Arts & Leisure

‘Showing Up’ takes the stage in Middlebury

VANESSA DUNLEAVY AND Miranda Ferriss Jones first workshopped their musical “Showing Up” at the Town Hall Theater back in November 2019. The duo is finally bringing their finished piece back to the Middlebury stage. PHOTO / CINDI DUFF

They say “third time’s the charm” right? Let’s hope so.

Addison County natives Miranda Ferriss Jones and Vanessa Dunleavy are coming back to the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, on Nov. 18-20, to finally perform their musical “Showing Up.”

“Showing Up” first took the stage at the Town Hall Theater in November 2019. That was a workshop that drew prolonged standing ovations — and a lot of passionate comment. 

“The audience was completely absorbed in the piece,” said director Douglas Anderson.  “They sensed how unusual it was — a truly delightful musical, entertaining in every way, that explores serious women’s issues.”

With the comments from the workshop Dunleavy and Jones dove into an intense revision of the show. However, their dreams for performing the piece were dashed in March 2020, when everything shut down due to COVID.

“It felt like the world was about to start burning,” said Jones, on a break from rehearsals last week. “It was sad to cancel the show, but it also felt like the only option morally; it just was not the time for it.”

With a 20-month gap the duo has had time to really invest in the show and are excited to bring something to the stage that is “completely different.”

“Our voices have grown in strength and beauty,” Jones mused with a hint of humor. “We’ve even become more attractive. Yes, there have been a lot of changes — but just because Vanessa has a giant-ass belly, don’t expect her to be too different — the heart of the show is still what it has always been about, and that’s friendship.”

MIRANDA FERRISS JONES and Vanessa Dunleavy will return to the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury on Nov. 18-20 to present their musical “Showing Up.” Photo/Cindi Duff

Yes, you caught that right. Vanessa is approaching her third trimester and going strong. She also got married and moved from Brooklyn to Middlebury during the pandemic. Change… you can say that again!

“We had been working non-stop on this musical since we started in 2017 and our friendship had taken a backseat,” Dunleavy reflected. “It was so nice to just be friends for that time; it felt like a really necessary break that allowed us to have more confidence in  ourselves and each other.”

“We have had some hard stuff to work through,” said Jones, as she touched Dunleavy’s forearm and gently pushed shoulder-to-shoulder. “As we continue to get closer, I have more trust in you, more confidence in you and am more impressed by you.”

Jones, who is the composer and lyricist, plays the role of “Miranda” and Dunleavy is the writer and plays the role of “Vanessa.” Together they work with Anderson and Simon Broucke, who is the orchestrator and also an Addison County native.

“Miranda is the composer who I’ve worked with the most since graduating college,” Broucke said, Columbia (2019). “It’s been a joy to watch this develop. I’m really excited. I think this musical is something really incredible.

“This piece is very producible,” Broucke added. “It’s very easy to put on, which means it can be put on anywhere. I could imagine this musical off Broadway, on Broadway, as a thesis project… anywhere really.”

“For the performances coming up Nov. 18-20 we’re investing in a three-camera shoot,” Dunleavy explained. “We’re going to take that footage around and see where it goes from there. We’d love to take it to New York City and at least do a reading there. We’re open and eager for more opportunities to perform this.”

But one day, both actresses know that this will be beyond them. And they’ve written it to preserve and honor the integrity of the piece as it goes forward.

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