Middle and Upper School Arts News & Stories
Kellen Blair, standing center, rehearses with his Scrooge in Love collaborators and Northwestern students during a recent theater workshop at the university.
Not every thespian gets to watch a new musical come to life.
Two Riverdale Upper School students went to Northwestern University recently to workshop Scrooge in Love with Kellen Blair, the show’s lyricist and a Riverdale theater and film teacher. On Nov. 23, the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern put on an invitation-only presentation of the show.
Scrooge in Love is a collaboration of Duane Poole, the writer; Larry Grossman, an Emmy-award winning composer and Northwestern alumnus; and Blair, who wrote the lyrics. Conceived as a musical sequel to A Christmas Carol, the show is being created for a family audience.
When Blair approached Riverdale Head of School Dominic A.A. Riverdale and Upper School Head Kelley Nicholson-Flynn about taking time off in order to do the workshop, he suggested getting Riverdale involved by bringing a small group of students along to help out with the musical and immerse themselves in theatre life at a major university. The drama faculty and Upper School deans recommended about a dozen students, and Berk Pearlstein, a senior, and Jordan Knitzer, a junior, were able to go.
Pearlstein, who is interested in writing, said he was impressed with how the collaborators were willing to cut their work to make the show better. In an email, he said: “My favorite memory from the trip was when we had breakfast on the third day and Mr. Blair, along with Larry (the Tony nominated composer . . . kinda cool) and Duane (the book writer), decided to cut two scenes and a song. On the spot. One person (I forget who) said they weren't into the scenes and the song, the others agreed, and by the time breakfast was done, the musical had been changed!”
Knitzer said he was struck by how quickly the Northwestern students had to learn the show. “It was so impressive how fast the creative process went as there was so much to learn,” he said. About 15 students produced the musical, “learning songs and lines on the fly.” The rehearsals were four hours long, and there was one 8-hour rehearsal on a Saturday. At Riverdale, he noted, rehearsals are much shorter, usually two hours or so, but go on for a much longer period of time.
The students also enjoyed having an opportunity to see the Northwestern campus and meet students and faculty.
Blair said he was pleased that several Riverdale alumni who attend Northwestern came to the show.
Blair is the co-creator of the musical, Murder for Two, which had an off-Broadway run earlier in the year, and received a Drama Desk nomination. The show is about to go on tour with shows set for Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and San Diego. Blair also has another project in the works with his Murder collaborator, a farce tentatively titled The More Things Change.