The world premiere of How to Dance in Ohio opened the season at Syracuse Stage beginning September 21, with Sammi Cannold at the helm, running through October 1. Get a first listen to Darlesia Cearcy and Haven Burton singing "Getting Ready for the Dance" from the new, neurodiverse musical above.
With music by Jacob Yandura and 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 included autistic actors in the seven principal roles, comprised 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 were 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 featured choreography by Matye Natalio, scenic design by Robert Brill, costume design by Sarafina Bush, lighting design by Bradley King, and sound design by Connor Wang. Lily Ling was the music director, with Matt Gallagher serving as music supervisor. Scott Rowen was production stage manager, and Laura Jane Collins was assistant stage manager. The production was cast by Stewart/Whitley. Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt served as the production’s ASD (autism spectrum disorder) creative consultant with Becky Leifman as the director of community engagement.