Star of Freedom
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Based on the concept album “Exodus” by Jeff Blaney -- Music & Lyrics by Jeff Blaney; Book by Lawrence Thelen
      SHOW TIMES:       Thursday, April 7th -
Sunday, May 1st

Wed & Thurs 7:30pm / Fri & Sat 8:00pm
Wed & Sun 2:00pm


A brand-new, world premiere musical – written by Connecticut writers – is on stage now at Ivoryton Playhouse. STAR OF FREEDOM, with music and lyrics by Jeff Blaney and book by Lawrence Thelen (both residents of Connecticut), opens the Playhouse’s 2022 Season beginning April 7. 

Based on Blaney’s concept album ExodusSTAR OF FREEDOM takes us on a journey with Sean and Chloe as they search for the meaning of home in 1860s America. The two come from completely different worlds – one an Irish immigrant, the other an African-American slave – but when the Civil War forces their lives to intersect, they show us what it means to be American during the 19th century. At a time when America is struggling with its identity, it’s worth looking back to another difficult time in history that ultimately led to a stronger and more unified nation. Though today we still see the flaws and scars that this history left behind, STAR OF FREEDOM brings us a ray of hope through the lives of these two very different characters. 

STAR OF FREEDOM is at times funny and whimsical, while at other times poignant. Blaney’s intimate and refreshing score (played by the actors on stage) is steeped in Irish and Southern traditions, making it both contemporary and nostalgic at the same time; while Thelen’s book is timely and theatrical.  

Ticket prices:$55 adult; $50 senior; $25 students of all ages

COVID Policy as of April 1, 2022:  This season, Ivoryton Playhouse is back to full capacity for the first time in two years, yet the safety of our audience remains our primary concern. Before admittance into the Playhouse, vaccinated patrons are asked to provide proof of vaccination (with photo ID). If you are not vaccinated, you must provide a negative covid test result within 72 hours (with photo ID). Entry will be denied to patrons who do not provide the documentation as required. For the safety of all of our patrons, wearing of masks in the theatre is recommended.

If you are not feeling well or are experiencing any symptoms of covid, please do not travel to the Playhouse. We will gladly switch your tickets to another date within the same show (subject to availability).

These guidelines are subject to change at any time during the season. Knowing all audience members are covid-free will provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all.

Danny Adams (Sean and Fight Captain) is pumped to be making his debut at the Ivoryton Playhouse! Off-Broadway: The Office: A Musical Parody. Regional: Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Rocky Mountain Rep, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Palace Theatre, Interlakes Summer Theatre. B.F.A in Music Theatre with Honors from Illinois Wesleyan University. Danny would love to thank Jacqui, Jeff, and Larry for this awesome opportunity. Much love and appreciation to Brian at HKA. He would also like to thank Hannah, his family, and his friends for their constant love and support while he continues to “live the dream.”  Social Media:   dannyeadams.com|   @dannyeadams

 

Brian Russell Carey* (Luke et. al) is excited to be making his Ivoryton Playhouse debut!  Off-Broadway: Red Roses, Green GoldA Christmas Carol (MOD Theatre Company). Regional Theatre: Ring of Fire (Actors Theatre Louisville, Milwaukee Rep, Oregon Cabaret Theatre); The All Night Strut! (Milwaukee Rep); Back Home Again (The Lesher Center); All Shook Up (Carriage House Theatre).  Brian received his B.F.A from Brigham Young University.  He frequently collaborates with his husband, musical theatre writer Joey Contreras, and is the music supervisor of his shows In Pieces, Forget Me Not, and Heartbreakers in Hell In addition to playing 12 instruments and acting, he is a professional videographer and runs his production company, BRC Creative. (He/Him) Social Media: @brianrcarey   brianrussellcarey.com

 

Luke Darnell* (Brody Doyle, et. al.) is a fourth-generation performer, Luke’s family legacy includes Vaudeville, Broadway and film/TV. He is delighted to return to Ivoryton after appearing here as Carl Perkins in Million Dollar Quartet. As an actor, musician, and stunt performer he has appeared on 4 continents in venues ranging from arenas to theatres to dive bars. Off-Broadway/NYC: The Other Josh Cohen, Cyrano de Bergerac (Christian) and The Goree All-Girl String Band. Las Vegas: MDQ (Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash). Select regional: Matilda (Mr Wormwood), The Understudy (Jake), Jersey Boys (Gyp DeCarlo), MDQ (Perkins, Sam Phillips), Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Oliver! (Bill Sykes). TV: “Gotham”, “Ghost Whisperer”, “General Hospital”, and many films you probably haven’t seen. Luke plays guitar, bass, and/or mandolin in various projects including, Lianne & Luke, with his partner, Lianne Marie Dobbs.  Social Media:  www.lukedarnell.com   @actormusicianguy   @LianneandLukeDuo

