When the Straz Center production of Shout! The Mod Musical came screeching to a halt in March 2020, after just two weeks of performances, director and choreographer Alison Burns was devastated.
Hers wasn’t the only play that got its plug pulled by the pandemic, of course. But the sudden, seemingly irreversible loss hit her hard.
“My husband never got to see it,” Burns says. “We literally were supposed to go next day, and the show shut down.”
Burns-Jackson, her crew, the five Shout! cast members and the backing musicians got left high and dry, without jobs. Ticket-holding audience members were left scratching their heads.
Fast-forward 17 long months. Shout!, a high-energy jukebox musical way overstuffed with nostalgia, is back. It “opens” tonight (Aug. 17) at the Straz’s Jaeb Theater, and will run through Sept. 19.
The cast consists of five women who sing and dance their way through a program of 1960s radio hits originally made famous by female artists – the likes of “Downtown,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “To Sir, With Love” and “These Boots are Made For Walking.”
They were, and they are: Kelli Hall as Blue Girl, Chelsea Hooker as Orange Girl, Heather Krueger as Yellow Girl, Jessica Moraton as Green Girl and Julia Rifino as Red Girl.
“When the Straz called and said they wanted to being it back, I was so ecstatic that all five of the girls were available, and ready to do it,” Burns enthuses.
And so the day-glo Mary Quant dresses, the white patent leather go-go boots and the bouffant wigs came out of forced retirement, too.
“I was actually shocked at how much the girls recalled,” adds Burns. “And I think it’s one of those things where you listen to a piece of music, and you move to it so much, over and over, it’s muscle memory. It was locked into their bodies.”
At July’s first “new” rehearsal, “They started singing, and they immediately put their books down. They got up and they started moving.”
Said cast member Krueger: “Most of it did come flooding back. I think it’s always a nice opportunity to take a second look at a piece. Extra time to better your work is always welcome.”
Added Rifino: “The girls and I have stayed close over the past year and a half, so our chemistry and energy snapped right back into place once we were reunited. These girls feel like home.”
They’d shot a couple of short rehearsal videos in 2020, and Burns screened them again, to refresh everyone with certain dance steps (Shout! rarely sits still). “I was blown away with how much they recalled,” she says. “Because I honestly, as the choreographer, was very little help. If there are any other choreographers reading this, they know: Once you set it, you kind of forget it.
“And so when I came back, it was not in my brain. I was like ‘Thank God you guys remember this, because I set it on your bodies and then I forgot it.’”
And leaving Shout! muzzled for so long did result in an unforeseen advantage or two. “After letting it go for a year, coming back and watching it, as the director I found some cool stuff,” says Burns. “I was able to make some different character choices, some different blocking choices. We added a couple of different costume pieces that I thought would make it that much more interesting.
“These are changes I wouldn’t have found if we’d just left it. How often do you get this opportunity to re-visit a show with the exact same cast a year later?”
Additional information and tickets here.