By Heather Collins
It is a show for Hoosiers, by Hoosiers, and about Hoosiers.
“Indiana – The Musical,” endorsed this year as a Legacy Project for the state by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, will be performed Nov. 18- 20 at the newly-renovated Theatre at the Fort in Lawrence.
The musical celebrates Indiana’s 200th birthday by revealing the history of Indiana through the lens of a big-shot Hollywood director.
Ashton Wolf, creator and director of “Indiana- The Musical,” along with nine local co-writers, wrote the scenes for the show. Wolf said it highlights significant events from the past 200 years and includes scenes such as an 1800s gunfight in Carmel, a parody of Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” titled, “All the Quaker Ladies,” and “The Great Squirrel Stampede.”
The show also incorporates notable film and television personalities from Indiana, including David Letterman, Steve McQueen and James Dean. The score is mainly comprised of original tunes but also pays homage to native songwriters and composers, including Cole Porter, John Mellencamp and Hoagy Carmichael.
“Indiana – The Musical” premiered in Fishers in July. Wolf said he wanted to extend the performance statewide, and the performance in Geist is helping fulfill that goal and expose the show to all Hoosiers.
“It’s a real boon to us to know that our project is starting to spread,” Wolf said.
The show also touches on what was a real boon to Hoosiers. In 1826, a group of Muncie residents were digging in the ground looking for coal. Wolf said during their search, the men thought they had busted through the ceiling of hell and feared the devil would come out of the ground, so the men sealed it up.
“Ten years later they found out it was a huge vein of gas,” Wolf said. “This literally changed the economic fabric of Indiana.”
Wolf illustrates this occurrence in the musical through an original rap tune titled, “We’ve Got Gas.”
“Everything (the actor is) rapping about is historically accurate,” Wolf said.
Wolf collaborated with Hamilton County historian David Heighway to ensure the historical accuracy of the musical.
“It’s Still America (to Me)”
The idea for “Indiana – The Musical” began two years ago. At the time, Wolf had his eye on Indiana’s bicentennial and wanted to write a patriotic tune. Wolf wrote and composed the song, “It’s Still America (to Me),” and originally added the song to another production. During the premiere performance of the song, Wolf was playing the piano and said he heard the response but couldn’t see what happened.
Afterward, Wolf viewed a video of the audience’s response and discovered “It’s Still America (to Me)” was met with a standing ovation, tears and veterans waving their hats.
Wolf presented the video to Hamilton County Tourism and received a grant, in the highest dollar amount available, to produce “Indiana – The Musical.”
“Oklahoma isn’t the only state with a musical,” Wolf said. “I think we could be on track to create an iconic musical for the state of Indiana.”
Wolf not only wants to extend the performance throughout Indiana, he wants to continue collaborating with local actors, singers, songwriters, stage hands, musicians and designers.
Residents interested in being involved with “Indiana – The Musical” are encouraged to contact the Nickel Plate Players at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 317-572-5470.
“We believe the talent is here, the audience is here, the time is now,” Wolf said. “We’re not sending the money to New York and Los Angeles. We’re keeping it here.”
“Indiana – The Musical” will be on stage at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19, with, matinee performances at 2 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20 at the Theatre at the Fort, 8920 Otis Ave. Tickets are $15 for military and veterans, $18 for students and seniors and $20 for general admission. For tickets, visit theatreatthefort.com.
For more, visit nickelplateplayers.com or follow Nickel Plate Players on Facebook.
Cast and Crew
- Geno Leser – Famous Hollywood director.
- Thom Johnson – Assistant director.
- Beth Clark – Writer.
- Lee Meyers – Historian.
- Clifton Jett – Music director.
- Joe Meyers – Movie producer.
- Sophia Juarez — Clap board operator
Movie players (Historical characters)
- MaryAnne Mathews – Mary Todd Lincoln
- Connie Rich – Anna Harrison
- Jeremy Odgen – Rufus Cantrell
- Drew Hoffman – The Squirrel, Coyote Johnson
- Leona Woody – Civil War Heroine
- Bethany Kinsler – Mom, Solos
- Amy Thornburg – Lead Quaker Lady
- Sara Reichert
- Lauren Sciaudone
- Zach Clar
- Mackenzie Woock
- Amelie Zirnheld
- Hali Woody