When UNR students Brandon Harnish and Nick Hansen were looking for a new challenge for the Nevada Glee Club, they had the idea to arrange and produce a full musical. They decided to pick a piece that would fit a small cast and budget, and one they were already familiar with. With the addition of sophomore theatre major Sienna Scamman, these students make up the directing team for the Glee Club’s upcoming production of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, which opens this Saturday.
The show, based on a web series starring Neil Patrick Harris, follows a wannabe supervillain named Billy, a.k.a. “Dr. Horrible”. The main character finds himself torn between following his dream of joining the “Evil League of Evil”, and pursuing his crush, a regular girl named Penny. In both his supervillain life and his personal life, he is thwarted time and again by his nemesis, a superhero named Captain Hammer.
Since this show originated as a web series rather than a stage production, the directing team made some changes to translate it more effectively to the stage.
“The original Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog is an online series of shorts. Each act was kind of its own encapsulated thing,” said Hansen, “That doesn’t translate perfectly to stage … so we’ve made some movement and storytelling quirks that just make it possible to be a stage show.”
These additions are not the only original element to the show. Harnish, the show’s musical director, arranged all of the music himself.
“It’s about half an hour’s worth of music, but I’ve spent give or take 80 hours putting it all together,” Harnish said.
Unlike other plays on campus, this show is completely student-run and independent of the theatre department. Neither Harnish nor Hansen are theatre majors; Harnish is a graduating senior with a major in discrete mathematics and operations research, while Hansen is a junior majoring in English and secondary education.
“The only thing we really have in common is that we like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and we like to sing,” said Hansen, “We’re not all there because we’re studying theatre, we’re there because we like theatre.”
The cast features Alexis Pedote as Sally, Marshall Jones as Captain Hammer and Isaac Goyette as Dr. Horrible. Amongst the cast, and even amongst the three leads, there are varying levels of musical theatre experience. According to Hansen, Pedote has “lots of theatre experience”, while Jones and Goyette have some musical experience but no direct theatre experience. However, though the leading man is not experienced, Hansen said he has a natural gift.
“He came with a skill set and a wonderful talent and an eye for this, and you can tell he’s already passionate about this musical from the start,” said Hansen, “I really hope he continues to do theatre of some kind after this project because he’s just wonderful to watch.”
Producing an entire show with few resources provides some unique challenges. With a small cast, it is important for everyone to know what they are doing at any given moment to keep the show flowing smoothly.
“We have only a dozen people, but dozens and dozens of prop placements, scene changes and song cues. Perhaps the biggest challenge as a director is getting everyone to know their personal assignments both as actors and as stagehands,” said Harnish.
“The first and foremost challenge for me personally has been time. Time is the first hurdle to get over with any project you’re doing with college students,” said Hansen, “But again, every week they come, and they work much faster than I expect them to, and everyone does a phenomenal job.”
Although finding time can be a challenge, Harnish said everyone in the cast has been fully committed.
“The most rewarding aspect of the show is the camaraderie. Everyone involved loves this show, and you know because of how everyone wants to tell the story,” said Harnish.
Performances are at the JCSU theatre on Dec. 1 and 2, with shows at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day. Tickets are $5 at the door.