Student creators of original musical discuss creative process and Janplan production

In the summer of 2015, Katie Monteleone `18 had an idea: she wanted to write a musical about a girl who owned a lemonade stand. Nearly 18 months later, Monteleone’s idea has taken shape and snowballed into something much, much larger than she initially imagined.

The original musical, Lost With You, is the culmination of collaborations between professors, students, and New York Broadway choreographers, directors, and actors. Monteleone wrote the script and lyrics, while Ben Brougham ’18 and Josua Lutian ‘18 teamed up to write the music.

The musical traces the sometimes tense, often heartwarming, and ultimately realistic lives of a family of four. Juliette, the daughter, dreams of making it out of the small town. Following in her mother’s footsteps—her mother is the owner of a successful local iced tea business—Juliette opens a lemonade stand, hoping to make something of herself. Jerome, Juliette’s older teenage brother, played by Lutian, experiences love and a sense of belonging for the first time. Lutian described the opportunity to act in a show that he himself produced as an “incredible experience”.

“It’s about finding yourself, navigating the tensions of family, and coming of age,” Monteleone said.

The path toward the production formally began last spring, after Monteleone, Brougham, and Lutian performed a concert called “Lemonade Stand.” Jim Thurston, a professor of Theater and Dance at Colby, approached the trio, asking if they wanted to add a curricular path to their music. The academic project would include a Jan Plan course, termed a “musical theater incubator,” where students in the course would form the cast of the play. They agreed and the script-writing process began.

By January this year, Monteleone had written and rewritten the script many times. She, Lutian, and Brougham met weekly in the fall, working to write the music. They also had weekly Skype sessions with a professional director from New York City, hired by Thurston to aid with the production of the play.

“It was a lot of work,” recalled Lutian. “But I really believed in the story, and that belief kept us energized and motivated to tell this important story that a lot of people can relate to.”

During the first weeks of Jan Plan, the play was casted and rehearsals began. However, the revisions and editing process were not finished.

“We rewrote lyrics and dialogues during rehearsals and gave the actors new, revised lines on the spot,” Monteleone explained. During the third week of Jan Plan, the class traveled to New York City, where they teamed up with professional director Ken Eurso, Broadway actor and choreographer Andrew Kao, and well-known broadway musical director Kim Grisgby. Grigsby has recently worked on the new musical Amélie, starring Hamilton star Philippa Soo.

“The experience of working with these show-biz professionals was life-changing,” Lutian said. “They treated us not as students, but as professionals. Their level of expertise and enthusiasm elevated our expectations of ourselves. We wanted to perform up to their standards.”

Over the course of Jan Plan —the long rehearsals, the NYC trip—the cast grew close. “Being together eight hours a day, working on something, you get to know people really well. There aren’t any weak links in the performers,” said Brougham.

The writers are especially proud of their presentation of Jerome, the older brother who falls in love with another boy. “We don’t play into stereotypes. A lot of times, when gay characters are presented in the media, they are either really flamboyant or super far into the  closest. We wanted a more realistic presentation of what a gay person could be like in this day and age, and I think we did a good job,” said Lutian.

The show will be staged for the first time this weekend and the writers are looking forward to the opening weekend. “It’ll be a fun event, and hopefully the show will open the minds of the audience a little and remind everyone that it’s ok to be lost and to not know where you’re going and to find your identity,” said Lutian.

Lost With Me is at 7:30 on February 9, 10, and 11 in Strider Theater. Free tickets are available online.