Four Corners Musical Theatre Company will premiere 'Gene Kelly's Lost Musical'

New play was written by Steve Zumbrun, who also appears in production

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 17 through Saturday, March 19 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 20 at the Farmington Civic Center.
  • Performances continue next week.
  • Tickets are $14 and $18 at 505-599-1148 or visit fmtn.org/shows.

FARMINGTON — When he went looking for an actor to play the lead role in the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical," director Randy West knew he'd be most likely be choosing from a very limited pool of performers.

That's why it didn't take him long on settle on J. Clayton Winters.

"He's one of the few people I know who can sing, act, dance and sword fight," West said, rattling off the list of skills required for the role.

The new play, which will get its world premiere this week from West's Farmington-based company, is written by Steve Zumbrun, who also takes on the role of composer Ivan Sherman in the play. Based on the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical" features real-life Hollywood characters caught up in a play-within-a-play — make that a movie-within-a-play — situation.

Matt Aaron, left, J. Clayton Winters, Sean McCall, Donna Cherry and Steve Zumbrun are featured in a scene from the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical."

"The story is fiction, but it was suggested by this idea," Zumbrun said, referring to the true story of how Kelly once pitched an idea for a musical film version of Cyrano de Bergerac to Louis B. Mayer, the legendary head of MGM studios. "This is what it might have been like."

Zumbrun said that while much of the play is a product of his imagination, he did quite a bit of research before writing "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical," and he believes the characters largely are faithful to their real-life selves.

"Truth has authority," he said. "And if you stick close to it, people will believe it. … What they do in the show are things they actually would have done."

The elaborate pitch designed by Kelly for Mayer eventually comes to take in the whole cast, with the actors playing multiple roles as they toggle back and forth between 1950s Hollywood and 1640s Europe, the setting for the Cyrano story they are reading.

Mitchell Matyas, left, Bryan Songy, Emma Price and Gareth West are featured in the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical."

Zumbrun said the lines between the two eras eventually become so blurred they essentially become nonexistent.

"They all get drawn in, and they forget they're acting," he said. "Gene is Cyrano for a few minutes."

Randy West, the director, said one of the more notable elements of the play is the way Zumbrun composed the music to match the era. Part of it is written to mimic the can-do spirit of a 1950s MGM musical, and the rest of it is designed to reflect the sensibilities of 1640s Europe.

To perform the music, West put together a five-piece band featuring piano, percussion, keyboards, trumpet and violin, and he said the relatively small combo nevertheless does a remarkable job of recreating the lush sound of vintage Hollywood musicals.

"It gives it that kind of grandness," he said.

Gareth West, left, Shannon Cochran, Donna Cherry and Sean McCall are featured in "Gene Kelley's Lost Musical."

The production also is notable for its physicality, especially in regard to the fencing skills required of its actors.

"This is the most sword fighting I've ever done in a production," West said.

The band takes advantage of that by using the clank of sword against sword as a percussive element in the music that accompanies those pitched battles, West said.

This is the first time the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company has premiered a new work. West is aware of the fact that a lot is riding on this show — and on this summer, when the company will perform three more shows in three months. It's the most ambitious period in the organization's short history, and West is eager to see how his actors and crew members respond to the challenge.

J. Clayton Winters, left, and Matt Aaron star as Gene Kelly and Louie B. Mayer in the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "Gene Kelly's Lost Musical."

"We're a baby company," he said. "This is literally just our fifth show. But I think it's good for us to be doing a new show. … This is about as aggressive as you can grow something like this where you're trying to create a cultural world in which a company will live."

In addition to Winters and Zumbrun, the cast includes Four Corners Musical Theatre Company veteran Matt Aaron as Mayer, along with Shannon Cochran, Donna Cherry, Sean McCall, Gareth West, Mitchell Matyas, Bryan Songy and Emma Price.

"Gene Kelly's Lost Musical" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 17 through Saturday, March 19, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 20, at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Performances continue next week. Tickets are $14 and $18. Call 505-599-1148 or visit fmtn.org/shows.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.