to create a work, not knowing what it would look like or where it might be performed. The creative process parallels our primary character’s journey. Gibson, orphaned at birth, seeks to make a connection… to share with the world a story that is his own. Finding a story to tell, then risking to tell it…to live it… is perhaps our most primal instinct. It is a bold, frightening and exhilarating act.”

Gibson Fleck follows the story of a young man, abandoned as a baby and shunted from family to family across America, who is looking for a place to call his own. At the age of eighteen, knowing nothing of his original family or even his real name, Gibson stops wandering and begins creating his own roots in New Haven, Connecticut – with a steady job, friends, and perhaps even a relationship. But when an unexpected piece of the past beckons him to Virginia, he is driven to discover his origins and determine the meaning of “home.” The musical’s score incorporates an eclectic blend of folk rock and musical theatre idioms.

Joining Goodrich and Walker Adams on the creative team is scenic designer Vincent Mountain, Associate Professor of Theatre, whose work was last seen in Macbeth. Dept. of Theatre & Drama senior Corey Davis, who last designed the dance “Hunger for the Longing” in (Re)Visionary Dances, designs costumes. Mary Clare Blake-Booth, a junior in the Department of Theatre & Drama, makes her mainstage debut designing lighting. The sound design is by Jim Lillie (Into the Woods).

Following the Friday performance on November 19, there will be post-performance discussion moderated by Goodrich and featuring members of the cast and the authors. Curtain Call Fridays offer an opportunity for audience members to talk with artists about each production. Sponsored by the Friends of Musical Theatre, the discussions are free and open to all.

Ticket prices for Gibson Fleck are $24 general admission with students only $10 with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538.

For online ticket information, please visit GIBSON FLECK TICKETS.

Arthur Miller Theatre is located within the Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin Avenue, North Campus. The theatre is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.

By Kerianne Tupac

Kerianne Tupac is communications director for University Productions.