The official hub for news and stories from Colorado Mesa University

Award winning New York City duo debut musical with Maverick cast and faculty director

A New York City career is the aspiration of many performing arts majors throughout the world. The Big Apple is among the ultimate destinations for actors seeking success in music and theatre. For more than a century, writers, actors and musicians have worked tirelessly to make room for their art among the numerous options offered by the city that never sleeps. But for two entrepreneurial artists, universities like CMU offer another option for putting their work on the map. New York City duo Michelle Elliott and Danny Larsen have chosen CMU to debut their first run of Catch the Wind – a musical that will take the stage in the high deserts of western Colorado. For director and CMU faculty member Christopher McKim, this is a first for CMU and is an opportunity that couldn’t be better for students.

“For good reasons most people tend to chase a New York City debut,” said McKim. “This month CMU is turning that wisdom on its head by having Danny Larsen and Michelle Elliott choose the Grand Valley to launch their work. This demonstrates that the talent we have on campus is known, and the faculty and facilities we have are beginning to earn the trust of national talent. This development is good for the local art scene and even better for CMU’s aspiring performing arts students.”

Danny Larsen is the composer and co-lyricist of Catch the Wind, and Michelle Elliott is a book writer and co-lyricist who graduated from New York University’s graduate musical theatre writing program. Both visiting artists are decorated with awards and nominations including the Richard Rodgers Development Award, the Daryl Roth Award, the New York Musical Theatre Festival Award for best music, the Jonathan Larson Grant, the Kleban Prize and multiple Drammy Awards. One of their latest collaborations resulted in being shortlisted for the Kevin Spacy Foundation Artists of Choice Award.

When describing the selection of Colorado Mesa University as the place to launch their latest theatrical debut, Larsen explained that CMU was perfect for their team.

“Thinking and working outside the box often bring art to life in unexpected ways,” said Larsen. “Being on campus back in the West feels good and we are proud to partner with Colorado Mesa University on a project and excited to share with the community.”

While the American west is no stranger to Larsen (having graduated from Brigham Young University), for Elliott, the project in Grand Junction is her first artistic endeavor in the Rocky Mountain west and she concurred with Larsen’s characterization of the community.

Catch the Wind is being produced as a part of the Mesa Lab series, started three years ago as a place to experiment and create innovative new theatrical work.

It started with a workshop of CMU alum, Suzanne Bronson’s, modern take on several Greek myths,” said CMU Department of Theatre Arts Head Mo LaMee. “Last year, [theatre faculty member] Matt Schlief and his team developed a piece for the Prague Quadrennial Festival which used cutting-edge technology to create an aurally complex outdoor theatrical experience mixing live and recorded dialogue through bone conduction headphones. This year, we’re thrilled to participate in the development of Danny Haengil Larsen and Michelle Elliott’s original musical featuring the tales of female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonney.

McKim will direct Catch the Wind and believes the cost benefits of production at CMU are not something to discount.

“At CMU we teach art, but also emphasize art entrepreneurialism,” said McKim. “Theatre is both an art and a business and we are showing students that being creative and competitive brings opportunity. The skill sets that we can provide students through experiences like this will help them be successful doing what they love and making their degree into something rewarding and meaningful.”

Brooklyn Buhre is a CMU theatre arts standout who has performed in a litany of university productions. She believes that CMU is the perfect blend of size, affordability and experience to give her the skills to pursue music and theatre.

“To be able to attend a university where we benefit from small class size and personalized teaching while also being afforded this kind of unique experience shows the value of an arts or humanities degree from CMU,” said Buhre. “Performing in a New York-like debut that is happening in western Colorado is not something that undergraduates get to participate in every day and I’m excited about the opportunity."

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Brooklyn Buhre

Catch the Wind will be presented in the Moss Performing Arts Center Mesa Experimental Theatre January 17, 19, 24 and 25. Tickets are available at coloradomesa.edu/tickets.

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Written by David Ludlam