ATI actors get their kicks on ‘Route 66’


Craig Underwood had so much fun with Actors Theatre of Indiana’s presentation of “Route 66” in 2012, he was eager to travel down that road again.

The 2000 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate, who is based in New York City, returns to play the same character he did in 2012 in the musical about traveling the famous route in ATI’s production set for Feb. 2-18 at the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

“I’m excited to do it again,” Underwood said. “I had such a great time last time. I’m a little nervous because I am 12 years older, but I think it’ll be really fun.”

Underwood contacted ATI when he learned it was presenting the show again.

“Because it’s four people that have to sing together, it’s very specific,” he said. “I totally understand if I’m not the right fit this time, but I’d jump at the chance to do it. I love working for ATI.”

The four men play different roles in vignettes, but all go by their real first names in each vignette. The music follows the area of the U.S. and the time from the 1950s to the mid-1960s.

“I love when it gets to the Beach Boys-type music,” Underwood said. “I think it amps it up and all the fun harmonies, and by that time we as performers are pretty tired because we’re like an hour and 20 minutes into the one-and-a-half-hour show. I think it gets us going again. It’s like a whole breath of fresh air. It just shows kind of how the music shifted from the ‘50s to the ‘60s.”

Cynthia Collins, an ATI co-founder and Carmel resident, is directing and choreographing the musical.

“From start to finish, it’s this high-energy journey on Route 66,” Collins said. “The show goes from Chicago to Los Angeles, and the music follows the journey. It starts out with bebop music from the ’50s.”

The musical concludes with songs such as “Dead Man’s Curve,” “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” and “GTO.”

There are audio commercials from the era, and radio disc jockeys reflect the area of the nation.

Eric Olson, a Fishers resident, wasn’t familiar with the show but saw a video of the previous time ATI performed “Route 66.”

“It’s really fun to hear a mix of songs and you are like, ‘I’ve known that song my whole life,’” said Olson, who works for Indiana Repertory Theatre as institutional giving manager and is in his fourth production with ATI. “Songs like ‘King of the Road’ mixed in with songs you’ve never heard before, but (it’s) a great tune. It’s a lot of work in a little time. These shows have a way of being terrifying in the beginning, thinking, ‘There is no way I can ever do this,’ and then a few days in, it’s ‘Hey, I’m doing this and it feels great.’”

Each performer has a few solo songs.

Brandon Vos, a Camby resident, is the music director.

“It’s a fun show because I think a lot of the tunes are familiar to everybody,” Vos said. “It’s the boogie boogie, surfer rock and Beach Boys-type stuff. It’s just a lot of energy and a lot of fun for us and the audience, too. There are participation moments a couple times.”

Vos said there are more than 30 songs, mostly between 2 and 4 minutes long.

“I’m in charge of specific parts of the music itself but they all bring their own personalities to it,” Vos said.

Vos has worked with Indianapolis resident Brett Mutter at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Mutter previously acted in ATI’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“I love tight harmonies and tight quartet singing,” Mutter said.

Cast member Kieran Danaan, a New York City resident, made his ATI debut in “Mr. Confidential” in May 2023.

“The four of us in this cast get to be so versatile,” Danaan said. “We get to explore different sides of ourselves. The four of us are witty, so it’s going to be a good time.”

Danaan said most of the music was new to him.

“The music is very relaxing but it’s also upbeat,” he said. “The music has a good message.”

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