Legacy presents hidden gem ‘john & jen’

Fri, 04/17/2009 - 2:44pm
By: Michael Boylan

john & jen

Chances are, you’ve never heard of “john & jen.” The show opened off Broadway in 1995 and has a large fan base among the theater-going and performing crowd, but it isn’t on the radar of mainstream audiences. The Legacy Theatre in Tyrone is hoping to change that for local residents over the next three weekends as Bethany Hayes Smith, the theater’s executive producer, and Dustin Lewis, the theater’s sales and marketing director, take on the title roles and stage a show they have wanted to be a part of for a very long time.

“It’s been about 10 years since Dustin and I have started talking about doing the show,” said Hayes-Smith, who added that she and Lewis have known each other for close to half their lives. Their close friendship and working relationship makes playing siblings in the first act and mother and son in the second act of the show a little easier on the actors.

“Their deep history made it simple for them to create the dynamic to act like brother and sister,” said guest director Adam Hester.

“john & jen” is about familial relationships and producing the show has been a reunion of sorts. Hester taught Mark Smith, Hayes-Smith’s husband, drama in college.

“Mark was one of my standout students and we stayed connected over the years,” said Hester. “This is one of the first times I’ve been able to work for one of my students and it is a thrill.”

The show starts in the 1950s with siblings John and his older sister, Jen. The second act features Jen dealing with her son, named after her brother who died in Vietnam, thinking about leaving the nest and going off to college. Hester and his cast laud the play for its universality and state they continually find something new everyday in the music or dialogue that means something to their lives. Interestingly, Hester finds that the more specific the show gets, the more universal its appeal.

“We all resonate with the play at different places and the audience will find that to be true as well,” said Hester.

“Dustin and Bethany interpret the songs beautifully,” said Hester, adding that the songs in the show continue to tell the story and further the plot.

“john & jen” was written by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald with Lippa writing the music and Greenwald writing the lyrics. The Legacy Theatre is the only theatre in the United States currently doing the show and both Hayes-Smith and Lewis are proud that this is this year’s hidden gem.

“The hidden gem show allows us to do something a little out of the mainstream and, so far, the shows we have selected have been among the audience’s favorites. Past hidden gem shows included “Song and Dance,” and “The Spitfire Grill.”

Hayes-Smith and Lewis are heavily involved with each show that is staged at The Legacy Theatre, but this time around both are thankful to just be performers.

“We can just be actors with this show and that is very rewarding,” said Hayes-Smith, who stated she planned the whole year around “john & jen.”

“john & jen” will also be the theater’s first show to be considered for a Suzi Award nomination. The Suzi Bass Awards celebrate excellence in Metro Atlanta’s professional thatre scene.

“john & jen” runs Fridays-Sundays, Apr. 17-May 3. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and students, $20 for groups of 20 or more and $15 for children 12 and younger.

Phone 404-895-1473 or visit www.thelegacytheatre.org for more information.

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