Two musicals developed in Syracuse are headed to New York City for performances at a theatre district venue known for showcasing upcoming Broadway stars.
“Kafka’s Metamorphosis: The Musical!” will perform a concert reading on Friday, March 6 at Feinstein’s 54 Below with Matthew Chiorini directing and Travis Newton music directing. “Weird! The Musical” performs its concert reading later this month on Sunday, March 22 with Shawn Forster and Dani Ryan directing.
“We were developing at the same time, we kind of launched at the same time, we released our albums at the same time,” Forster said. “And now we’re heading to 54 Below at the same time. It’s pretty cool for Syracuse.”
“Weird! The Musical” is a based on the children’s book series The Weird Series by Erin Frankel & Paula Heaphy. It tells a story about bullying from the perspectives of three different characters, one who is being bullied, a bystander, and the one using bullying behavior.
Currently, “Weird!” is performed for kids at schools, but it was written so that it could be appreciated by all audiences. Forster and Ryan wanted to approach writing the show in a way that they could bring the message of the books to life and at the same time teach children about musical theatre.
“We never wrote children’s music,” Forster said. “We set out to write Broadway tunes that just lived in this school setting.”
The cast for the New York City show has the kind of star power that Forster says comes from dreaming big. Dot Marie-Jones, who was nominated for three Emmy Awards for her role in Glee as coach ‘Shannon Beiste’ will be playing the role of Coach in “Weird!”.
“We reached out to her and she heard the music and wanted to be attached to the project, because she loved the song that she would be singing,” said Forster. “But, also just really felt that this was a great way to bring light to a difficult issue. Bullying is a hard, hard issue.”
Other members of the cast include Broadway talents Brynn Williams and Emma Degerstedt.
Le Moyne alumni Morgan Smith, who graduated in 2019, will be performing in both “Kafka’s Metamorphosis” and “Weird!”. Smith started with both productions while she was studying at Le Moyne. She originated and will play the role of Grete in “Kafka’s Metamorphosis”. She will play Emily for the 54 Below performance but originated the role of Sam for “Weird!”
“I feel so insanely lucky, and my timing was perfect to get involved in these productions,” said Smith.
Smith heard about “Weird!” after another Le Moyne alum called her and suggested she audition. For “Kafka” she become aware of the production because Chiorini was her professor. For both shows, Smith has had the opportunity to perform around the Syracuse area at venues like Wunderbar and The Oncenter.
“Both [shows] kind of started gaining momentum at the same time. I think that a lot of credit goes to Syracuse for that. The city itself I feel like is fostering a lot of new art,” she said.
“Kafka’s Metamorphosis” is based on Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis. The show was written by Chiorini and Newton and premiered at the Montreal Fringe Festival in 2018. Since then the show has been performed in Washington D.C for their Fringe Festival and at the 2019 New York Musical Festival.
Both shows are in the midst of rehearsing for their performances. “Weird!” rehearsals started in New York City on Thursday and “Kafka’s Metamorphosis” will do a brush up the weekend at Le Moyne before their show.
For Smith that means some traveling back and forth from Syracuse to the Big Apple. But she said it’s worth it just to be together with the cast during rehearsals.
“I’m excited to see what Syracuse can bring to the big city – you know, we’re showing up,” said Smith.