Sunday, September 14, 2003

Teen unleashes his dream in 'Songs'

Theater notes

Jackie Demaline

Drew Hackney has always thought big. "Ever since I was a little kid," he confides. "Even my English teachers comment on how I like to use big words."

The 17-year old Mason High School senior's current big deal is a Saturday performance of the Jason Robert Brown musical revue Songs for a New World that will benefit Actors Fund of America. He'd love to sell all 1,168 tickets.

Songs, which employs a 16-song cycle to look at 500-plus years of life in America (starting aboard the Santa Maria in 1492) is Hackney's senior project. Of course it was going to be theater, because he fell in love with performing when he was 10 and his parents took him to Phantom of the Opera.

Hackney is producing, directing, choreographing and performing in Songs. (Mom Carol is house manager.) Joining him on the Mason High School stage will be Amber Burgess (they met when both appeared in The Secret Garden aboard Showboat Majestic) and Michael Fielder, who choreographs the Mason High musicals.

Songs is the beginning of a bigger dream.

In his spare time Hackney is establishing dreamLight Theatricals and he's huddling with friends in California and Cincinnati to put on a production of Ruthless! at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater next summer.

He figures he needs to raise $25,000 and will start looking for investors after Songs, say, starting next Sunday. (Hopefully rehearsals for Cincinnati Music Theatre's Ragtime, in which he's an ensemble member, won't interfere too much.)

"Sleep? What's that?" Hackney laughs.

The five-year plan looks like this: enrolling in college (ideally in New York University's lauded program) with a general musical theater major and using dreamLight as a vehicle for the next 10 years "to bring something back to Cincinnati."

The show he's most looking forward to seeing is Playhouse in the Park's My Fair Lady. "I saw (the actor playing Henry) Higgins in Aida. He was wonderful. And the two piano thing sounds awesome."

Tickets to Songs for a New World are $10. Call 459-0634.

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