From the Bible to Charles Dickens, to the acclaimed 2004 Ron Chernow biography of a certain Founding Father, books have been a bountiful, seemingly endless source of inspiration for Broadway composers for decades.
Brent Tubbs, co-owner of The Spotlight Theatre, 1800 7th Ave., Moline, thought that would be a natural theme for a musical cabaret, so he chose Katie Griswold (a 2020 Augustana alum and local music teacher) to create and oversee “Books to Broadway.” The hour-long concert — on the Spotlight stage, accompanied by Mason Moss — will be one night only, Friday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.
“I had been talking to (owners) Brent and Sara about putting together a cabaret show outside of their regular shows,” Griswold said Monday. An elementary music teacher at Washington and Jane Addams schools in Moline, she was music director for Spotlight’s “Little Shop of Horrors” last fall and assistant music director (as well as a nun) for “Sound of Music” in December.
Griswold quickly assembled a list of about 80 Broadway shows that have been based on books. For this first cabaret, there are 17 songs to be presented from 16 musicals (“Tuck Everlasting” is represented twice). Griswold herself will sing the duet “State Road 21” (with Jacob Johnson) from “The Bridges of Madison County,” and “Samson” (with Madeline Rodriguez) from the biblical-themed song cycle, “Her Sound.”
Some of the better known songs in the cabaret will be “A Cockeyed Optimist” from “South Pacific”; “Turn Back O Man” from “Godspell”; “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin”; “The Wizard and I” from “Wicked”; and “Burn” from “Hamilton.”
The 17 songs in the show are from these musicals:
- “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
- “Tuck Everlasting”
- “Miss Saigon”
- “Be More Chill”
- “Finding Neverland”
- “Her Sound”
- “South Pacific”
- “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”
- “The Bridges of Madison County”
- “Little Women”
- “Big Fish”
- “The Lightning Thief”
Part of the show impetus is to preview Spotlight’s next major production, “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” which premiered off-Broadway in 2014 and on Broadway in 2019. That has music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki and a book by Joe Tracz, based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Rick Riordan. The musical follows Percy Jackson, a teenager who newly discovers that he is a demigod and goes on an epic quest to find Zeus‘ missing lightning bolt and prevent a war between the Greek gods.
At least half of Friday’s cast is from the Spotlight’s upcoming production, which is to run Feb. 18 to 27.
“I read that book when I was in 5th grade,” Griswold said. “It’s definitely up there with ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Hunger Games’.”
The singers who are in “The Lightning Thief” cast are Bella Kuta, Isaiah Jensen, Ryan J. Hurdle, Tim Dominicus, Brycen Witt, Bailey Hacker, Katie Griswold, Madeleine Rodriguez, Audrey Seneli, Rebecca Casad, Kirsten Sindelar, and Joseph Lasher. The staff members singing in the cabaret are Violeta Jensen (assistant stage manager), Noah Hill, (director), and Synth Gonzalez (stage manager).
Griswold hopes the “Books to Broadway” cabarets will be an ongoing series through 2022. “There are so many songs we could do,” she said. “That’s a really cool thing.”
Spotlight will hold auditions for “Tuck Everlasting” (the June show) on Feb. 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 12 from noon to 2 p.m., and callbacks (if needed) will be Sunday, Feb. 13th at noon. Tickets for the “Books to Broadway” show will be $15 in advance and $17 at the door.
For tickets and more information, call 309-912-7647 or visit the Spotlight website.