News Column

Golden Horseshoe' debuts

October 24, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 24--"GOLDEN HORSESHOE -- THE MUSICAL" runs at 8 p.m. today-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Metropolitan Theatre on High Street. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 and older and $10 for children 12 and younger. Info and tickets: goldenhorseshoemusical. com.

A FREE OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION is set for 6:30 p.m. today at Arts Monongahela. Miss West Virginia Miranda Harrison and state officials will be on-hand. Light food provided.

The seeds of "Golden Horseshoe -- The Musical" were planted in R.J. Nestor's mind as a tribute to the state in which he was raised; but it wasn't until the Grafton native realized the production could also pay homage to his late father, that the whole concept for the musical -- which debuts today at the Metropolitan Theatre -- flourished.

"Last October I was doing a show in Bridgeport ... and we talked about doing a show for the (state's) sesquicentennial," said Nestor, the show's co-creator, along with David Scoville. "It came to me that it was the perfect way to honor my dad, and I knew the way I wanted to do it immediately. It would be about a father and a son studying for a West Virginia history test and imagination would be involved."

The test is the Golden Horseshoe, a real quiz that all eighth graders in the Mountain State take, and which Nestor's father -- who passed away last summer -- was exceptionally familiar, as he was a West Virginia history teacher.

The scenes in the musical borne from imagination recount historical moments in the state's past that protagonist Wes conjures as the test preparation progresses.

When "Golden Horseshoe" was in its formative stages, Nestor, who wrote the play's music and lyrics and shares book-writing credit with Scoville, said he most identified with Wes. But well into the process, he realized it was the father's character -- who lost his fictional father and is coping with that death while helping his son study -- with whom he shares the most similarities.

"It was during the June preview that I realized I was more like the dad. His father just passed away, and he was finding a way to connect with him by telling a story about West Virginia's history."

Not that "Golden Horseshoe's" storyline -- which involves a conflict between father and son, and a school-boy crush on a girl named Rosie -- is autobiographical.

"My dad and I got along really well," Nestor said. "So I wasn't drawing on any personal conflict."

But a performance without drama, whether familial or romantic, isn't, as Nestor pointed out, much of a performance.

And when it came to crafting the historical scenes, capturing the conflict became a drama of its own.

There were cases, such as John Brown's trial and the Hatfield-McCoy feud, which were easy, but others, such as scenes involving Stonewall Jackson, that posed some logistical issues.

"We wanted to include Stonewall Jackson as a way to talk about the Civil War, but he wasn't really at the battles that took place in present-day West Virginia," Nestor said.

So, as they've done with other works they've collaborated on, he and Scoville "turned a liability into an asset."

"We arranged it so that We s ' character thought in advance [Stonewall] had been at all these battles in West Virginia, and is narrating them. There's a song called 'Where Stonewall Wa s n't.' "

That small issue is just one of many that Scoville and Nestor have run into while taking the lead on all aspects of a production, from marketing to casting to creating, for the first time.

The pair, who have worked together on musicals, and more recently screenplays, are used to churning out the material meant for theaters, but "to see something on stage, finally, it's amazing," said Scoville.

"I think we had an idea of how much work it was, but it was a very abstract idea," he said. "The writing is the easy part."

Tougher is the promotion.

"We both have a hard time self-promoting," Scoville said.

But the Morgantown community has shown plenty of support, added N e s t o r.

Mountain State Brewing Company, for instance, is offering a 10-percent discount on flatbreads for anyone who brings a ticket stub from the show to the restaurant. And Miss West Virginia and state officials will be on-hand before the show's debut tonight at Arts Monongahela as part of a free pre-show event.

"It's exciting to put this thing on and to have people express that they wanted to be a part of it," Nestor said. "It feels really good to get out there and know people care about it."

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(c)2013 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

Visit The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com

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