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Arts & Music

Musical explores the three vanishing As

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:18 PM

In 1926, during her heyday, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson went missing for more than a month. She claimed to have been kidnapped, though she couldn't prove it.

Later that same year, mystery writer Agatha Christie did the same for 11 days after discovering her husband was having an affair.

Aviatrix Amelia Earhart famously vanished in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the world. Unlike the others, she was never heard from again.

The three A's are the subject of the musical "Vanishing Point," which opens today at American Stage Theatre Company. In Act I, their individual disappearances begin the thread of commonality. Each vanishing coincides at the height of their fame and misfortune. By Act II, the women have stepped back from their complex lives and into a theoretical void, which allows them to re-evaluate their purpose and passion from a fresh perspective.

Scott Keys conceived the original idea for a musical.

"Scott and I were in school together at NYU in the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program," said Rob Hartmann, who wrote the music and co-wrote the book and lyrics with Liv Cummins. "He had the germ of an idea and wrote a short version of it."

Keys' version went through numerous changes and rewrites before emerging in its current form. For a while, the project seemed dead in the water. Keys and Hartmann had moved on, engaging in other projects and responsibilities. Then Hartmann reconsidered and suggested that Cummins, also an NYU musical theater writing graduate, try her hand at a rewrite. Since Keys was in Sarasota teaching drama at Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts Center, he left the final treatment to Cummins and Hartmann.

They tossed the early script and score and started over.

"I was finding my way into the dynamic of [Scott and Rob's] collaboration because I hadn't worked with Scott and he wasn't there anymore. I didn't know how I could do what I was feeling or thinking without stepping on Scott's toes. I didn't want to undo what they had done before. I had a whole concept about the women in the play playing other people in their lives. That was what liberated me. Once we went with that idea, it opened me up to a full collaborative spirit with Rob and, to some extent, with Scott," said Cummins.

The development of the characters and their stories dictated the accompanying music and lyrics. Agatha's has the flavor of a Noel Coward play and British wit. Aimee's has an Appalachian feel. Amelia's crosses over several musical genres.

Each of these women had talents and passions that threatened to overwhelm them. As such, Hartmann said the play begs the question, "How do you fulfill [your] calling and not let it destroy you?"

Cummins explained that there's no defined solution here, but there may be an answer for all.

"They come around to the notion that they have the ability and power within to do it."

VANISHING POINT

When: Today-July 1; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday,

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: American Stage Theatre Company at the Raymond James Theatre, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg; (727) 823-7529 or www.americanstage.org

Tickets: $29 to $47, depending on date and time

of performance

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