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John Kinzer
IU Department of Theatre and Drama

Last modified: Monday, August 6, 2012

Grammy-nominated IU alumni return with updated musical

WHAT: "Solana," book, music and lyrics by IU alumni Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid, directed by George Pinney with musical direction by Ray Fellman.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16-18; and 2 p.m. Aug. 19
WHERE: All performances take place at IU Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave. No photography or recording of any kind is permitted during performances.
TICKETS: Regular admission is $15 for adults, $10 for any student and those 18 years of age and younger.

August 6, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's Department of Theatre and Drama will close its summer season and usher in the 2012-13 academic year with four workshop performances of the new musical "Solana."


From left, Hana Slevin, Colin Van Wye, Brook Wood, Satsu Holmes, Charnette Batey, Joe Giovannetti, Nat Zegree and Taylor Crousore rehearse a battle in the Indiana Festival Theatre/Premiere Musicals production of "Solana."

Print-Quality Photo

Formerly titled "Happily Ever Chloe," the musical was written by Michael Heitzman (B.A. '87 Telecommunications with a Theatre and Drama minor) and Ilene Reid (B.S. '86 School of Business). Its performances Aug. 16-19 represent the sixth installment in IU's series "Premiere Musicals: Developing New Musical Theatre at IU" and the final production of the second annual Indiana Festival Theatre season.

The production tells the story of adopted Asian-American Chloe Ellsworth, who finally finishes college and returns home to her family farm in Middle Valley, Ind. Just as she's about to settle into her new life as a writer, her royal birth family lands on her doorstep and demands that she immediately return with them to her native country -- Solana -- to take her place on the throne. Her unexpected and amazing journey reveals a profound understanding about herself and the masterpiece she is destined to write.

This year's workshop performances reflect completion of the script and score, including a second act and more fully developed characters.

"More specifically, characters have developed and are still developing and some have changed altogether. Last year, Regilda was a contemporary of Chloe's and now she is her aunt. Makodo was a potential love interest of Chloe's and now he's her cousin -- and clearly not her love interest," Heitzman and Reid said. "The title changed because we thought it sounded like a 'Theater for Young Audience' title. It sounded cute and we are exploring themes in this show that didn't feel in step with the former title."

The production will take place with minimal scenic design. Lighting designer Lee Burckes and costumes by third-year M.F.A. costume design student Katie Cowan Sickmeier will fill out the workshop design.

Heitzman and Reid are the Grammy-nominated songwriters of "Throw That Girl Around" from the Broadway musical "Swing!" Their musical "Bingo! The Winning Musical" was honored with the 2007 Bay Area Critics Association Award for Best Musical, had a successful Off-Broadway run and continues to be produced nationally and internationally.

The creative team's critically acclaimed musical "Vices: A Love Story" was produced at the Caldwell Theatre, where it was nominated for eight 2010 Carbonell Awards, including Best New Work and Best Musical. It is currently running at Theatre Aspen. Variety called Vices "a minor miracle ... a sensual celebration."

In addition to having several TV and film scripts in development, Heitzman and Reid wrote for the NBC series "Just Deal." Their sitcom "Scott Free," developed with Barbra Streisand's Barwood Films and Kelsey Grammer's Grammnet production companies, was purchased by Paramount Pictures. Both are members of The Dramatists Guild, BMI and the Writer's Guild of America, East.

Emmy Award-winner George Pinney directs and choreographs "Solana," with musical direction by Ray Fellman.

The Department of Theatre and Drama welcomes three professional actors to work alongside IU students and recent graduates. The New York-based Actors' Equity Association guest artists include: Herman Sebek playing King Benjiro; Raymond Lee playing Makodo; and Cindy Cheung playing Chloe's aunt Regilda. They are joined by recent graduate Stephanie Cohen as Chloe Ellsworth; B.F.A. students Aaron Densley and Chloe Williamson as her adoptive parents; B.F.A. student Colin Van Wye as her boyfriend Jake; and recent graduate Hana Slevin as her birth mother Linnta. An ensemble of other characters are played by recent graduate Charnette Batey, senior Taylor Crousore, junior Joe Giovannetti, junior Satsu Holmes, junior Zachary Stewart, senior Brook Wood and sophomore Nat Zegree.

"'Solana' is an original musical," Heitzman and Reid said. "It's not based on a book or a film but completely original. Therefore so much time in this early process is breaking story and finding voices. This can be more challenging than writing a piece based on source material but can also be so rewarding as you find your own twists and turns. The upside -- you can go anywhere. The downside -- you can go anywhere!"

For tickets and more information about "Solana" as well as information about the upcoming 2012-2013 IU Theatre season, visit

Indiana Festival Theatre's series is a highlight of the university's second annual Summer Festival of the Arts, a 113-day celebration that features visual arts, music, cinema, dance and theater on the Bloomington campus.