W&M alumni, students bring 'Usher' to Fringe Festivals


Just two years after debuting his "Tragedy! A Musical Comedy" in New York's Fringe Festival, Michael Johnson ('09) is back again with a new musical, and a cast and crew of William & Mary students and alumni are helping to bring it to life.

"The Fall of the House of Usher," which features original music composed by Johnson, will run in the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C. July 11 to 24 and at the New York International Fringe Festival Aug. 14 to 30.

The musical drama is based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story of the same name. Johnson said they chose that story because "it's about a musician who's dying of sensitivity to sound."

"It seemed like a fantastic idea for a musical, in an ironic way," he said.

The book and lyrics for the musical were written by Brent Cirves ('81), and the set was constructed with the help of John McAfee ('07) and Ian Cordray ('12). Additionally, performing in the show are CJ Bergin ('11), Brittany Barrett ('11), Mary Myers ('10), Carolyn Myers (Mary's sister) and Mark Rascati (brother of Gabby Rascati, a member of the Class of 2009). In the orchestra, Simon Sun ('11) and Rachelle Hunt ('09) will be performing. And finally, Luke Davis ('08) is helping with the graphic and Web design.

"So yes, you could say that W&M is well represented with this production," said Johnson, who majored in music and business.

The two-hour musical will have ten performances: five in New York and five in D.C. Along with "Usher," Johnson and Cirves will be premiering another production in New York. "Exiles From the Sun," was written and directed by Cirves and includes incidental music by Johnson.

Tickets for each show are $15 and can be purchased on the festivals' Web sites: www.capitalfringe.org and www.FringeNYC.org. For more information about the productions, visit www.usherthemusical.com and www.exilesfromthesun.com.

Johnson said that he hopes the audiences will enjoy his new work.

"The show has a great message about friendship and the type of immortality that comes through the memory of those left behind," he said. "When they leave the show, the audience should feel uplifted. They may also want to go give hugs to all their friends. It's not a tearjerker -- it just reminds us why we love our friends in the first place."