Owen & Mzee The Musical

AGES
2-7

OWEN & MZEE THE MUSICAL

  • Book and Music by Michelle Elliott
  • Music and Lyrics by Danny Larsen
  • Directed and Choreographed byTyrone L. Robinson
  • Associate Choreographer Patricia Gibson
  • Production Stage Manager Ericka Conklin
  • Props Katelyn Degennaro
  • Based on the book by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff
  • and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
  • With Photography by Peter Greste
  • Original Concept by Stanley Mathis

ABOUT THE SHOW

The amazing true story of the orphaned baby hippo and 130-year-old giant turtle whose remarkable friendship touched millions around the world.

The inspiring true story of two great friends, a baby hippo named Owen and a 130-yr-old giant tortoise named Mzee. When Owen was stranded after a tsunami, villagers in Kenya worked tirelessly to rescue him. Then, to everyone's amazement, the orphan hippo and the elderly tortoise adopted each other. Now they are inseparable, swimming, eating, and playing together. Adorable photos e-mailed from friend to friend quickly made them worldwide celebrities. Here is a joyous reminder that in times of trouble, friendship is stronger than the differences that too often pull us apart. Coming in 2018

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PHOTOS

CAST

Eric J. Willingham (Owen) is a performing artist from Fayette, Alabama. He’s an alumnus of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy New York and pursuing a BFA from the Schools of Public Engagement at The New School. Some credits include Off-Broadway: (Owen) Owen & Mzee The Musical at Vital Theatre. TV: The Deuce. He’s excited to be returning to Owen & Mzee! Follow him on social media @ericjwillingham www.ericjwillingham.com

Desmond Fernandez (Mzee) Desmond graduated from Otterbein University as a part of the class of 2021 and moved to the NYC area in September. Desmond Fernandez is so happy to be performing again, and especially in front of children. It always warms his heart to see a child’s face light up as the magic of theatre unlocks their imaginations. He thanks you for coming to share in this moment. Theatre is BACK! Desmond is represented by the lovely team at DGRW. OneLove

Aguel Lual (Ensemble & Dance Captian) After eighteen LONG months, Aguel is thrilled to be back performing with the cast of Owen and Mzee. Some of her favorite performance credits include Ella in Ella Enchanted, and Violet in Dory Fantasmagory. She received her degree from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film

Oscar Whitney Jr. (Ensemble) is thrilled to bring you along on our adventure! Oscar is a recent graduate of the Musical Theatre Program at The University of Northern Colorado. Some of his favorite roles include Benny in In The Heights, Richie in A Chorus Line and Ensemble in Tarzan The Stage Musical. He would also like to thank God, his family, and friends for their endless support. Instagram: oscarwhitneyjr.official

CREATIVES

Michelle Elliott (Book and Lyrics) Danny and Michelle met at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Their latest musical, Hart Island, set on New York City’s notorious public burial ground, was part of the National Alliance of Musical Theatres Festival of New Musicals in 2020 and will receive its world premiere production in 2022. Maiden Voyage, their passionate exploration of the lives of women aboard a notorious pirate ship, is being developed at Denmark’s Fredericia Musical Theatre. They are currently collaborating with Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls on a new musical inspired by her song, Country Radio. Danny and Michelle’s first musical, The Yellow Wood, was directed by BD Wong as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, where Danny won the award for Best Music. For their second show, Cloaked, Danny and Michelle received the Jonathan Larson Award, and Michelle was the recipient of the Kleban Prize for Most Promising Librettist for the show.Danny and Michelle also wrote, filmed and produced a seven-part musical for teens entitled The Hinterlands in a response to the spate of suicides by gay youth. The web series, which has over 1M views, can be seen at HinterlandsTheMusical.com and on YouTube. Danny and Michelle’s other work for young audiences includes Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly and Zombie in Love.

Danny Larsen (Music and Lyrics) Danny and Michelle met at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Their latest musical, Hart Island, set on New York City’s notorious public burial ground, was part of the National Alliance of Musical Theatres Festival of New Musicals in 2020 and will receive its world premiere production in 2022. Maiden Voyage, their passionate exploration of the lives of women aboard a notorious pirate ship, is being developed at Denmark’s Fredericia Musical Theatre. They are currently collaborating with Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls on a new musical inspired by her song, Country Radio. Danny and Michelle’s first musical, The Yellow Wood, was directed by BD Wong as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, where Danny won the award for Best Music. For their second show, Cloaked, Danny and Michelle received the Jonathan Larson Award, and Michelle was the recipient of the Kleban Prize for Most Promising Librettist for the show.Danny and Michelle also wrote, filmed and produced a seven-part musical for teens entitled The Hinterlands in a response to the spate of suicides by gay youth. The web series, which has over 1M views, can be seen at HinterlandsTheMusical.com and on YouTube. Danny and Michelle’s other work for young audiences includes Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly and Zombie in Love.

