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

Derek Klena in Darling.
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Darling, the second musical in the series — and a project that was featured on NBC's "The Apprentice" in the "Broadway Bound" episode — followed 35mm and was held Nov. 4. The work features music and lyrics by Oliver with a book by actor and writer Brett Ryback, who currently stars in Off-Broadway's Murder For Two at New World Stages.

Unlike 35mm, the performers in Darling were cast for specific roles and played their parts throughout. The evening, a truncated version of the musical, featured scenes and partial staging to give the audience a feel for the work.

The musical, a coming-of-age story that is a riff on the classic Peter Pan tale, starred Pace University student Andrea Ross as Ursula Morgan, who is taken by a "Lost Boy," Peter (played by current Wicked star Derek Klena), to the seedy underground, a world of "sex, jazz and fairy dust."

The evening also featured Nikki Snelson, Leo Ash Evens and Julia Mattison, who stepped in for a sick Lindsay Mendez. Mattison, who was already scheduled to perform at the concert — in the show's opening act — took on Mendez's complete track and brought down the house with "Dull Little Ache."

"We sold out both of those shows completely, and that was fantastic," said Oliver. "The industry response has been so favorable and so kind… I've had four theatres that I've never been able to get a meeting with suddenly want to have meetings with me and talk about what I'm doing and what they can do for me. That's pretty exciting, and that's something I've definitely been waiting for. It's been a great opportunity for that. In terms of goals and my mission… I think it was accomplished."

Oliver, who will conclude RSO FEST Nov. 18 with Jasper in Deadland — a musical with a book by Hunter Foster that takes 16-year-old Jasper through the "Afterlife" on a mission to save his best friend, Agnes — plans to get his musicals out of the concert halls and into the theatre.

"Jasper is happening in March 2014 at Prospect [Theatre Company]," he said. "In Darling's case, that was about showcasing my work with a full orchestra and showing people that I'm not just a rock composer…"

Starring in the upcoming Jasper concerts at 54 Below are Hands on a Harbody's Jay Armstrong Johnson and Wicked's Katie Rose Clarke as well as Wesley Taylor, F. Michael Haynie, Tori Huston-Elem, John-Michael Lyles, Julia Mattison, Ryah Nixon, Lexi Rabadi and George Salazar.

"Up to this point, I think [the concert scene] really made my career anything it is," admitted Oliver. "It's not yet been about a production, so everything I have is owed to these concerts and the subsequent coverage. I'd like that to change, and I really want that to change. I hope it does, and I think it will in the next couple of years. I don't expect to do too many more concerts in the next couple of years. I'll come back and do them again, but I think it's time, for me, to really focus on production."

Click here to read more about the upcoming Jasper in Deadland concert.

(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

Watch Charles A. Franklin preview "Stroke by Stroke" from Jasper in Deadland:

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