Gordon Greenberg returns to theREP to direct loopy look at the birth of the Apollo space program
Neil Armstrong’s small step was more than just a leap for mankind. It was a brushstroke for humanity. Deborah Brevoort’s highly theatrical comedy The Blue-Sky Boys posits a critical nexus between science and art, with the engineers of the Apollo project collaborating side by side with Galileo, Tycho Brahe and Louis Leakey, but also with Icarus, Buck Rogers and The Red Baron.
The new play, a Monty Python-esque regional premiere directed by Gordon Greenberg, lands at Capital Repertory Theatre, in its second production, March 11–April 3. A string of partner events (listed below) will amplify the family-friendly script’s scientific theme, while not losing sight of its humor and invention.
Brevoort, inspired by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox’s oral history of the first manned lunar program, Apollo: Race To The Moon, became fascinated with the fact that the engineers of what she calls “the greatest collaborative undertaking in human history” worked as much by intuition and inspiration as by sweat and science.
“We have to move away from the idea of a solitary genius,” she says, cognizant, naturally, that by its nature, theatre is a collaboration, too.
“We also have to acknowledge that so many participants in the space race were first attracted to engineering and science because of something in the arts. We think of science as being dry and numbers-based, but the artistic imagination is central to discovery, to breaking through with something new.”
Brevoort—who is participating in the production—even discovered that elements of Apollo module designs were actually riffs on images from Buck Rogers comic strips!
Greenberg, a strong proponent of arts in schools, whose resume with theREP includes Single Girl’s Guide; Breaking Up Is Hard to Do; Edges: The Musical; Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; Song of Singapore; 33 Variations; and How Water Behaves, was drawn to the script for the very same reasons.
“I love what’s at the heart of this piece,” the auteur of the Broadway-bound Holiday Inn, says, “the necessity of art in science.”
“If we as human beings are going to make advances, we can’t rely on fact alone. We have to depend on whimsy, too. Without big fat mistakes, there are no big fat successes.”
The broadly funny play, which was originally commissioned by the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project, takes place in a Langley, Va. bunker, circa 1961, and ends in Houston, Texas eight years later, with all eyes on images of the Moon landing.
What happens in between, while based on history, is fiction, a crazy quilt of insight postulating Apollo the god’s input on Apollo the program’s success. Imagine Steve Allen’s Meeting of the Minds … in space!
“What Deborah has done is genius,” the director says. “She’s basically using the old Marx Brothers formula of pushing chaos against order.”
Greenberg, whose London production of Guys and Dolls is currently making an unprecedented move to a larger West End venue, has assembled an Apollo-worthy cast and production team, with many recruited specifically for the show.
Andrew Mueller, Shayne David and Etai Benson play Brevoort’s Apollo engineers, Jed Berman, CJ Caldwell and Vencel von Volp, while Joseph Kolinski, whose last appearance at theREP was in 1986, assays presidential science advisor and NASA bean counter, Howard Haggerty. Michael Goldstein, Broadway vet Orville Mendoza and Tom Templeton all make their debut at theREP playing multiple roles as the historical and fictive characters leaping from the minds of the men.
Mueller, who starred off-Broadway in Peter and the Starcatcher, is the youngest member of a Chicago stage dynasty—his brother Matt created the role of Steve in How Water Behaves at theREP; Matt’s twin, Abby, plays the title role in the North American tour of Beautiful–The Carole King Musical; and middle sister Jessie took the 2014 Tony® for the same role on Broadway.
David was recently seen with Saratoga Shakespeare Company, and Benson, enlisted, like Mueller, by Greenberg, played Boq on Broadway in Wicked.
The director’s production team includes Dramaturg Teresa Campbell; Lighting and Projection Designer Rob Denton; Assistant Director David Girard; Costume Designer Tristan Raines; Scenic Designer Paul Tate dePoo III; and Sound Designer David Thomas (a frequent presence at theREP and at Greenberg’s side).
dePoo, a rising talent in New York, has been represented at theREP with A Christmas Carol, Other Desert Cities, Smokey Joe’s Café and 4000 Miles.
“This is Paul’s most ambitious work yet,” the theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill says of dePoo’s design, “and one of the most elaborate constructions we’ve ever made.”
Preview performances for The Blue-Sky Boys take place March 11-13. Opening night is Tuesday, March 15. Regular performances continue through Sunday, April 3. Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday—with matinees 3 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 23. Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $20 to $50. Students with valid ID: $16 all shows. For tickets and information, call Tickets By Proctors, (518) 445-SHOW (7469) or visit capitalrep.org.
Opening night includes live music from Justin Friello in the café at 6:30 p.m., and complimentary post-show champagne and dessert. The Chef’s Table performance, on Tuesday, March 22, includes live pre-show music and complimentary hors d’oeuvres for ticketholders, from Angelo’s 677 Prime, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby.
The Blue-Sky Boys at Capital Repertory Theatre is sponsored by GE Power and Water and Omni Development Company, Inc.
“Satellite” events for The Blue-Sky Boys
All events at Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany, unless otherwise indicated—visit capitalrep.org for more information.
1:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday, March 14
GE Theatre at Proctors, 432 State Street, Schenectady
“Houston, we have a problem.” Though it had been less than a year since man first walked on the Moon, the Apollo 13 mission was thought routine until these five words pierced the immense void of space. Stranded 205,000 miles from Earth in a crippled spacecraft, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert (Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon) fight a desperate battle to survive as the heroic Mission Control ground crew—led by Ken Mattingly and Gene Kranz (Gary Sinese and Ed Harris)—race against time and odds to bring them home. Ron Howard directs.
Make Science A Family Event
12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 20
miSci (The Museum of Innovation and Science) partners with theREP for a pre-matinee science extravaganza, including hands-on science activities and a short discussion with Dr. Valerie Rapson, the Outreach Astronomer from miSci and the Dudley Observatory. Your special ticket price includes all pre-show activities, space-themed snacks and admission to the show.
Shine The Light On Science Discussion Nights!
6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March 23 & 30
March 23—Join Maggie and her special guest Mike Fogel, VP Technology Development at Hearst Newspaper, space enthusiast and applicant to the NASA astronaut program.
March 30—Join Maggie and special guest miSci CEO William (Mac) Sudduth, Ph.D., to talk about the intersection of art and science.
Girl Scout Day at theREP!
1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2
Get your troop together and join us for pre-matinee science activities and badge work, then enjoy the show. Contact Heather Rutski, email@example.com, for more information and to register your troop. Special pricing is available.
Meet Astrophysicist Dr. Heidi Jo Newberg
12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 3
Come Behind-the-Scenes with Maggie and special guest Dr. Heidi Jo Newberg, professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy at RPI, for a family-friendly (ages 10 and up) pre-matinee discussion about astronomy, innovation and exploration. Featuring light refreshments from Cider Belly Doughnuts, and free to all ticket holders (for any performance).
Neil Degrasse Tyson
8 p.m. Monday, April 11
Proctors, 432 State Street, Schenectady
Dr. Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, science popularizer, and host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and NOVA ScienceNOW, makes his Proctors debut.