Missouri State stage musical 'Dreamland' explores Area 51 (2024)

By Randy Stewart

PublishedNovember 18, 2022 at 2:55 PM CST

Missouri State University Theatre and Dance presents the musical comedy “Dreamland,” directed by Sarah Wiggin, this weekend in Coger Theatre, with music and book by Chris Miller, and lyrics by Broadway veteran and MSU alum Nathan Tysen.

Deputizing for Sarah Wiggin on this morning’s Arts News program, cast member Ashlyn Creek talked about the show, which deals with the legendary Area 51, the top-secret military base rumored to have been involved in everything from experimental aircraft to space-alien autopsies. Area 51 is scheduled to be declassified, and a group of high school honor students are given the run of the place for two days to explore the site and look for evidence of secret goings-on — to the sounds of a lively pop-music score.

Ashlyn Creek plays Melissa Simms, a reporter who accompanies the high school students to the base.

“The whole point of the high school students even coming to Area 51 is, they’re supposed to discover that there are in fact NO aliens… there’s NO conspiracy,” she says. “Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s our goal.”

Not to give away too much, but Creek adds, “But I don’t think we’re going to get there!”

Lyricist Nathan Tysen came back to MSU to spend three or four days watching the “Dreamland” cast rehearse. How did his presence affect the student actors?

Nathan was incredible,” Creek says. "He came to visit us about halfway through our rehearsal process, and he worked on us with character work and diving deeper into the material. And obviously he was the lyricist for the show as a part of Miller and Tyson. And you could tell he was just so passionate about the work and he made us more passionate about the work and the whole thing was just an incredible experience. It was amazing.”

The show is a kind of a mashup of sci-fi/fantasy and B-movie-style production. Creek notes that Chris Miller’s score is quite a mashup as well.

“There's a mix of everything," Creek says. "There’s pop, there's some R&B influence. There's even a rap, which is my favorite song in the whole show. But yeah, there's something for everyone. There's also some traditional musical theater numbers, some big musical productions. We've got it all.”

And they have a live band on hand to accompany the cast, conducted by Heather Llewellyn.

Creek says “Dreamland” is actually an adaptation of Shakespeare’s "Midsummer Night's Dream."

She says, "We do a Shakespeare show (at MSU) every couple of years or so. And we decided that this year we were going to do a musical version. And again, Nathan Tyson's influence was exceptional in this choice as well. But it is a very large scale musical about very small things, like life and friendships. So in that regard, it's very similar to our most of our work. But again, it's a big production. So it's one of our it's one of our favorites, I think.”

The cast is “very large,” Creek says. “I think yesterday we did a count, and I think there are 28 of us, which is a very large cast.”

They had their opening last night (Thursday, November 17), with the audience full of high school kids who Creek described as one of the loudest, most demonstrative audiences she has experienced in four years in MSU’s Theatre and Dance program.

“It was incredible. They were a very lively audience. We had a lot of live reactions that we did not expect, but were very welcomed. We wish they were in the audience every night with us!”

Creek is a senior and has had the pleasure of working with, and learning from, MSU Theatre and Dance faculty member Sarah Wiggin during her four years here.

“We see her work every day, and I have had four years of classes with her. So just watching her process throughout all of this, it's been inspirational, seeing how she has control over the room, but at the same time makes every decision look kind and put together.”

What are Ashlyn’s plans once she graduates? “As of right now, I plan on moving to New York City and pursuing this as a career — most of the time on stage. So acting, singing, dancing. But we'll see.”

Performances of “Dreamland” in Coger Theatre are tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 20 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets range from $22 to $24, and are available by calling the MSU TIX number, 417-836-7678, or visit theatreanddance.missouristate.edu to purchase tickets.

Missouri State stage musical 'Dreamland' explores Area 51 (2024)
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