UMSL musical wraps weeklong run in New York

Edwin Booth, played by Keith Boyer, shares a moment with his wife Mary Devlin, played by Stella Markou, in the New York staging of the musical “Booth.”

Edwin Booth, played by Keith Boyer, shares a moment with his wife Mary Devlin, played by Stella Markou, in the New York staging of the musical “Booth.”

A musical created by faculty and staff members at the University of Missouri-St. Louis recently wrapped a weeklong run in the theater capital of the world. “Booth” was staged June 2 through 7 at the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University.

“I was a tremendous success,” said UMSL Professor of Music Barbara Harbach, who composed the music for the “Booth” score. “We’re pleased that we were able to take a show from Missouri to New York City for a series of outstanding performances that were well-received by the audiences.”

The musical follows Edwin Booth’s rise to acting prominence as a leading 19th century tragedian who coped with his share of personal tragedy including the death of his young wife and his brother’s assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

John Hylton, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at UMSL, oversaw the production’s world premiere in April 2007 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. He attended the June 4 performance of “Booth” in New York.

“The singing, acting, costumes, sets and lighting were all excellent,” Hylton said. “I was particularly pleased with the work done by our faculty, students and alumni, all of whom contributed to a wonderful evening of theater.”

Niyi Coker, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of African/African-American Studies at UMSL, wrote the book for “Booth.” He also directed the musical during its initial 2007 run in St. Louis and the recent staging in New York. Jonathan Yordy wrote the song lyrics while he was a public relations coordinator at UMSL.

A cast of 35 UMSL students, faculty and alumni and New Yorkers sang and acted in the NYU shows. They were led by UMSL students Keith and Amanda Boyer, who respectively portrayed Edwin Booth and his daughter, Edwina. Additional UMSL actors included student Matthew Amend, Director of Vocal Studies Stella Markou and alumna Jan Prokop (BM 1975), a Normandy native now living in New York and working as a singer and actress.

“Her aria was so poignant, it brought the audience to tears,” Harbach said of Prokop, who played Booth’s mother. “Jan was a tremendous asset to the production.”

James Richards, chairman of the Department of Music at UMSL, served as the musical’s artistic director and conductor of an orchestra comprised of New York musicians.

“These are folks who spent much of their life playing for Broadway and off-Broadway shows,” Richards said. “Our concertmaster served as the concertmaster of ‘The Producers’ for its entire Broadway run.”

On the production side of the musical, Felia Davenport, assistant professor of theater at UMSL, oversaw costume design and UMSL student Rebecka Jackson-Moeser served as stage manager.

With the New York show wrapped, the creators of “Booth” are talking with prospective producers about taking the musical on tour.

Visit http://www.umsl.edu/divisions/cofac/booth/home.html for more information about “Booth.”

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