By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
The Fairmont State University School of Fine Arts is bringing the story of West Virginia native Homer Hickam to life through its musical performance of “Rocket Boys.”
Director Troy Snyder said this is the first time “Rocket Boys the Musical” will be performed by a college or university.
“Because of the sesquicentennial, we wanted to do something that related to West Virginia,” Snyder said. “We thought that because the cast could mostly be high school- and college-age actors and since it’s a West Virginia story, it was just a great fit for our program.”
Snyder said the musical is based on Hickam’s book “Rocket Boys,” which is set outside of Coalwood, and that it stays true to the original story.
“This is a story that people are familiar with, but they haven’t seen it told in this manner,” Snyder said.
According to Snyder, who is an associate professor of theater at FSU, the musical aspect of the show ties seamlessly into the story.
“The musical aspect and the action integrate together so the dramatic action of the piece generally flows right into the musical number,” he said.
The performance, musically directed by R.J. Nestor, will include a combination of Broadway-style music as well as music from the 1950s. Snyder said it’s a show that anyone can enjoy.
“They’re going to enjoy this play,” Snyder said. “It’s an inspiring story to all audiences.”
Snyder added that while the performance appeals to a broad audience, it may not be recommended for children who have not yet reached middle school.
The first performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Wallman Hall Theatre on the campus of FSU. Other performances will be held in the theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20-23.
The cost of the tickets is $13 and can be purchased at the box office or by calling 304-367-4240.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, but Snyder suggested purchasing tickets ahead of time to guarantee a seat.
“We anticipate pretty good crowds,” Snyder said. “It wouldn’t hurt to have tickets in advance.”
And there have been rumors that sitting amongst those crowds may be a familiar face.
“The last contact I had, Homer Hickam was planning to attend a performance,” Snyder said. “We’re hoping that’s still the case.”
Snyder said having the author of the story sitting in the audience would make for an interesting dynamic.
“To have the opportunity to perform for the author, especially when the author is the central character to the story, is a very unique situation for a cast to be in,” he said. “The person you’re portraying on stage is actually in the audience.”
As showtime approaches, Snyder said the cast is putting the finishing touches on the performance.
“It’s a pretty complicated show,” he said. “It’s a big cast, live music, lots of scenery and lots of costume changes. We’re in a sprint to the finish line.”
Prior to and following the performance, a coal heritage exhibit, “Black Diamonds,” will also be on display on the fifth floor of Wallman Hall.
Snyder said he hopes members of the community will take advantage of the opportunity to see the show.
“The only place in the world right now that this play is being performed is right here in Fairmont,” Snyder said. “It’s a unique opportunity for people to come see a show that they might not ever get to see anywhere else.”
Email Kaylyn Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.