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CYAC produces "Mary: A Rock Opera" for the 21st year

Promotional image for the Contemporary  Youth Arts Company production of "Mary: A Rock Opera" (Courtesy: CYAC)

First produced by playwright Dan Kehde and composer Mark Scarpelli in 1996, the rock opera "Mary" tells the story of the nine months leading up to the birth of Jesus. 21 years later the show lives on with its annual presentation kicking off the Christmas season. A new cast of characters brings the Bible-based story to life.

"I've never been in this show before and like, a lot of people have," Susannah Atkins (Mary) said. "So, it's just kind of crazy coming in for the first time and being Mary. And it's been a lot, like learning all of the songs and getting everything ready. But it's been really fun."

This year's cast is a bit younger than previous groups which have performed the show. While Mary is almost always portrayed by a teenaged girl, the roles of Joseph, Gabriel and Elizabeth are also being played by actors still in high school.

"We went for the young, for a younger crew this time," Dan Kehde (Writer/Director) said. "It's the 21st year. The 20th was a big deal. We had a heck of a cast, we had a great cast for that. But this one is like 10 years younger on average. It's amazing. The energy level is amazing. Their pitch is ridiculously good. I couldn't sing like that when I was 14."

"Being Joseph it certainly feels, it feels very important."Rubin Shirley (Spock) said. "And like I don't, I don't want to mess this up. I find myself resonating with Joseph and his emotions and his thoughts a lot. So, being the role of Joseph is more of just me being myself but having a different name."

Although the musical is entering its third decade, "Mary's" creators say they're still tweaking the music, story and staging.

"There's an enthusiasm to this group, a freshness to this group that I haven't seen," Kehde said."I was telling them this today, that it reminds me of the first group that we did. We had like 10, 12 kids in the first "Mary." But it was their enthusiasm, their sense of commitment that made the show work and has really inspired us to keep going."

The Contemporary Youth Arts Company presents "Mary: A Rock Opera"
by Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde
Fri-Sat Nov 24-25 at 8pm
Sun Nov 26 at 2pm
Thurs-Sun Nov 30 and Dec 1-2 at 8pm
WVSU Capitol Center Theater
123 Summers St, Charleston, WV
Adults $15 / Students and Seniors (65+) $8 at the door
342-6522 for advance ticket sales and group rates

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