Tyrone L. Robinson (Director and Choreographer) A snare drum roll. A cymbal CRASH! The hypnotic refrain vamps…A man’s voice: “In here, life is beautiful.” I was 10 when I first heard a Broadway musical soundtrack: Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. After an acting career – most recently on Broadway in Disney’s Frozen – I am delighted to now be directing at the regional theatre level. A trained musician, I read music, am a history buff, and am passionate about collaboration. Recent Directing: Associate Director to Sammi Cannold on Private Gomer Jones (NAMT Festival), resident director at Actor Screener Shoot in New York City, the short film Un{H}armed, which was an official selection of film festivals nationwide, and the remount of Owen and Mzee in New York City and on tour (2022). Upcoming: This Bitter Earth by Harrison David Rivers at InterAct Theatre Company (Philadelphia), and White Ally (reading) by Douglas Williams at Bristol Riverside Theatre (PA). Awards/Honors: Joseph Jefferson Award, ASCAP Frederick Loewe Award, Off-Broadway Alliance Award (nominee), Evelyn Russell Layton Award. Writing Commissions: TheatreWorks USA, Children’s Theatre Charlotte, First Stage Milwaukee, and The Kennedy Center. Thank you Vital for the opportunity, our creative team, cast, and Stanley Mathis! www.gurmanagency.com/tyrone-l-robinson . IG and Twitter: tyronelrobinson.

Paolo C. Perez (Music Director) - Fresh off the cruise ships, "Owen and Mzee"” marks my first show on land since being stranded at sea during the height of the pandemic. Always eager to share my favorite stories, O&M's true story of finding love and community without sacrificing one's personal identity is one that caught me by complete surprise, and continues to reveal to me secrets about the world that I'm still learning, well into my adult life. Joining this team, and being a part of the process of helping to tell this story has been among my most genuine joys. My gratitude goes out to Tyrone, the cast, and the entire Vital family. Recent credits include performance on board Celebrity's "Constellation" and "Edge" ships, Music Direction for the Rock and Roll tribute group - The Rock and Roll Playhouse, a year of weekly shows with Anna Roisman and Lauren Brickman at Caroline's Comedy Club, and an ongoing residence with the Rockaway Theater Company (Dolly Parton's "9-5", La Cage Aux Folles, and Pippin). If you'd like to stay up to date, or simply can't stop thinking about that casual "stranded at sea" detail at the top, feel free to reach out @TheRealPCP on all forms of social.

Patrisha Gibson (Associate Choreographer) has toured internationally with the Glory Gospel Singers as well as Networks National Tour of Hairspray. For regional houses she performed in DreamGirls, Hairspray, Smokey Joe's Cafe, All Shook Up and Memphis to name a few. On screen, she can be seen in the TV series, A Crime to Remember, episode Baby Come Home. She also played Glady's Dubois in a TV mini series How To Make It Big.

Ericka Conklin (Production Stage Manager) is excited to be back out on tour with Vital Theatre Company. Currently she is also an Assistant Stage Manager at The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking (New World Stages). Past credits include The Other Day (14th St Y), An Act of God, Savannah Sipping Society (Millbrook Playhouse) J.B. (Messiah College) and The 72 Billionaire's Festival of New Works (Goldsmiths University of London)

Katelyn Degennaro (Props) is trilled to be working on another show with Vital Theatre Company. She is currently the Production Stage Manager for Vital Theatre Company's production of Pinkalicious The Musical at St. Luke's Theatre. She has created the props for Vital's productions of Kid Frankenstein, Angelina Ballerina, Owen and Mzee, and Pinkalicious (National Tour). Katelyn has been creating props and stage managing in Northern New Jersey for the past ten years. She would like to thank her family for all of their support and hopes you all enjoy the show!

Holly Pocket McCaffrey (Costume Assistant) is delighted to be working with Vital Theatre Company again. She has previously assisted on Kid Frankenstein (2017), Wizard of Oz (2017), and the Vital tours of Pinkalicious (2017) and Flight School (2017). Holly has also worked with the Costume Design teams for the An American In Paris 1st National Tour and the School Of Rock 1st National Tour. She was also the Assistant Costumer for the Mint Theater Company's production of Hindle Wakes (2017). Holly has had the pleasure to stitch for Les Miserables North American Tour (2017), From Here to Eternity (2017) at Ogunquit Playhouse, and Jersey Boys (2017) at New World Stages. She would like to thank her family and friends and everyone at Vital Theatre Company.

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Craig Hatkoff and daughters Juliana and Isabella (Authors of the Story Book) have created the beloved Turtle Pond Collection published by Scholastic.The Hatkoffs have authored multiple best-selling children's books.Craig is the Founder and CEO of Turtle Pond Publications, LLC (www.turtlepondpublications.com), which offers remarkable stories of hope and friendship about real animals and real world issues, empowering kids and parents to help save our planet. Their books include the #1 New York Times best-selling "Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship", which has been published in 17 languages; "Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World", about the polar bear cub Knut from the Berlin Zoo; "Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again", about the disabled dolphin Winter; "Looking for Miza", about the endangered mountain gorillas; and "Leo the Snow Leopard", about Leo, who was orphaned in the mountains of Pakistan and now lives at the Bronx Zoo.

The Hatkoffs' series of children's books, known as the Turtle Pond Collection, has won numerous prestigious awards, including the American Book Association Book of the Year and the Christophers Award. In 2002, Mr. Hatkoff moreover co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Institute with Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro.

PRESENTED by VITAL THEATRE COMPANY, INC - NEW YORK, NY
www.vitaltheatre.org
(212) 579-0528
info@vitaltheatre.org