Knute Rockne Musical Opens April 10 on Coach's Home Turf — Indiana

News   Knute Rockne Musical Opens April 10 on Coach's Home Turf — Indiana Knute Rockne All-American, a new musical about beloved Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, opens April 10 after kicking off April 3 in Indiana.
Stef Tovar as Knute Rockne.
Stef Tovar as Knute Rockne. Photo by Greg Kolack

Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN, presents the world premiere, "which celebrates the life of the man who created American college football" and was cherished at Indiana's Notre Dame University. Jeff Award winner Stef Tovar plays the charismatic leader.

"The ragtime rhythms of the turn of the last century and the wild jazz of the 1920s punctuate" this "moving story of the 'winningest' coach in the history of American sport," according to production notes.

The musical charts Rockne's "meager beginnings as an immigrant living in Chicago's Logan Square, to his glory years as the pride of Notre Dame. Rockne revolutionized the game of football and led his team to five undefeated seasons and the 1925 Rose Bowl championship."

Performances continue to May 11.

* The show is based on a play and miniseries by Buddy Farmer, and has music by Michael Mahler, lyrics by David H. Bell and Mahler and a book by Farmer.

Jeff Award winner Bell (known for staging Elmer Gantry and Hot Mikado) directs and choreographs.

Knute Rockne All-American is based on writer Buddy Farmer's original play Coaches – Off The Bench with Knute, Vince and The Bear, which he also directed.

Farmer re-wrote the play based on what he found to be the most popular of the three icons, Knute Rockne. He titled the one-act play Rockne, and opened it in Los Angeles. Over the course of many years, Rockne transitioned into a musical and a mini-series.

In 1998, Farmer decided to create a new musical, based on this mini-series. Bell (a Helen Hayes Award-winner for Hot Mikkado) signed onto the project as director and choreographer, and Michael Mahler joined as composer. Now, ten years later, comes the world premiere.

Mahler earned his bachelor's degree in theatre at Northwestern University, where he wrote about 50 songs for the annual Waa-Mu Show. Since then he has contributed music, lyrics, and/or book to The Adams Conglomerate High School Presents…Tales of the 8th Grade at New York Fringe Festival, Will and Bill at the Lakeshore Theatre and Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, A Christmas Carol at Provision Theater Company, Cinder Edna at Stages Theatre Company, and others. Mahler teamed up with Alan Schmuckler to write How Can You Run with a Shell on Your Back?, a critically acclaimed original family musical that premiered at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in April 2006.

Tovar recently moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles, where he lived and worked for six years. His Los Angeles stage credits include Che in Evita, George in Sunday in the Park with George, and Jamie in the Los Angeles premiere of The Last Five Years. Tovar is originally from Chicago where he's been an American Theater Company ensemble member since 1996. His Windy City credits include the world premiere of Peggy Sue Got Married—the musical; Northlight Theater's premiere of Studs Terkel's The Good War; as well as The Briar Street Theatre and Apple Tree Theatre where he was seen in Blade to the Heat for which he won a Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play.

The cast also includes Dennis Kelly as Father Walsh/Lars Rockne, Kate Fry as Bonnie, Star Busby as Thelma, Ron Rains as Jimmy the Goat, Geoff Rice as Dorais and Brandon Dahlquist as George Gipp.

The male ensemble includes Larry Adams, Kevin Durnbaugh, Jackson Evans, Kent Haina, Phil Higgins, Tim Howard, Brandon Koller, Eric Lindahl, Adam Jeffrey Pasen, Matt Raftery and Jarrod Zimmerman. The female ensemble includes Anne Acker, Eleni Kanalos, Kelli Morgan and Caryn Ott. Children in the production include Liam Byrnes, Daniel Coonley and Darragh Quinn Dolan.

The musical director will be Valerie Maze. Set design is by Alan Schwanke, lighting design by Jesse Klug and costume design is by Nikki Delhomme.

Production manager is Chuck Gessert, stage manager is Rita Vreeland and technical director is Ann Davis.

Knute Rockne All-American is licensed through Libby Adler Mages, Tony D'Angelo and Jack Girardi of Coaches, LLC.

Theatre at the Center is at 1040 Ridge Road, in Munster, IN, a 35-minute drive from downtown Chicago. To purchase individual or group tickets call (219) 836-3255 or visit www.theatreatthecenter.org.

Stef Tovar and the cast of <i>Knute Rockne</i>.
Stef Tovar and the cast of Knute Rockne. Photo by Greg Kolack