Come See This Exciting New Work Before It Heads Off-Broadway
By Shannon Cudd
Orange County audiences have the chance to play a part in the development process of a new work with No Square Theare’s latest production, Waiting in the Wings: the Musical. This is the show’s last stop before it heads off-broadway in New York City.
Jeffrey Johns, writer and one of the stars of the show, considers this to be his “love letter to musical theater.” The stage show is actually based on his hit 2014 movie musical which features Sally Struthers, Shirely Jones, and Lee Meriwether. A sequel was shot but a fire tragically destroyed the masters; this inspired Johns to adapt it for the stage. “Writing the stage show was therapeutic. I'm like, okay, I can't do another movie. I didn't have insurance. It's free to write a stage show. Maybe a theater will pick it up. And so that's what I started to do. So when I see it on the stage, this is my sign that even though things can be dark, just push to the light. Good things can happen if you allow them to,” Johns mused.
No Square Theater was thrilled to step in and be part of Wings development. It is the show’s second time on its feet premiering in 2021 at Rose Center Theater. “Waiting in the Wings is a perfect show for us to produce: silly, irreverent, and a lot of fun. And we want to support new works when possible and are excited to work on this before it moves to New York,” Rob Harryman, board member at No Square, stated.
Director Ella Wyatt is equally excited about putting her mark on this new work. “It's very rare that you get an opportunity to do a show that there's really not much to pull from as far as what's been done before, which is really cool. As a director, I have a little more freedom,” she stated.
Wings tells the story of two entertainers who are mistakenly cast in the wrong projects. One is a New York City stripper named Tony who is cast in an off-broadway musical. The other is Anthony, a musical theater performer with big dreams in Montana who is cast as a stripper. Both men have to dig deep, move beyond feeling like a fish out of water, to expand their comfort zones and follow their dreams.
Since a casting mistake is the catalyst for the show’s plot, Wyatt, Johns and Harryman are very aware of its importance. “We auditioned over several weeks to get the right cast from all over Orange County and Los Angeles. Finding strippers proved to be the most challenging, but we got them,” stated Harryman. Wyatt agrees stating that dancers and strippers are “two separate groups of people” in terms of movement. “I think casting is everything. I think there's so much heart behind these characters. It's a farce and it's silly, but they're also grounded in their own reality. And I think finding that heart is something that's really important to me,” Johns stated.
Wyatt thinks audiences can learn from Anthony and Tony’s casting predicament. “They're uncomfortable at first because it's nothing that they've done before. They really learn a lot about themselves and how to be comfortable and confident. And, you know, bringing your own personality and your own self into whatever situation that you're in is ultimately the thing that's gonna make you succeed. If you stay true to yourself, you can really do anything in your own way,” she explains.
Johns believes this show asks some hard questions about living an artistic life. “How hard do you push to keep things going? Or do you just settle? Do you just give up? Do you just change your career path? Or do you just say, no, I'm going all in,” he stated.
This show is not all life lessons and deep questions by any means. It promises to give audiences a good time and many laughs. “I think we have enough dark … politically driven things in the world right now. I think just in general, the world feels very torn. I don't think anyone would argue that. This is the time to just have fun, come on a journey with these characters filled with optimism, hope, and fun,” Johns stated.
Wyatt thinks audiences should come to see the show because “it's a really funny and different spin on that fish outta water story. It really has a little bit of everything, it's hilarious. The music is really fun and it has heartwarming moments. Everybody has had that moment where they've maybe felt out of place or unsure of themselves. I think that a lot of people can relate to it in that way.”
Wyatt, Johns, and Harryman agree that even though there are adult moments such as bare butts and strippers in the show, at its heart it is the childlike theme of following one's dreams no matter what. “I’d Never Ask For More” is currently my favorite moment in the show. It’s a spoof of several Disney musicals and really cleverly written,” Harryman stated. “Even though a whole large part of the plot is based around stripping, it's actually a very wholesome show. There are butts in it, but it's very wholesome,” Wyatt stated. “I've been told if Disney ever wrote a show about strippers, I think I've just watched it,” Johns joked. To catch this exciting new work before its off-Broadway run, head to Laguna Beach.
Shannon Cudd is a writer, actor, and theater lover in Orange County, California.
“Waiting in the Wings: the Musical” No Square Theater 384 Legion Street Laguna Beach CA 92651
January 20-29, 2023
(949) 715-0333, www.nosquare.org