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Review: Musical Theatre freshmen make their Katzen debut in ‘Overture’

The production put the Class of 2027’s talent on brilliant display

On Oct. 6 and Oct. 7, the American University Department Of Performing Arts proudly presented their production of “Overture” in the Katzen studio theater. 

Performed every fall semester, “Overture” gives new students the opportunity to create a cabaret-style show that reflects themselves as individuals and as a cast. 

Under the guidance of director Nancy Bannon, a professorial lecturer in the DPA, this year’s production featured a variety of large and small group songs and scenes that were tied together by the poignant themes of discovering one’s place as part of a larger community.

“Through their courage and willingness to try, [the cast] went from being a roomful of strangers to their own creative community,” Bannon wrote in the show’s program. “I’m humbled and honored to have been in the room to witness that.”

The 26 cast members — strategically dressed in red, green, blue and yellow — performed four songs, including “The Forest'” from “Octet;” “What’s Up” by Linda Perry; an original song called “Here to Stay” by the Overture cast and Sammy Grob; and “Now. Here. This.” from “Now. Here. This.” 

Each song, accompanied by choreography accented with chair props and perfectly synchronized body percussion, featured chilling harmonies, immaculate unison and moments for soloists to showcase their unique voices. 

Between the songs, scenes featured six performers broken up into pairs. Each group, using chairs, backpacks and books as props, performed a conversational snippet consisting of four words or simple phrases. 

Each partnership was unique, despite the fact that the groups used the same script, because each pair used varying inflection and implemented a multitude of creative choices so that no two scenes were the same.

“The scenes were very much an exercise in being present in a scene and connected to your scene partner, and we had a lot of fun with them,” Alexandra Fabbri, an “Overture” cast member and freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “In [the third scene], for example, two members of the cast were whacking each other with shoes, one group delivered an emotional scene about love and [two others] played with a frog. All using the same words.” 

The show followed a loose plotline of finding oneself in college and the struggles and triumphs that accompany the journey. The plot was poignantly displayed by the cast, all of whom are currently experiencing just that. 

In a vulnerable display of longing, angst, regret and self-actualization, the actors  vividly channeled these emotions into the space. 

A true highlight of the production was the cast’s wonderfully angsty performance of “What’s Up,” which elicited an enthusiastic round of applause.

Incredible vocal soloists accented the classic 1993 song, as performers used ladders and a vivid display of camaraderie to make the number a hit. 

“That scene made me feel powerful in my pain, and I always climbed down that ladder feeling lighter,” Fabbri added. 

The choreography, which featured mostly gestural upper-body movements, masterfully used the smaller studio layout to emphasize the raw emotion in the music and dialogue. Highlights included a Stomp-inspired body percussion feature and a tower of chairs being knocked down creating a beautiful simplicity. 

“Overture” came to a triumphant close with a chilling performance of “The Forest” in the Katzen Rotunda. Utilizing the upper balcony of the space and its unique acoustics, this rendition effectively concluded the audience’s introduction to the Class of 2027’s outstanding musical talent. 

“Overture was such a great introduction to the DPA because it helped me get a feeling of what it is like to perform in a college production,” Nate Rimalovksi, an “Overture” cast member and freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “I cannot wait to audition for the upcoming DPA shows and to see all the wonderful productions they put on this semester.” 

This article was edited by Sara Winick, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella. 

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