Friday, August 17, 2012

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge: Interview with Director John Fionte

Next Thursday night, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge opens at Cumberland County Playhouse. This Appalachian twist on Playboy of the Western World was written by Cara Reichel and Peter Mills. Set during the Great Depression, this show is sure to please a wide variety of audiences.

This is the first production of the show outside of New York, making it special to Cumberland County Playhouse’s New Works Director, John Fionte. John was kind enough to answer a few questions about the show, despite his hectic schedule!

What brought Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge to your attention?
The Playhouse asked me to attend the National Association for Musical Theatre's Festival of New Works last October. "Golden Boy" was presented as part of the festival. Jim was aware of the show and had spoken to the authors' agent about it a couple of years before, so he asked me to pay particular attention to the show.

What was the first thing that caught your attention when you saw the show performed in New York? Peter Mills' brilliant score. The music grabbed me immediately, which surprised me since I'm not a particular fan of bluegrass. But this music is just so irresistibly good, I simply can't imagine anyone NOT liking it. And the lyrics are equally brilliant... and wickedly funny.

How does it feel to have the regional premier of a new show?
I'm truly thrilled to be the first director aside from the "Golden Boy's" co-writer Cara Reichel to stage this remarkable musical. We have a long history of fostering and developing new work here at CCP, and it's always wonderful to watch an audience react to a brand-new show for the first time.

What influenced your design (costumes and sets) for the show?
Well, certainly the fact that the show is an adaptation of "Playboy of the Western World," which is a deeply Irish play. The Cumberland Plateau is a part of rural Appalachia,a region fiercely proud of its rich musical heritage... and of the Scots-Irish roots of its culture. Peter Mills' compelling score celebrates both the contemporary bluegrass musical idiom, along with that music's deep Celtic roots. And while it's not particularly present in "Playboy," Synge was part of an Irish literary tradition that was steeped in a sense of enchantment, of magical realism. I've tried to bring a sense of that to "Golden Boy." Pete and Cara have written a play that's an intricate blend of the traditional and the contemporary, so I've tried to give equal weight to both of those things in terms of the production. The choreography, staging, design aesthetic... all those choices are filtered through a contemporary eye. The look of CCP's "Golden Boy" is as similar to "Spring Awakening" or "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" as it is to "Smoke on the Mountain" or "Big River."

Do you have a favorite moment, or musical number from Golden Boy?
I love virtually every moment of the show, Cara! If I were forced to pick one, I'd have to say that there's a moment of transition in the finale that never fails to give me chills. And to describe it any more would be to completely spoil the surprise. :)

What kind of audience do you hope the show attracts?
Obviously, as the company's Marketing Director, I hope the show will appeal to the broadest audience base possible! "Golden Boy" has a lot of elements that will appeal to fans of "Smoke On The Mountain"... onstage musicians, bluegrass-influenced music, a rural, period setting. But I also think that because of its contemporary sound and humor, it will appeal to a broader audience as well. Especially a younger one.

If you had to describe the show in five words, what would they be?
Hilarious. Tuneful. Smart. Edgy. Rockin'.

Cast of CCP's Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge
Personally, I'm really excited about this show. John's enthusiasm for the show, just makes me all that much more excited. Also, as a social media type person, I'd like to let you know about some of the things that CCP has going for this particular show AND in general.

Cumberland County Playhouse can be found on Twitter HERE (@CCPlayhouse)

CCP's production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge can be found on Twitter HERE (@CCPGoldenBoy)

The Cumberland County Playhouse blog is located HERE

CCP's production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge has a blog located HERE

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge opens August 23rd and runs through October 26th. Tickets are available by phone at 931-484-5000 or on the CCP website by clicking HERE.

Another little "suprise" is also available. If you have a twitter account, have a blog, or a tumblr account, you are invited to a preview of Golden Boy on Wednesday, August 22nd at 7:30. Send me a tweet, email, or comment here if you are coming, and let me know where I can "find" you online!

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