Musicals are usually about love. This one premiering in Littleton is about what comes after
Graham and Kristina Fuller are big musical buffs. But the couple noticed that not many tackle the challenges they are facing in life right now: raising children. So they decided to write one themselves. The result: "In the Trenches: A Parenting Musical."
The new, original musical started in Colorado in 2017 with readings and workshops. Now the show is getting a premiere production at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center before heading back to New York City for the next step — an audition for a big stage in a big place.
In addition to writing the book, music, and lyrics, the married couple also stars in this production. Graham plays “Dad,” and Kristina plays “Mom.”
“Our show is about the highs and lows, and hilarity and ridiculousness that is parenting,” Kristina Fuller said. “And parents need a night off.”
Graham Fuller said it's written in the modern parents' voice.
“And it's a little bit rowdy,and the goal is to come out and have an amazing time and to understand that you're not alone in this crazy little parenting journey.”
Though it has built a strong reputation for musical theater shows, this is the first time in its 40-year history that Town Hall Arts Center is producing an original, locally written musical. Chief Operating Officer, Robert Michael Sanders, who is also directing the production, said it is a huge step forward for the show and the theater to help foster new work — to take a risk and promote local artists.
“And I'm willing to take that risk because I think the show really is good. The writing is smart. The songs are really creative and fun. And Graham and Kristina Fuller stayed true to that age-old adage, ‘Write what you know.’ This is what they know,” Sanders said. “They were new parents and had no idea what to do. So they wrote songs about it. And it really works.”
Through years of developing the show, the Fullers have also been working with Dan Graeber as the music director.
“You get few opportunities to work on a new creative piece like this and go through the whole journey,” Graeber said. “I look at how much the community has supported us from each step — from just our friends and family that came to that very first thing and then started to spread the word, and then more of the community came … to see it and started to provide financial support. But especially their encouragement and their feedback and all of that.”
The first workshop of In The Trenches was co-produced by CenterStage Theater Company, in Louisville, in 2019.
The second workshop was at the Elaine Wolf Theatre in Denver as a co-production of 19K Productions and the Mizel Arts and Cultural Center. A concert of “In the Trenches” was also held at 54 Below in New York City in July 2022.
The music in the show covers a wide range of styles.
Graeber said he enjoys the challenge of arranging in the many different styles.
“Everything from the old musical theater vaudeville to the — you heard the 80s rock and roll sound — to the Andrews sisters, [and] some hip hop, absolutely,” Graeber said.
The Fullers say this is not only an exciting moment for them and their new show, but for Colorado theatermakers to have a new theater interested in mounting locally created work. And later this year, the couple will take the show on the road for an industry presentation in New York City – basically an audition for producers to bring the work to the Big Apple.
“We love being part of the community here. And then we also love New York and want it to live a big life, but to have some place here that feels like home where we can put on a fully stage production of a new work? Like how wonderful is that?” Kristina Fuller said.
Robert Michael Sanders wants “In The Trenches” to be just the first original work at Town Hall produces — the first of many.
“I think we need as a community to make sure that we are providing opportunity for local projects, local writers, local plays,” Sanders said. “I think that's a huge challenge and it's very scary, but I think we can do it.”
Like I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change with undertones of Avenue Q, In The Trenches — the musical comedy about raising children — is for adults. The premiere runs for two weeks only January 20-29 at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center, before taking the next step, an industry presentation in NYC.
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