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‘Edges’ musical reflects young adulthood

Holly+Echsner%2C+Amy+Oliverio%2C+Gabriel+Igtanloc+and+Noah+Jackman+perform+%E2%80%9CMan+of+My+Dreams.%E2%80%9D
Holly Echsner, Amy Oliverio, Gabriel Igtanloc and Noah Jackman perform “Man of My Dreams.”

Holly Echsner, Amy Oliverio, Gabriel Igtanloc and Noah Jackman perform “Man of My Dreams.”

Courtesy of Domonique Evans

Courtesy of Domonique Evans

Holly Echsner, Amy Oliverio, Gabriel Igtanloc and Noah Jackman perform “Man of My Dreams.”

by Alex Noble, Staff Writer

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Thanks to the power of the phrase “write what you know,” there is no shortage of coming of age stories in media. The ubiquitous experience of growing up, along with the primacy and intensity of the feelings associated with it, lends this genre to heartfelt storytelling perhaps more than any other.

Dissatisfied with the types of roles assigned to them, Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, the composing duo behind the tunes of “La La Land” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” sought to create a musical that reflected what they were going through as students at the University of Michigan.

The result was “Edges,” a song cycle comprised of 16 vignettes dedicated to the trials and tribulations of college and young adulthood.

“Edges” is the latest musical to be brought to life by the San Diego State theatre department. This production was lent an extra layer of authenticity by its directors, five students from the musical theatre graduate program: Jonathan Brugioni, Leo Yu-Ning Chang, Domonique Evans, Kimberly Moller and Susanna Vaughan.

Although none of the students had directed a full musical before, second year graduate student Susanna Vaughan was excited to get the chance to apply everything she had learned in class to a professional context.

“It took us a little while to figure out what our cohesive vision was,” Vaughan said. “But once we got into our groove, we were able to really riff off of each other. We’re all really open to each other’s ideas.”

Kimberly Moller, another second year masters student, believes the unorthodox directing team found strength in numbers.

“We made sure that we were in good communication with the whole production team and the actors,” Moller said. “We were limited in that we had never worked in the space before but it paid off. We figured it out for the better and the show is running smoothly.”

The directors divided the songs amongst themselves in a way that magnified each other’s strengths. Vaughan, for instance, handled a portion of the choreography as Moller did for vocals.

“Since there’s no specific time, location or even names for some of the characters,” Vaughan said. “A lot of our work as well as the actors’ was up to interpretation. We just told them to relate their parts to their own lives.”

This sense of authenticity is “Edges’” greatest strength.

The show’s highlights are numbers like “In Short” and “Man of My Dreams,” where the sardonic yet honest takes on some of life’s most awkward and embarrassing situations.

The occasional dips into clichéd territory are ultimately offset by these moments recognizing the more nuanced conflicts inherent to growing up. The actors’ resonance with the source material was crystal clear through everyone’s ability to seamlessly embody specific yet universal aspects of the college experience.

“Figuring out what you need to be true to yourself and connect with others is a huge aspect of this work,” Moller said. “Reinvention and facing the world on your own is something that we all struggle not only as artists but as people.”

Catch “Edges” from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5 at the Experimental Theatre. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $17 for students and seniors.

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