Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma will open its 2022 season this spring with the world premiere Native American Musical Distant Thunder.
The production was originally slated as part of Lyric’s 2020 season, but after a COVID-19 forced two-year delay, Distant Thunder will be staged outdoors at the brand-new First Americans Museum with a limited, one-week run, March 23-27. Sponsorship opportunities, as well as single and season tickets, are now available.
The production centers on Darrell Waters, a brash, young attorney, who returns to his childhood home in Montana to broker a deal that can benefit his tribe, the impoverished Blackfeet Nation. He soon faces his reclusive father about their painful past and grapples with the paradigm of what it means to be Native American in the United States. Through a childhood sweetheart, Dorothy Dark Eyes, he rediscovers his identity and feels his perspective shift – his clever business deal will destroy her language school, further erode Blackfeet culture and taint their land. Cultures collide and unite through music, dance, stories and faith as we witness the dawning of a Distant Thunder.
Casting is set for the production and will include: Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Darrell), Ryan Duncan (Hector/Sam Silver), Spencer Battiest (Tonto), Xander Chauncey (Jim Running Crow), Jonathan Lynch (Smudge), Chelsea Zeno (Shareen/Tourist), April Ortiz (Betty Still Smoking), Brent Florendo – Sitwallapum (Old Man), Jeff Barehand (White Feather), Matoaka Little Eagle (Grandma Jingle Dress), Karsten Tate (Roberta/Tourist), Katie McCollum (Aiyana), Johnlee Lookingglass (Sheriff Running Buck), Angela Gomez (Dorothy Dark Eyes), Aiden James Łe:ldin Rogers (Young Darrell) and Chava Florendo (Pow Wow Singer/Musician).
“Bringing new works to Lyric Theatre’s stage creates relevant and meaningful experiences and provides a rare opportunity to engage with the future of musical theatre,” said Lyric Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron. “Each new work tells the story of our condition, the culture of our time and adds to the canon of musical theatre. Now, more than ever, we need to remember the importance of new musical works in their ability to give voice, share experiences and celebrate the lives of diverse peoples and cultures. I am proud to have Distant Thunder premiere at Lyric Theatre outside surrounded by the dramatic beauty of the new First Americans Museum. I am thankful and inspired by our partnership with the FAM’s Executive Director James Pepper Henry, Cultural Ambassador Ace Greenwood, and the entire staff of this important new cultural institution. It is the perfect location for this groundbreaking musical which educates audiences and promotes Native peoples and artists to the world through a powerful, heartfelt and inspiring story.”
The book is written by famed director/choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett and her actor/writer son, Shaun Taylor-Corbett. Distant Thunder features music and lyrics by Chris Wiseman and Shaun Taylor-Corbett, with additional music and lyrics from Robert Lindsey-Nassif and Michael Moricz. The production will be directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett and feature scenic and lighting designs by Shawn Irish and costume design by E.B. Brooks. Music direction will be provided by Michael Morris.
“A lot of this production represents my own journey,” said Shaun Taylor-Corbett. “We (Native Americans) are so invisible oftentimes in the arts and media, so having a contemporary story, telling our understanding of history, is really exciting.”
“I am so looking forward to the prospect of helping de-marginalize the culture and contemporary issues of Native people,” said Lynne Taylor-Corbett. “We are honored to have this opportunity on the doorstep of 39 tribes.”
Lynne Taylor-Corbett has been nominated for two Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award for Broadway’s Swing! And received Drama Desk and Lortel nominations for My Vaudeville Man and Wanda’s World. She directed and choreographed Cougar the Musical and KICK! Off-Broadway. She adapted and directed The Lion King for Disney’s production in Hong Kong, and her choreography can be seen in feature films Footloose and My Blue Heaven. Her dance works have been commissioned by, among others, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Carolina Ballet, where she is resident guest choreographer. Numerous companies throughout the world have performed her works, which have been seen on Live from Lincoln Center, Live from the San Francisco Opera House and on UNC TV. Presently, she is working on a book entitled Token White Girl about her experiences dancing with the Alvin Ailey company throughout Europe and Africa.
Shaun Taylor-Corbett starred in the original production of In The Heights on Broadway and closed the show in the role of Sonny. Inspired by so many great musicals from his past, including his stint as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, Juan in Altar Boyz and Usnavi and Sonny in In The Heights, he and his mother decided to make a musical for Native People. Much of the plot of Distant Thunder stems from a trip the two of them took to the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana, when he was 15 years old. In Los Angeles, he has worked closely with Native Voices as an ensemble member – acting, directing and writing to create new works by Native Americans for the stage. He is currently an acting company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In 2014, he was honored as an artist of distinction by the Association of American Indian Affairs for his work on Jersey Boys and Distant Thunder.
This marks the sixth production in Lyric’s New Works Initiative, which began with the world premiere of Triangle (2014), Bernice Bobs Her Hair (2015), Mann… And Wife (2016) and When We’re Gone (2018) – all staged at the Plaza Theatre. Lyric unveiled a new production of Disney’s When You Wish during the 2017 Summer at the Civic Center season.
Lyric received a Production Grant, part of the Frank Young Fund for New Musicals, from the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) to assist with the production of Distant Thunder. To date, additional show support comes from the The Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Osage Nation Foundation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation/Grand Casino, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes/Lucky Star Casino, Sac and Fox Nation, Bank of Oklahoma, Heartland Payments Systems, Chesapeake Energy, Armstrong Bank, Mary Dean Streich, Keith and Debbie Long, Alan Govenar, and Terry Schnuck. Lyric’s season sponsors are Devon Energy, The Chickasaw Nation, Allied Arts, The Oklahoman, The Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Distant Thunder was first developed by Native Voices at The Autry in Los Angeles in 2012, then received a lab development in 2013, a reading in 2015, and a fully-staged reading in 2018 with Amas Musical Theatre. Oregon Shakespeare Festival presented a concert reading in 2017 prior to the creative team partnering with Lyric Theatre for a full-scale production.
For more information on tickets to the production, visit LyricTheatreOKC.org or call Lyric’s box office at (405) 524-9312. For information on how to support Distant Thunder through individual donations or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kerrie Brinkman-White at (405) 524-9310, ext. 211 or Kerrie@LyricTheatreOKC.org. Additional information about the production can be found at www.DistantThunderTheMusical.com and a performance from the cast can be viewed at https://lyrictheatreokc.com/shows/distant-thunder/.