A Waxahachie High School grad to perform in his final musical show at West Texas A&M.

Kenya Menjivar
Waxahachie Daily Light

Although live theater has become an uncommon set of words within the last year due to COVID-19, the theater program at West Texas A&M is determined to put on their musical performance, with Waxahachie High School alumnus Mitch Russo as one of the cast members. 

This theatrical production has been six weeks in the making, with only eight students double-cast for the four-person show named “[title of show]”.

“This is a four-person show originally. We chose to double cast to at least afford as many opportunities as we possibly could to our students," shared Bradley Behrmann, the show's musical director. 

Here are members of the Festival cast of WT Theatre's "[title of show]", from left, Socorra Carrillo, Mitch Grosso of Waxahachie (second from left), Aidan Tsichlis and Hayley Hurst.

Stephen Crandall, the show’s director, originally had different plans for the WT theater program's final show of the school year.  

“We initially had another title selected for the end of our season, but of course the pandemic caused a lot of changes, one of which was that we decided that it would be safest for us to not have in-person live audiences. So the title we had originally selected, we could not get a license to present out in a virtual format ... so we had to switch titles,” Crandall shared. “My colleague Bradley Behrmann is our music director, and I had been in New York in 2019, and we saw a one-night-only '[title of show]' performance by the creators and the original cast. So the experience of that kind of popped into our heads, and we immediately started talking about just the show as being something that could be a good replacement.”

“[title of show]” is said to be meta theatrical, pointing fun at musical theater, with a various style of music. The show is about two writers in New York City that are trying to make a show, and they end up writing about themselves writing the show. 

Grosso is in his senior year of college and will have his final performance with WT through this show. He plays the character Hunter Bell.

“It’s exciting. It's my last performance at WT. It obviously comes with a lot of commitment, also bittersweetness, but just to be on stage because I haven’t been on stage since 2019,” Grosso said. “It’s a very unique show, and it’s something you won’t see very often. You won’t be exposed to this very often. I think it’s a great story to be shared, so I think it’s a great opportunity that you don’t have to be here to see it. You can watch this on demand from your living room for a really cheap price.”

“Mitch is a really beloved student of ours, and this is his final performance at WT, before he finishes his degree. It’s a really special opportunity to work with him, and he’s really, he transferred to WT and has really blossomed and been a really great outstanding performer, and we’ve enjoyed this process. He’s really been able to play a very fun character,” Crandall said. 

According to Crandall and Behrmann, the biggest challenge the cast will face is performing this comedy with no audience. 

“So this is a comedy, and the thing we have been missing is the thing I’m looking forward to. That is the laughs. This is a show that in the theater would kill. It is a very funny show, and what we’ve been trying to do (is) to prepare our actors for anticipating laughs that they will not be getting. To try to still deliver this comedy honestly, that would have honored an audience. So I’m most excited for that third player, that audience wherever they are to be able to experience this show,” Behrmann said. “Some of their takes and some of their punchlines are delivered as if there was an audience there.”

The Festival cast consists of students Aidan Tsichlis, junior musical theater major from Plano, as Jeff; Mitch Grosso, senior musical theater major from Waxahachie, as Hunter; Hayley Hurst, junior musical theater major from Melissa, as Heidi; and Socorra Carrillo, senior musical theater major from Amarillo, as Susan. These students will be featured  April 8 and 9.

The Medley cast, which will be featured April 10 and 11, will include Nolan Quintanilla, sophomore musical theater major from Canyon, as Jeff; Zane Wells, junior acting major from Amarillo, as Hunter; Anna Holmes, senior musical theater major from Lubbock, as Heidi; and Erin Gayan, senior musical theater major from Garland, as Susan. These students will be featured April 10 and 11.

“There is such a need for the performing arts to be supported right now because of the pandemic. Not just for profit, non-profit theater or regional professional theater, but even university collegiate theater because we have students that are still working towards a degree, and training the artists and the industry has really suffered. We’re hoping that it’s on its way bouncing back," Crandall said. "It’s kind of a moment where I think, if people can support the arts, if they appreciate what theater can do, this is the perfect time to buy something from the comfort of your home and hopefully support these students in continuing their practice and training and honing their craft."

“[title of show]” is considered to be rated R for strong language.

The show will be streamed through Video On Demand, available for the audience to view from the comfort of their homes. 

Tickets can be purchased at showtix4u.com/events/wtamutheatre, $15 for individuals and $30 for families, or free for WT students, faculty and staff.

Additionally, a 25 percent discount is available for those purchasing tickets to both casts; for a coupon, email artsboxoffice@wtamu.edu.

The performances can be watched at any time within the two-day run of each cast.