CCM alums lead new Off-Broadway musical 'Walking with Bubbles'
Opening March 31, the new show features the work of CCM alumni and faculty on and off stage
It’s not every day that you get to work on a dream project with a dream team — especially when that project is mounting a new Off-Broadway musical. Walking with Bubbles, a one-woman musical opening March 31, 2023, at the AMT Theater in New York, is the culmination of years of work by talented artists. There’s something special about this production though: it’s written, directed, designed by and starring CCM alumni and faculty!
CCM alum and Broadway veteran Jessica Hendy (BFA Musical Theatre, ’93) is the writer and star. In addition to being headlined by a Bearcat, Walking with Bubbles is directed by Professor Emeritus of Acting Richard Hess, with music and lyrics by Brianna Barnes (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16), lighting by Theatre Design and Production grad Aiden Bezark (BFA Lighting Design and Technology, ’22), additional musical arrangements by Jacob Yates (BFA Cello, ’14), set design by CCM Associate Professor of Scenic Design Mark Halpin, and social media promotion by Isabella Wagner (BFA Acting, ’22).
CCM is proud to have Bearcats from the Musical Theatre, Theater Design and Production, Acting and Cello programs involved in Walking with Bubbles, but the creative relationship between the team members runs deeper than just a shared alma mater. “As an artist, you reach out to others with whom you have a history, with whom you have that special click,” says director Richard Hess. “Everyone on the team fits the bill.”
Hess and Hendy’s artistic collaboration began in Cincinnati, dating back to an original show they mounted at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and the Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. “Jessica is the source,” says Hess. “She is the reason and the inspiration,” for Walking with Bubbles, which she wrote based on her lived experience as a single mother facing a turbulent mental illness. “Bubbles” is the nickname Hendy uses for her son.
Hendy, whose Broadway credits include Cats, Amour and AIDA, writes candidly about “how far a mother will go to protect her son, her loved ones, and ultimately herself,” reads the musical's website. Though the musical follows a difficult period in Hendy’s life, the story centers on a hopeful message. Walking with Bubbles “speaks to the universal need to not stigmatize… [asking] for help when in crisis,” says Hess.
Though Hendy originally conceived Walking with Bubbles as a play, she was moved to reach out to fellow CCM Musical Theatre alum Brianna Barnes after hearing one of her original songs. Barnes, whose original musical Rathskiller: A Musical Elixir recently won Best Musical in BroadwayWorld’s 2021 Off-Broadway Awards, “is a dream come true,” says Hess. “Her work as a composer and lyricist is transporting.”
The rest of the team all trace their connections back to their time at CCM. Hess and Set Designer Mark Halpin collaborated on CCM productions of Clybourne Park, Pentecost, Falsettos and Hello Dolly!. According to Halpin, their long history of collaboration at CCM and beyond allows them to have “almost a conceptual shorthand,” when conceiving and designing shows.
In designing Walking with Bubbles, the pair wanted to create “a non-representational space that kept the focus on Jessica’s storytelling,” explains Halpin. The goal was to create a setting “that felt superficially cheery and inviting,” while still hinting at the “storm clouds on the horizon” of her story.
While Hess and Halpin have experience collaborating as colleagues, other members of the team are working with their former professors for the first time as emerging professionals. Halpin was a scenic adviser for Aiden Bezark during a CCM production last year, Hess was the director for CCM’s 2021 production of Once, which featured lighting design by Bezark; Jacob Yates created musical arrangements for The Crucible, which Hess directed at CCM in 2013; and Isabella Wagner managed student-run social media platforms for CCM Acting during her college years.
“It is always a real pleasure to work with former students out in the real world…it’s moving to see the incredibly talented, competent young professionals they become when they graduate,” says Halpin.
“We keep saying ‘pinch me,’” adds Hess. “We dreamed of telling this story and are so grateful to be sharing our work in an Off-Broadway production.” Hess goes on to say that he and the team hope to one day bring the show to Cincinnati, which is a creative home for so many involved.
Until Walking with Bubbles makes its way to the Queen City, get your tickets now for the show's limited Off-Broadway run to see the work of CCM alumni and faculty in New York.
Featured image at the top: Walking With Bubbles promotional graphic. Photo/Provided by Richard Hess.
CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications
Lucy Evans is a master’s student studying Vocal Performance at CCM. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and was recently an Apprentice Artist with the Santa Fe Opera.
Curt Whitacre | Director of Marketing/Communications | UC College-Conservatory of Music
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CCM alums lead new Off-Broadway musical 'Walking with Bubbles'
March 24, 2023
Walking with Bubbles, a one-woman musical opening March 31 at the AMT Theater in New York, is the culmination of years of work by talented artists. There’s something special about this production, though: it’s written, directed, designed by and starring UC College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) alumni and faculty!