It’s not unusual for Starkville Community Theater to present a musical revue. What is unusual is the twist found in this summer’s show, “A Song Can Change Your Life.” For the first time at the Playhouse on Main venue, the audience will dictate how the story unfolds. The musical narrative interweaves 12 characters presented with life-altering choices. At five junctures during each show, audience members will have a say in those choices.
Conceived by Joby Czarnecki and directed by Czarnecki, Drew Stark and Haley Harper, the show that runs July 23-25 and July 30-Aug. 1 features songs ranging from standards such as The Supremes’ “One Fine Day” and Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” to more recent music like Grace Potter’s “Ragged Company” and the Indigo Girls’ “Watershed.”
The show is “tender, funny, sad, happy,” says Czarnecki. “Boiled down, it is about life’s simple emotions, captured in songs and locked into memory.”
She sites the 2012 musical revue, “SCT: Unplugged” as the origin of the audience participation component.
“The use of the MTV concert series ‘Unplugged’ as the format for that summer’s revue led me to think about how another MTV show, ‘Total Request Live,’ could be re-imagined to arrange another revue for the SCT stage,” she said. “I envisioned a show in which the performers actually took requests from the audience to form the set list … a live jukebox of sorts.”
Audience involvement means cast members are rehearsing some numbers that, at least on certain nights, will not be performed. Singers and musicians will have to be musically agile, ready to pull out the songs that correlate to that night’s audience picks.
The show is Czarnecki’s directorial debut, although the SCT veteran has been a performer and twice served as assistant director. The Oklahoma native, who came to Starkville by way of the Delta, is an assistant associate professor in the Geosystems Research Institute at Mississippi State.
“I ended up in science, but really love music and theater,” she said. That’s the beauty of community theater, she noted — it’s for everyone, not only people with theatrical backgrounds.
“I certainly picked a doozy for my first time as director,” she continued. “I feel so fortunate to be working with other SCT alums Drew Stark and Haley Harper. … Both bring with them a lot of musical theater experience, and we make a good team.”
Cast and tickets
The ensemble cast includes Christon Bertrand, Johnathan Best, Rachel Davis, Sean Dyess, MJ Etua, Brian Hawkins, Brenda Mayo, Heather McGinn, Justine Moser, Ryan Savage, Erica Smith and Graham Young. Musicians Haley Harper, Andrew Van Loon, Olivia Long and Jamie Dyer provide accompaniment.
Tickets to this SCT fundraiser are $25. Each performance is followed by a reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, wine pairings and champagne.
Seating is limited at the Playhouse on Main, 108 E. Main St., in Starkville. Call the box office at 662-323-6855 Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. to reserve tickets.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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