Creator Barbara Epstein on “A~5678!” A Musical Revue
By Barbara Epstein
April 26, 2012 (Escondido, CA) — Thirty-five years ago, I was a teacher. I had taught high school drama and was the founder of the Musical Theatre classes at Cal State Northridge’s Teenage Drama Workshop. Having been a fortunate child and exposed to live musical theatre from the age of 4, and of course all of those wonderful Hollywood Musicals, it’s not a large jump to realize my life took the turn it did.
I decided to take the “cream of the crop” of my students and formed a non-profit theatre company, THE YOUNG ACTORS COMPANY, which was dedicated to the growth and exposure of performers, ages 16 – 30 to the professional theatre/film & TV community.
The first show I created was “A~5678!” A Musical Revue. I had no idea the hit it would become. The premise was simple. The audience was watching a group of performers two hours before the opening of their show. The entire show represents their last rehearsal. It’s a “show before a show.” The last number of the show represents the opening number of the show we’ve been watching them rehearse for. Some of the songs are songs from their show. And, some of the songs represent a “real moment in time, in their life.” My goal was by the time the audience would leave the theatre they would not only be totally entertained, recognize they have just seen a bunch of incredibly talented young performers, but they would have an emotional connection to these kids, the way I did, and feel as if they really knew them. We succeeded. Reviews were amazing and we became one of the longest running shows in LA Theatre history.
For years people have been asking me to do a revival of the show. My career in theatre, theme park & resort, cruise ship, television & animation entertainment kept me busy… and my philosophy it’s difficult to create magic like that twice. It was just too risky to try to “go back home again.”
What convinced me to do it now? Ray Limon, who was in the original cast of “A~5678!” approached me with Josh Carr, who runs the theatre at the Welk. Ray, now a wonderful and successful director/choreographer himself, understood my concerns. We all realized times had changed and young people had changed. The original show featured songs from Broadway shows and Hollywood musicals. Those songs were now overdone and wouldn’t resonate in the same way. The only way the show would work was if we kept the original premise, but all the songs would be original.
Immediately I went to work contacting all my talented songwriting friends, all of whom had heard about “A~5678!” over the years. So, we are fortunate enough to have songs from the best of Broadway, Cabaret, Disney TV & Animation, and even London’s West End Theatre.
This truly is now an original show… not a revival… and I couldn’t be happier or more proud. Sometimes it just takes the right friends and associates to nudge you in the right direction, and for a second time in your life you can make “magic” happen.
Come see “A~5678!” A Musical Revue at the Welk and you’ll see what I mean!