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DC grad’s career in writing musical theatre takes off
OCT. 10, 2011
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Concert Sunday to feature show tunes as sung by local thespians

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – Dassel-Cokato High School alumni and thespians Caroline (Newsom) Wigmore (‘01) and Desmond Hicks (‘04) will combine voices in a musical theatre showcase Sunday, Oct. 16 at First Baptist Church in Cokato.

Together, they will sing a combination of classic show tunes and songs from Wigmore’s latest musical, “Van Winkle.” This was written as her dissertation towards her master’s degree and was recently chosen by a theatre company in London to be developed into a full-length show.

Wigmore, a 2001 graduate, moved to London with her husband, Chris, in April 2010 to pursue a master’s degree in musical theatre writing at the University of London.

“It was a good opportunity to produce more work, and London is a large theater town,” Wigmore said. Chris, a native of England, was offered a job writing computer software for a financial firm at the same time she was accepted into the program.

Wigmore got her start in musical theatre in high school when she wrote her first musical at age 18.

Her interest in playwriting began when her high school theater director, David Metcalf, during an audition, jokingly asked her when she was going to start writing plays. He had heard some of the music she had written for the rock band she also sang in.

“She was a terrific talent when she was in school,” Metcalf commented of Wigmore.

Wigmore was the lead in the fall musical, “Once Upon a Mattress.” She was also in “Kismet” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” along with one-act plays and speech.

“I became more interested in writing for theatre characters, rather than my own personal experiences,” Wigmore said.

She wrote her first show, “The Climb to Golgatha,” as a senior, producing it as part of a spring musical consisting of 40 high school actors. This show featured the last days of the life of Christ and the events leading up to his death. “It was pretty emotional,” Wigmore said.

The next year, she wrote “Cupid and Psyche,” based on the Roman myth. This is a love story about the Roman god of love falling in love with a mortal. It became a spring musical, and was later produced by Magnolia Theatre Company out of the Twin Cities.

Wigmore also produced “Little Match Girl” for Buffalo Community Theatre.

These led her to earning a bachelor’s degree in musical playwriting from the University of Minnesota, graduating from there in 2007.

She took a short break from theater and worked at Herald Journal Publishing and Forsman Farms.

“I just realized I wanted to get back into writing for theater,” Wigmore said, which was when she applied to the University of London.

She produced “Van Winkle,” a 45-minute production, as part of her dissertation for her master’s degree, which recently debuted as part of a class showcase.

“Van Winkle” is based on the story of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving, “but it has a twist,” she commented.

“It gave me an excuse to write a musical in the genre of early American folk, and to explore a story that I’ve always been interested in,” Wigmore said.

What made this even more interesting for Wigmore was that “Van Winkle” was an American musical performed by British actors speaking with American accents. She had to teach them some “obvious” cultural aspects regarding farming, and Thanksgiving, which the English don’t entirely understand since it’s a purely American holiday.

“They did a great job with accents and picking up on the cultural differences,” she commented.

Now, Wigmore’s “Van Winkle” has been chosen by an artistic director from Skewbald Theatre in England, who has offered to assist her in developing it into a full-length production.

“I was really pleased because that’s what you want to happen,” Wigmore said. “You want it to have a life after the show.”

Wigmore has also been studying voice this past year with an opera singer in London, and wants to share what’s she’s learned with the communities of Dassel and Cokato. She also wants to join forces with Hicks, who she sang with in high school.

“He has such a strong voice,” Wigmore said of Hicks, who is a 2004 DC graduate. He is finishing his senior year of college studying theology and music through Crossroads College. Hicks recently accepted a position as director of youth and family at United Methodist Church in Thief River Falls.

Retired high school choir director Don Anderson said of Caroline and Hicks, “Both of course had outstanding vocal abilities, sang beautifully and provided excellent leadership in the choir and the musicals they participated in.”

“To say the least, it was a great pleasure to have them as students,” he said.

Hicks has been in several high school/community productions including “Guys and Dolls,” “Oliver,” and “Suessical.”

This coming Sunday, Wigmore and Hicks will be performing some of the songs from “Van Winkle,” in addition to show tunes like “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” “Can’t Help Stop Lovin’ Dat Man” from “Showboat,” and “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific.”

The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. in the reception hall at First Baptist Church. Admission is free, with a $5 suggested donation. Refreshments will be served following the concert.

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