 

Ben Hope* (James and Musical Director) is thrilled to be back in Ivoryton to assist with this exciting new project. Hope, a songwriter, producer, director, and actor, made his Broadway debut in 2012 as the lead in the Tony Award-winning musical Once. He has also traveled the world portraying such notable musical greats as Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, George Jones, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and other more traditional musical theatre roles. Ben’s NYC-based Honky-Tonk band Ben Hope & The Uptown Outfit released their debut album ‘Ragged & Rowdy’ in 2015. Learn more at benhopemusic.com.

 

Ayla Stackhouse (Chloe) is grateful to be originating the role of Chloe! Special thanks to my family and friends, and agents at FSE for their continued support.  Broadway: The Book of Mormon, SwingTour: Motown The Musical, Edna Anderson. The Book of Mormon – Jumamosi, Swing. The Book of Mormon OZ/NZ, Nabalungi U/S.  Mickey’s Storybook Adventure, Princess Tiana. American Musical and Dramatic Academy, 2017. Social Media:  nicole@fsetalent.com @aylastackhouse

 

 

Richard E. Waits* (Uncle Lewis and Dance Captain) started his career dancing with the legendary Ginger Rogers!  Many projects, many shows, many highs, many lows. Mr. Waits is celebrating 40 years in show business. As a playwright, his show in development Mama Rose played LaMaMa and Royal Family Productions. As a composer he was commissioned by Maxwell House Coffee and Pioneer Theatre Company. Upcoming feature film: Ramsey and television pilot: Retired. Thank you: Agent Eddie Rabon, Susannah Clark and team at Take 3 Talent, family and friends.  Social Media: @RichardE.Waits

 

Director:  Jacqueline Hubbard

Stage Manager: James Joseph Clark*

Musical Director:  Ben Hope*

Choreographer:  Karilyn Surratt

Scenic and Lighting Designer:  Marcus Abbott

Sound Designer:  Adam Jackson

Costume Designer:  Liz Saylor

* member of Actors Equity

MUSIC AND LYRICS BY JEFF BLANEY

FROM CONCEPT ALBUM TO MUSICAL

Jeff Blaney is a songwriter, musician, and performer, and the composer/lyricist of the new musical STAR OF FREEDOM premiering at the Ivoryton Playhouse this April. After a decade working in Nashville, and stints in New York and Los Angeles, this Connecticut native returned home so he and his wife could raise their twin boys closer to family.

But when the 2020 shutdown curtailed Blaney’s performing gigs, he found himself stuck at home. “Everything was so divided at that time,” he says, “it just got me thinking about our country and what it means to be an American.” Between the pandemic, the events of January 6, and the passing of congressman John Lewis, who Blaney admired, he says he embarked on writing an American story because, “I was kind of losing my love of the country and I wanted to regain it.” The result was the creation of EXODUS, a concept album made up of songs and narrative passages telling the story of Sean, an Irish immigrant, and Chloe, a newly freed slave.

Blaney set his story during the Civil War, where he saw parallels to today. “Looking at the Civil War seemed like a very obvious way to try to shine some light on what we were going through at that time, and what we’re still going through now.”

Hoping to find a producer, he sent EXODUS to Jacqui Hubbard at the Ivoryton Playhouse in the summer of 2021. Hubbard liked what she heard and felt the material could be turned into a stage musical, and she and Jeff brought in Lawrence Thelen to adapt Blaney’s narrative into a script, all the while retaining his songs. And, in fact, Blaney added several more songs to the show as he and Thelen developed the musical.

STAR OF FREEDOM has taken on an added dimension beyond that of the concept album Blaney created nearly two years ago; one Blaney finds exciting. “It’s been such a fun thing for me to see both an audio version of this story and now a musical version of the story, and how they’re similar and how they’re different. And the creative process of both of them has just been really wonderful.”

 

BOOK BY LAWRENCE THELEN

How did you get involved with the project?
“I was initially introduced to Jeff’s songs by Jacqui Hubbard, who thought Jeff’s material could be made into a stage musical, and she asked me if I’d be interested in writing the book.”

How did the collaboration start?
“I first met Jeff in August, 2021, and we immediately saw eye-to-eye with how we wanted to tell this story. More than half the score had already been written, and there were a handful of monologues Jeff had created about these characters and the story they were involved in. Over the next six months, I expanded the story and the characters, and we ultimately added four more songs to the show.”

