A Musical Exhibition: A Trio of Musicals by Ryan Scott Oliver Comes to Life at 54 Below's RSO FEST

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17 Nov 2013

Ryan Scott Oliver
Ryan Scott Oliver
Photo by Matthew Murphy

RSO FEST, a series of concerts showcasing three new musicals by award-winning composer-lyricist Ryan Scott Oliver — 35mm, Darling and Jasper in Deadland — took shape this fall at the Manhattan nightclub 54 Below. Playbill.com was there.

"When we [contemporary] musical theatre writers do our concerts, it really just makes it look like we don't write musicals and [that] we just write songs," Oliver told Playbill.com following the first two concerts in his series, 35mm and Darling. "I wanted to show people that I have written three full musicals. One of them is an exhibition piece, and the other two are book musicals. I wanted to work with collaborators and people who can really dig into the material."

The trio of concerts kicked off Oct. 7 with the much-anticipated New York City return of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition. The work, based on a series of photographs by Broadway photographer (and Oliver's fiancé) Matthew Murphy, premiered in New York in March 2012 with a sold-out run at the Galapagos Art Space starring Lindsay Mendez, Betsy Wolfe, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Ben Crawford and Alex Brightman.

This time, Oliver expanded his roster of stars to include Nick Blaemire, Drew Gasparini, Derek Klena, Zachary Levi, Lesli Margherita, Lauren Pritchard, David Reiser, Krysta Rodriguez, Preston Sadleir, Kate Shindle, Katie Thompson and Alysha Umphress, among others. Original 35 cast members Brightman and Crawford, on a night off from their current Broadway outing in Big Fish, were also in attendance.

Brightman, who followed an opening act that previewed Oliver's upcoming pieces, kicked off the show, taking the audience to "Crazytown," a mystically risqué place inspired by the lands of Wonderland, Oz, Narnia and Neverland. The sold-out crowd then witnessed the various photographs — displayed on screens across the intimate venue — come to life through Oliver's dark and twisted music and lyrics.

"Another reason I wanted to do this [was] to get to work with incredible vocalists who I haven't been able to work with," admitted Oliver. "There's definitely a handful of people who are 'oldies' [and] have done my work before, but then there's a bunch of new people that I've never gotten to work with, and that's been really, really, really fantastic."

One of the newcomers was Britney Coleman, who stepped in at the last minute when singer and actress Jenni Barber was sick and unable to perform. Oliver, suddenly in search of a replacement for "On Monday" — a song that takes listeners through a week's worth of the dating game — was recommended to Coleman, who performed the song in another recent concert, through YouTube.

Watch her performance at RSO FEST below:


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