“INDIGO” New Musical Shines Light on Autism and Family 

"Indigo" is Human Race's gorgeous new musical similar to "Next to Normal" but handling autism (and early onset dementia) in such a smart innovative way. Great piece!

By David Brush

Indigo is the world premiere new musical currently premiering at Dayton’s Human Race Theatre Company. Like mental health, autism has rarely if ever been handled particularly well (or at all?) by musical theatre as a genre, but Indigo might just shift that trajectory. With a book by playwright and librettist Kait Kerrigan (“The Mad Ones”) and music by MAC award-winner Scott Evan Davis – Indigo packs a punch and calls us to respond to how we navigate our past and our relationships in light of the cards life deals us. 

The Plot of Indigo

Beverly and Rick are moving her mother Elaine into their home as her dimentia is worsening. As if that isn’t enough to test a marriage, Beverly’s non-verbal autistic daughter Emma has re-emerged in her life. Together, they must unravel their respective pasts to make vital moves forward.

The Cast

The cast is remarkable and handle the material with equal parts raw realness and kid-glove gentleness. Drama Desk Nominee Kristin Stokes (Broadway’s The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical) spearheads the cast beautifully as Beverly alongside the comedic and tender performances of Dan Domenech (Rick), Tony Nominee Sally Mayes (Elaine), Christian Kidd (Tyler) and Joy Lynn Jacobs (Alicia).

But the star turn that surprises, elevates and magnifies this powerful musical belongs to Madison Kopec as Emma. Although Emma is non-verbal, we hear her sing as she navigates her world through color. She assigns one to each of the people and events that come in and out of her life. Kopec’s work is revelatory and not just because of her age. This is performance maturity I rarely see even among some seasoned adult actors.  All of her research into the lives of those who live with autism clearly shows in what can only be described as one of the most powerful performances I have seen all season anywhere. 

The Creative Team

As per usual, Kerrigan’s book is paced beautifully and wraps around Davis’s stirring score seamlessly. The score feels like the perfect contemporary meeting of Stephen Schwartz and Tom Kitt in both melodic nuance and varied orchestration (Brad Haak). From comedically genius pieces like “It’s Been A Day” to heartbreaking songs like “In My Silence” and “If The World Only Knew,” the score is hit after hit of contemporary musical theatre writing. The small band is perfectly balanced so not a note is missed, a lyric lost or a heartstring left unbroken. The musicians handling this score are phenomenal (Jay Brunner, Kevin Anderson, Rick Bertone, Joel Greenberg, and Sam Happeny). Director Catie Davis clearly understands how modern intimate musicals pace and the staging is remarkably swift. She utilizes small pieces to keep the flow moving effortlessly. 

Production Team

The design work utilizes realistic approaches when necessary and fantasy-eque elements (that beautiful video work!) when Emma invites us into her world. The contributions of D. Tristan Cupp (Technical Director), Adam Koch (Scenic Design), Lindsay McWilliams (Costumes), Matthew Benjamin (Lighting), Video Design (Steven Royal), Sound (Brando Triantafillou), Sarah Gomes (Props) and Stage Management (Rachel Heine) are cohesive and entirely effective. 

Bottom Line

It is rare when theatre companies take the fiscal risk required on new musicals. Even rarer when that musical is not based on already established material. Kudos to the Human Race for doing just that. Indigo is a show to keep your eyes long after it leaves Dayton. 

Tickets to Indigo

Tickets and performance information for “Indigo” are available at DaytonLive.org. Performances continue through June 25 at The Loft Theatre in Dayton. 

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