Bailey Short knew she wanted to tell a personal story through her senior theater project at McPherson College, but no existing musical fit the bill.
So she wrote her own, with some help from Jd. Bowman, associate professor of theatre, and James Bowyer, associate professor of music.
The result is a devised musical revue called “Musical Herstory,” which runs the gamut of musical theater songs that portray experiences in women’s lives.
“We started with just a collection of songs but now there’s more to it,” Short said. “There’s so many experiences that we’re singing about: there’s love and hate and friendship and sisterhood. The concept that connects these songs is that we’re all women and we all go through these things together.”
The production highlights songs from classic musicals such as “Les Miserables,” “Wicked,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “White Christmas” as well as songs from newer works such as “R.R.R.E.D. A Secret Musical,” “Side Show,” and “Jane Eyre.”
“With so many of these songs, I’m a huge fan of the original, but there’s something so changing about taking these songs and bringing them to a new setting,” Short said. “For example, we’re all super familiar with ‘For Good’ from ‘Wicked.’ Here, two seniors are singing that and they’ve been friends since freshman year and they’re graduating now. By having that song performed by two girls who are really friends saying goodbye, it means so much more and gives it a new life.”
“Musical Herstory,” a play on “musical history,” shares a glimpse of what it feels like to be a woman in today’s world.
The show is not a feminist manifesto, rather, it seeks to connect the shared experiences between women in many walks of life.
“Eight college students sing songs that relate to a college student’s life, we also have Lucy Bowman, Jd. Bowman’s daughter, who sings a song about what it’s like to be a child, and we have alumni coming in to sing about what it’s like being a woman outside of college,” Short explained. “It’s a good message for women of every age to hear — Everything seems easier when you feel like you’re not alone.”
As with any woman’s life, there are plenty of joyful moments, as well as sad, and the production conveys that.
“If we do our jobs, you’re going to laugh and cry,” Short said. “There’s a duet I’m involved in that makes me cry every time I sing it. It’s the duet ‘Some Things are Meant To Be’ from ‘Little Women.’ It’s between two sisters as one of them is dying.
The girl I’m singing it with is graduating and I’m staying here another semester so it really does feel like a goodbye. On the other hand, my solo song is one of the funniest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s called ‘I’m not Pregnant, I’m just Fat.’ It’s really fun, so you’re going to laugh and cry.”
With a non-traditional revue show, the setting has been adapted to reflect the intimate feel of a jazz club or piano bar.
“The way we’re setting it up, we’ll have a ton of mismatched chandeliers and tables, and everyone will be seated at a table,” Short said. “If it were stiff with the seating it would be jarringly different from what is on stage.”
As each of the songs in the show were written for other settings, Short hopes that the audience will be able to find connections with the original authors and how their messages impact women today.
“All of these voices over the years have been saying the same thing and the message becomes more clear when these songs are strung together,” Short said. “I feel that common thread. I feel like we’re not creating a foundation, but we’re building upon the skyscraper.”
Each performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in Mingenback Theatre on the McPherson College campus. Reservations can be made by calling the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or emailing email@example.com. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $3.50 for seniors and students. A First-Nighters meal will be served at 6:15 p.m. prior to each performance. First Nighters is the name of the season-ticket holders who support the theatre productions.
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.