What interests you most about the show?
“I really like the theatricality of it.  Jeff had been performing the piece as a one-man show in pubs, and I really wanted to keep that intimate, theatrical quality, where it wouldn’t necessarily be out of place for an actor to speak directly to the audience, or for a bit of narration to be spoken to string the story together – just as Jeff did in his pub show.”

The musical takes place during the Civil War. Is it relevant to today?
“I think the story is extremely timely with where we are as a nation right now. It’s not a political show – it can be raucously funny at times, and very serious at others, and I think it’s very entertaining – but there are moments in the show that will make people think. And I like that. Isn’t that what theatre’s all about?”

How does this show compare with others you’ve written?
“I mostly write comedies, and though this show has its funny moments, the underlying story is serious. There were times I had to keep myself from making it too funny. It also has a lot more characters than most of my other shows. Though there are only six actors, the story requires more than 30 characters – and from the outset we always felt we wanted the on-stage band members to cover all the roles.  So, it’s very theatrical, and very much an ensemble piece.”

How has it been working with Jacqui Hubbard?
“We knew Jacqui was going to be the director from the outset, and that added a valuable voice to the collaboration. Most shows I write alone, and it’s only once you head into rehearsals that you get any feedback. Having Jacqui on board from the start allowed me to get feedback immediately, which allowed me to keep writing, keep editing, keep creating with the director long before engaging the actors. That is a very rare but gratifying partnership for a writer.”

Check back here for press releases, photos and video clips!

“Star of Freedom” at Ivoryton Playhouse

Star of Freedom – Ivoryton Playhouse 2022

Ivoryton – A brand-new musical written by Connecticut writers is on stage now at Ivoryton Playhouse. STAR OF FREEDOM, with music and lyrics by Jeff Blaney and book by Lawrence Thelen, is on stage until May 1, 2022.

Based on Blaney’s concept album Exodus, STAR OF FREEDOM takes us on a journey with Sean and Chloe as they search for the meaning of home in 1860s America. The two come from completely different worlds – one an Irish immigrant, the other an African-American slave – but when the Civil War forces their lives to intersect, they show us what it means to be American during the 19th century. At a time when America is struggling with its identity, it’s worth looking back to another difficult time in history that ultimately led to a stronger and more unified nation. Though today we still see the flaws and scars that this history left behind, STAR OF FREEDOM brings us a ray of hope through the lives of these two very different characters.

Star of Freedom – Ivoryton Playhouse 2022

STAR OF FREEDOM is at times funny and whimsical, while at other times tragically sad. Blaney’s intimate and refreshing score (played by the actors on stage) is steeped in Irish and Southern traditions, making it both contemporary and nostalgic at the same time; while Thelen’s book is timely and theatrical.

Conceived and directed by the Playhouse’s own Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard, this world premiere musical features a terrific line-up of actor/musicians, including Danny Adams as Sean, and Ayla Stackhouse as Chloe. The nearly 30 other characters in the story are handled by Brian Russell Carey*, Luke Darnell*, Richard E. Waits * and Ben Hope* who also musical directs. Karilyn Ashley Surratt joins the creative team as choreographer.

The show has sets and lights designed by Marcus Abbott; costumes by Elizabeth Saylor; and sound by Adam Jackson.

STAR OF FREEDOM runs through Sunday, May 1, 2022. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm; evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm. There will be one Saturday matinee on April 9 at 2:00 pm.

Star of Freedom – Ivoryton Playhouse 2022

This season, the Playhouse is back to full capacity for the first time in two years, yet the safety of our audience remains our primary concern. Masks are no longer required, though recommended, and patrons must provide proof of vaccination or a negative covid test result for admittance. Knowing all audience members are covid-free will provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all.

Tickets are $55 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $25 for students. Tickets are available online at ivorytonplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 860.767.7318. (For information on group rates, please call the box office.) For more information on the entire 2022 season, visit ivorytonplayhouse.org. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*Denotes a member of Actors Equity

Star of Freedom – Ivoryton Playhouse 2022

Looking for something to do? Ivoryton Playhouse has been voted best place to see live theatre by readers of The Shoreline Times for three years in a row. Come to Essex and visit our historic, professional theatre – a Connecticut treasure!

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Did You
Know

During the Civil War, one-third of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army were immigrants, and nearly one in 10 was African American. The Union Army was a multicultural, multinational force. We often hear about Irish soldiers (7.5 percent of the army), but the Union’s ranks included even more Germans (10 percent). Other immigrant soldiers were French, Italian, Polish, English and Scottish. In fact, one in four regiments contained a majority of foreigners. Blacks were permitted to join the Union Army in 1863, and some scholars believe this infusion of soldiers may have turned the tide of the war.