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Songs fit the story at Theater Barn's 'John & Jen'

Songs fit the story at Theater Barn's 'John & Jen'

Andrew Lippa’s “John & Jen” is the kind of musical production that all kinds of theater fans will en
Songs fit the story at Theater Barn's 'John & Jen'
Caitlin Mesiano and Michael Luongo play the title characters in Andrew Lippa's 'John & Jen.' opening Thursday, July 30, at The Theater Barn in New Lebanon.

Andrew Lippa’s “John & Jen” is the kind of musical production that all kinds of theater fans will enjoy, according to Trey Compton, who is directing the 1995 off-Broadway hit opening at 8 Thursday at The Theater Barn in New Lebanon.

“I know some people who aren’t fans of musicals can’t understand the mentality of someone breaking into song during an emotional moment in the show,” said Compton, a Pittsburgh native and 2005 Pace University graduate.

“But we’re always interested in finding musicals where the songs feel like they’re really warranted. This is that kind of show and it’s a testament to Andrew Lippa’s work. In this story, you really feel like there’s a reason to sing.”

‘John & Jen’

WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 9

HOW MUCH: $25-$23

MORE INFO: 794-8989, www.thetheaterbarn.org

“John & Jen” is The Theater Barn’s third production of the summer season. The show closes on Aug. 9, and will be followed by “The Fantasticks” (Aug. 13-23), “Evita” (Aug. 27-Sept. 6) and “God of Carnage” (Sept. 11-20).

The story centers on a women named Jen, played by Caitlin Mesiano, and her relationship with her brother and then her son. Both are named John and are played by Michael Luongo.

“This is a show that is very near and dear to my heart,” said Compton. “It’s in my top three when I talk about what theater can do for me. It’s a sentimental show for me because it’s the first show I directed by myself when I was in college.

“But the sentimentality doesn’t get in the way of the emotion. It’s about the relationship between two members of a family, but it’s also universal to any family. The story is part of our American family vernacular. We’ve all dealt with the same humor, the same heartache. It doesn’t matter what your upbringing is, or where you came from.”

Act 1 is about the relationship between a sister and her brother and covers 1952-1972. In Act 2, the sister has grown up and is dealing with a son. The time frame covers 1972-1990.

Lippa, who also wrote the music for “The Addams Family,” was an actor at the Theater Barn in 1990 when he began working on the play.

“He told me he was writing a new musical and asked me if I wanted to hear a song from it,” said Joan Phelps, who opened the Theater Barn in 1989.

“Well, he’s really become quite a well-known composer, and after we did ‘The Addams Family’ last year, I figured it was time to do another Andrew Lippa work. I went down and saw the revival in New York last year and I loved it. It’s a musical with a very touching story, and it fits perfectly in our intimate theater.”

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