Cabot House Musical Lives On

April 19, 2011
This year’s Cabot House Musical is a production of Annie Get Your Gun, the fictionalized story of Annie Oakley. The show is particularly poignant for Cabotians as the first show to be produced without the guidance and encouragement of the late Susan Livingston, Cabot’s beloved housing administrator. Cabot tutor (and last semester’s Acting Resident Dean) Richard Johnston referred to Susan as “the force behind the musical” for the almost 20 years that she produced and directed it.
There was a brief period of time following Susan’s passing when the fate of the musical remained undetermined, but several students stepped up with the desire to carry forward the show in honor of her legacy. Why Annie Get Your Gun? Susan wanted to see it produced at some point in Cabot’s musical career. Susan would have loved to produce Avenue Q too, but securing the rights proved impossible while the show is still on Broadway–perhaps another year.

This year, the production of the musical has been entirely student-run. Director Ian Merrifield makes his debut with this show, though he has done a lot of acting, including in HRDC’s Grease! last fall. Jordan Bryant ’11, a member of the cast, describes him as being stylistically similar to Susan, a trait that is appreciated by cast and crew. Johnston noted that Merrifield has quickly learned what does and doesn’t work in a theater. Merrifield himself describes his leadership as being of a “high-powered creative trio” of himself as director, AJ Leiman as music director, and Natalie Cameron as choreographer. Andrew Howe ’12 is this year’s producer, although he originally signed up with Susan to conduct the orchestra: Howe was the orchestra director for last year’s Cabot Musical, Guys and Dolls. Merrifield describes Howe’s job as rough, handling the business and logistics side of the show, but says that he does it masterfully. The cast is filled with talent and enthusiasm. Johnston plays Chief Sitting Bull. The title role is played by Maya Sugarman ‘12. Bryant, an actor/singer with the troupe, is described by Johnston as “a veritable power station of energy.” And several sophomores are also involved this year, including Yuanjian Luo ’13. It is Johnston’s hope that the sophomores will carry their knowledge into future productions– he calls them “the future of the musical.”

The general consensus on the cast and crew’s greatest desire for the show is not only that people will enjoy it as “a funny and entertaining chance to get away” from all of their daily obligations, but also that the musical will live on as one of Cabot’s traditions. Susan’s process was one of tough love, but according to Johnston, “She knew what she was doing, and as the show came together, and her criticism gave way to praise, you really felt as though you’d accomplished something good.” The cast and crew are honoring Susan’s memory through their efforts; the solidarity shown in Cabot through this show is quite admirable, and we think Susan would be proud.

Rebecca Maddalo, Theatre Junior Board Editor

The Cabot House Musical will run in the Cabot JCR this weekend, April 22-23rd, and next, April 28-30th, always at 8pm. Tickets, $10, may be purchased at the Harvard Box Office or at the door.

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