Thursday, July 16, 2015
A Long Road for "Collis P!"
It's wonderful to see Collis P: A New Musical taking the stage in Huntington, because it's been in the works for a long time.
I've been friends with the writer and creator of the musical, Clint McElroy, since we were students at Marshall University, and I've watched his skill as a writer, performer and director grow over the years.
It was quite a few years ago that he first unveiled his proposed musical based on the life of Huntington's founder, Collis P. Huntington.
Some 10 years ago (give or take a few years), Clint gathered about a dozen friends at a local church to present the first reading for his show. He was pitching it to Huntington Outdoor Theatre, and I was one of the group reading the different roles. There were no stage motions or costuming - just a group of actors sitting in chairs, reading the script.
It was still in its earliest stages - he had a few songs on a CD, and when the script reached a song, we'd stop and he'd play the music as performed by a professional musician. It was a lot of fun, and we often broke up laughing at jokes and stories.
Nothing came of that pitch - the show needed more work to get it ready for the stage. But it was a start!
About five years ago (give or take), Collis P. returned for another reading - this time with an audience, as part of Marshall University's summer project, the New Works Festival. Once again, the actors sat in chairs and read the lines - but this time, Clint had feedback from the audience, thanks to a Q&A session after the reading. But the show needed more work - for example, several songs were waiting for a songwriter.
A couple of years later - about two years ago - the show returned to Marshall's New Works Festival, this time with the songs completed, and some staging added. I was tapped again to read and (believe it or not) sing as one of the "Big Four." Again, the audience offered suggestions after the show - and the musical was almost done.
So this summer, Clint's vision has finally made it to the stage, with a cast of talented performers, costuming, sets and an orchestra!
I'm proud of my friend, as he brings this labor of love to life for local audiences "for real" - and a terrific show it is!
You have two more weekends to catch it! HART in the Park presents the original musical at Huntington’s Ritter Park Amphitheater on July 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 at 8:30 p.m. Gates open for at 7 p.m., children's pre-show Wonderland at 7:30 p.m., HART's All Star Community Preshow at 8 p.m., and "Collis P!" at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults / $10 children / $20 reserved seats.