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Mountain Playhouse hosts world premiere for 'At First Sight'

| Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Larry Tobias and Suzanne Ishee in Mountain Playhouse's premiere of 'At First Sight.'
Larry Tobias and Suzanne Ishee in Mountain Playhouse's premiere of 'At First Sight.'

Mountain Playhouse has saved the best for last by ending its 2017 season with the Oct. 3 world premiere of a new musical written with its theatergoers in mind.

“At First Sight,” with music and lyrics by Brandon Lambert and book by Lambert and Gary Jaffe, focuses on an elderly divorcee and her “chronically single” granddaughter who decide to play matchmaker for each other, offering the message that love has no age limit.

The show was commissioned by the theater board over a year ago, after producer Teresa Stoughton Marafino outlined the criteria for what they were looking for: a small-cast musical comedy that would appeal to Mountain Playhouse audiences.

Lambert says he had a good feel for what would please its patrons, having performed in two productions that fall, as Sir Henry Baskerville in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and as Jinx in “Forever Plaid.”

“I knew I wanted to write a fun romantic comedy about something a little unconventional,” he says. A book he had read comparing dating patterns today and 50 years ago helped him find his subject, but more importantly, it made him think about his grandparents, and how generations relate to each other.

“There are so many musicals about love, but so few about the powerful, amazing, important love between grandparent and grandchild,” Lambert says. “And I thought — that's what I want to write about.”

Patty Carnevali, executive director at Mountain Playhouse, says those who see the show are in for a treat.

“As you can imagine, new musicals are a rare thing and the Mountain Playhouse audience has a chance to be part of an incredible creative process,” she says.

“At First Sight” includes 15 songs and a few mini-reprises composed by Lambert, who says each of the four characters in the show has a different musical style that reflects them.

Pat, the wisecracking grandma (portrayed by Suzanne Ishee), has a big, brassy sound, while songs by her granddaughter Morgan (Justine Magnusson) are more pop/ rock influenced. The cast also includes Quinn Patrick Shannon as Tad, Morgan's date, and Larry Tobias as Frank, Pat's date.

“This is definitely the best show I've written so far,” says Lambert, who has written five Theatre for Young Audiences musicals for Gretna Theatre in Lebanon County.

It's also the first show he has written since joining the BMI Musical Theatre Writing Workshop, a New York City-based workshop that trains songwriters for the theater.

“A lot of musical theater greats have come through BMI, including the writers of ‘Frozen,' ‘Beauty and the Beast,' ‘Next to Normal' and countless others. BMI has really helped me learn how to nail the right song for the right moment,” he says.

He also met his co-book writer, Gary Jaffe, through BMI and says, “I couldn't have written this show without his storytelling know-how.”

“At First Sight” is directed by Guy Stroman, who also directs Lambert and Martin Landry in Mountain Playhouse's current production of “Murder for Two,” running through Oct. 1.

Stroman says those who see “At First Sight” will enjoy a funny and touching story about the special relationship between a very vibrant grandmother and her 20-something granddaughter, both determined to find love and companionship for the other by any means necessary.

They also “will hear beautiful music, smart and funny lyrics, both by one of the most talented new writers for the theater I've come across in a long time,” he says.

A few other regional theaters have expressed interest in producing “At First Sight,” and Lambert says he would love to see it produced around the country.

“We designed this show to be perfect for theaters in the heartland,” he says. “If we get to New York, great. But that's all the in future. We're currently focusing on polishing the show and knocking this first production out of the park. After all, this show was written specifically for Mountain Playhouse audiences, so right now it's all about them.”

There will be a free opening night party with the cast following the 7 p.m. Oct. 4 performance.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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