When West Virginia-born Homer Hickam stood in his backyard watching the Soviet satellite Sputnik orbit the Earth, he had no way of knowing it would lead him to a life filled with scientific discovery and artistic expression. Fans of Hickam’s work will be enchanted by the whimsical dramatization of his experiences in the Fairmont State University School of Fine Arts production of “Rocket Boys The Musical.”
The production runs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15 and 16, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m.; and Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 20 through 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Wallman Hall Theatre on the main campus of Fairmont State University. Tickets are $13 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (304) 367-4240.
Before and after the production, audience members may visit “Black Diamonds,” a museum-style exhibition about the history of coal mining in West Virginia. The exhibit is courtesy of Mike Rohaly and the Northern Appalachian Coal Mining Heritage Association. The exhibit will be housed in the fifth floor Tower Room of Wallman Hall.
Hickam and his writing team stayed closer to the original story for this musical than was done for the script of the movie, “October Sky.” The story follows young Sonny Hickam, played by FSU Theatre major Kaleb Straley, as he and his friends, the Rocket Boys played by FSU Theatre majors Allen Ludwick, Tyler Kovar and Rennes Carbaugh, dream of a life outside of Coalwood, W.Va.
Encouraged by their teacher, Miss Riley, played by Leigh Anne Bolyard, the boys take on the challenge of learning the complicated math and science necessary to build and launch a rocket. Their explosive efforts put them in conflict with Sonny’s father Homer Hickam Sr., played by guest artist Bubby Lewis, and with other members of the Coalwood community.
Lewis is a member of Actor’s Equity and brings 30 years of acting and singing experience to his role.
“This is the first time that FSU has hired an actor through Actor’s Equity,” said Troy Snyder, the director of “Rocket Boys The Musical.” “Bubby brings a different level of life and work experiences to the cast. Working with him should be a great educational experience for our student actors. We’re glad to have him here.”
Snyder is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Fairmont State. In addition to directing, he also designed the scenery, which includes a revolving platform that indicates multiple locations in the show.
In addition to Broadway musical style numbers, the score of “Rocket Boys The Musical” contains some 1950s-style music including “The Diary of Dorothy Plunk” and the Elvis-inspired “Fair Shake,” a song the boys use to stall the judges while Sonny gets a new rocket to replace the one stolen from the boys’ science fair exhibit. R.J. Nestor is the music director for the production. Senior Theatre major Tyler Kovar and FSU Theatre alumna Hannah Weakley are the choreographers, and FSU Fashion Merchandising major Rebekah Watson is the costume designer.
Other members of the cast of “Rocket Boys The Musical” are FSU Abelina Suarez Professor of Communication and Theatre Dr. Francene Kirk; FSU Theatre majors Kurtis Dennison, Shannon Yost, Madison Whiting, Stephen Phillips, Gary Hayes, Brandon Rose, Brandon Lee, Kaici Lore, Pamela Chatman and Anthony Edmond; FSU students Daniel Heck, John Hall, Alex Myers, Ariel Masturzo and Johnna Lopez; and community members Christian Cox, Sarah Lemley and Chris Yost.
The production runs about two and a half hours. The show’s content is appropriate for older children and teens, but it does contain a small amount of strong language.