The world premiere of How to Dance in Ohio began at Syracuse Stage September 21, with Sammi Cannold at the helm. Opening night is September 23.
With music by Jacob Yandura, a book and lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik, How to Dance in Ohio is based on Alexandra Shiva’s documentary, produced by HBO in 2015, which follows the challenges faced by a group of autistic young adults at a counseling center in Ohio. With the support of clinical psychologist Dr. Emilio Amigo, the center arranges a spring formal dance and encourages them as they encounter love, fear, stress, excitement, and hope, along the path to human connection.
The cast, which includes autistic actors in the seven principal roles, comprises Desmond Edwards, Amelia Fei, Madison Kopec, Liam Pearce, Imani Russell, Conor Tague, and Ashley Wool, along with Rent Tony winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Haven Burton (Shrek the Musical), Darlesia Cearcy (Shuffle Along…), Carlos L. Encinias (Les Misérables), Nick Gaswirth (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812), Melina Kalomas, and Marina Pires. Rounding out the company as understudies are Elana Babbitt, Corinne Ferrer, and Zach Simpson; and swings Imri Leshed and Nicole Fazia.
The musical was originally developed with the late Harold Prince and is dedicated to his work on the project.
The production features choreography by Mayte Natalio, scenic design by Robert Brill, costume design by Sarafina Bush, lighting design by Bradley King, and sound design by Connor Wang. Lily Ling music directs, with Matt Gallagher serving as music supervisor. Scott Rowen is production stage manager, and Laura Jane Collins is assistant stage manager. The production is cast by Stewart/Whitley. Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt serves as the production’s ASD (autism spectrum disorder) creative consultant with Becky Leifman as the director of community engagement.
Producers are Ben Holtzman, Sammy Lopez, Fiona Howe Rudin, and Syracuse Stage. Jeremy Wein is associate producer, and general management is by ShowTown Theatricals. Production counsel is Nevin Law Group.