ABET’s Avant-Garde Musical Fable ”Celebration”

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Billed as an “Avant-Garde Musical Fable,” Celebration tells the story of a young Orphan who stumbles upon the home of Edgar Allen Rich, who is the wealthiest man in the world, on what is revealed to be a magical New Year’s Eve. Among the guests of Mr. Rich is the beautiful fallen Angel, who becomes the subject of a ritualistic battle for her love.

Celebration runs Jan 20–Feb 5 at the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre. (249-7177, www.abettheatre.com) Dave Alan Thomas directs the ABET stage debut with musical director Robin Brazelton and choreographer Katie Raulerson. Celebration stars Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "Milan Alley", Franklin Ritch, Katherine Herndon, Leonard Alterman and features Brian Keith Champion, Lucas Hopper, Matt Krieger, Kimberly Cooper York, Sara Beth Sohn, Amy Tillotson, and Laurel Wilson.

The musical fable, with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, explores the contrasts between youth and old age, innocence and jaded corruption, love and ambition, and poverty and wealth, employing a nearly empty stage. Celebration made its Broadway premiere in 1969. While critics found the production “interesting,” it achieved lukewarm reviews and modest financial success.

ABET’s Managing Director, Celia Frank, says when she was lining up the season, the name Celebration seemed to fit the bill for the theatre’s 25th anniversary season. “It’s by the same team that wrote The Fantasticks which ABET did many years ago. Love The Fantasticks and love the music from it, so I knew that team and knew their work. And I knew this is not a show that’s really done very much at all anywhere, and when I read the script and heard the music, I just thought it was something that would be wonderful for this season.”

“He loved the idea and had all these brilliant concepts. I knew he would really let his imagination go, and he has.”

Frank says she suggested the play to director Dave Alan Thomas, and he was thrilled to come aboard. While the musical is typically produced with a nearly empty stage, Frank says Thomas went to work designing “an absolutely gorgeous” set with a round platform and adjacent pedestals that play a huge role in the telling of the story.

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“I knew he would be a wonderful director for this. It’s just his type of thing,” she says. “He loved the idea and had all these brilliant concepts. I knew he would really let his imagination go, and he has. It’s going to be phenomenal. I don’t want to give anything away, but the set will in some way change throughout the performance to signify what’s happening in the play. This was all Dave’s idea. It’s a beautiful set.”

The characters Orphan, Angel, narrator Potemkin, Mr. Rich and the Revelers wear brightly adorned masks created by Rebecca Williams, a former educator at Landrum Middle School. “She just retired, thank heavens for us. That freed up her time to make these incredible masks for us,” Frank says, “She did a phenomenal job.”

A live, acoustic orchestra featuring such instruments as a guitar, piano, harpsichord and drum set will provide the music for the production. Franks says ABET always uses a live band whenever possible for musicals, but most often they are backstage and not visible to the audience. For Celebration, the orchestra will be featured prominently from the stage. Says Frank, “It’s not your regular musical theatre, that’s for sure.”

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