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Drinking with Talented People: Jasper in Deadland Opens on the Upper West Side

In a the basement party-room below an Irish pub on the Upper West Side – our own little underworld, where no one is dead – there is a hubub, followed by silence. A voice rises over the mostly-young, mostly-actor crowd, warning us that we better hit the bar and get drinks in our hands. The toast is coming.

Beside me, two of Broadway’s very brightest rising stars are chatting quietly – as quietly as a crowded bar allows, I suppose – and it’s kind of impossible not to ask them for a picture. Not with me, but together. Because this is how I want to remember the opening party for Ryan Scott Oliver’s new musical, Jasper in Deadland: with Matt Doyle and Jay Johnson, current and former stars of the show, side-by-side, with big, easy grins on their beautiful faces.

As for the show, well, there’s a lot to remember there, too. From Doyle’s sweet, beautifully-voiced performance as Jasper – the teen who’s gone to Deadland to bring his best friend Agnes back – to Brandon Ivie’s sharp direction and Patrick Rizzotti’s spare but smart sets. And let’s not forget the cast. Oh, that cast. I still kind of can’t believe all those awesome people were there, together, in the tiny West End Theater. Like. Each and every one of them is so fucking good I’m pretty sure someday I’m going to be bragging to my kids about all the famous people I saw way back when in some tiny church theater. “Oh, you young’uns like Ben Crawford/Allison Scagliotti/Bonnie Milligan? Well, I remember when…”

Perhaps what I loved most about Jasper, though, was the opportunity to see a full, fully-staged show from a young, up-and-coming composer whose work I’ve followed for years. Like… see, world? This guy has got it. Not just in a song, but in a story, too. In a whole world of songs and stories. And I love being able to bring friends with me, like the kind who don’t know anything about theater’s inner-workings – as I did on Sunday – and introduce them to Ryan’s work. I look forward to doing that with lots of other young composers’ work someday, too.

My friend LOVED the show, by the way. I loved it too. And then, I got to give Ryan and Matt and even Jay – my first Jasper – a big hug afterward. And it was a pretty amazing Sunday, like a glimpse of the future, when all these people are enormous stars.

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