Ton-Taun musical takes over Tellus360

Lancaster's theater scene is changing with this original musical written by Matt Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Ton-Taun)

Josh Rittberg

Staff Writer

While the Fulton Theatre is putting on their most expensive show to date with “Beauty and The Beast”, down the street, another type of magic is being done at Tellus360 with a brand new musical called “Sorry Brian, You’re Derek Now”.  

This is an original musical with music by a Lancaster indie rock band called Ton-Taun, and a hilarious book by Millersville’s own Matt Johnson. There is something special about seeing a brand new piece of theater, and this musical was no exception. “Sorry Brian, You’re Derek Now” tells the story of a young man named Brian whose golden boy twin brother Derek dies from a ski accident. After his brother’s death, Brian’s family and society wants him to be just like his brother Derek. Although, the tone of the piece is generally satirical, Brian’s quest to step out of his brother’s shadow is always at the heart of this musical.

Adam Taylor leads the production with his electric turn as Brian Prior. This is Taylor’s first acting experience, and his raw performance drives the show while adding a grounded realism to this outrageous rock musical. His singing in the opening number “Hibernate” was thrilling and set the tone for the excellent music to come.

Neil Krieger and Loretta Bilious were truly hilarious as Brian’s oblivious parents, Nancy and Bob Prior. Their scene where they kept giving Brian Christmas presents that were meant for his deceased brother Derek was side-splittingly funny and left the audience wanting more. Laura Luce’s inclusion to the scene as Derek’s ex-lover also greatly contributed to the heightened comedy of the moment.

Another standout was Jim Akers as Brian’s kooky Uncle Gerald. Uncle Gerald was mainly featured at the start of the show. Nevertheless, Akers made the most of his limited stage time with his awkwardly funny performance. Katie Zdilla also made the most of her small but pivotal role of Officer Carruthers. Zdilla did a great job of playing a dim-witted cop.

Ton-Taun band members Katie Seifarth and John Spurlock also offered excellent comic performances as Brian’s nerdy friend Kerri Sabotka, and as Brian’s Churro loving Spanish Teacher Senor Spurlock. Seifarth really got into her character to the point where she was literally unrecognizable. That was mostly due to her delightfully nerdy costume and voice for the character. John Spurlock as Señor Spurlock was a riot. Spurlock in real life is a middle school Spanish teacher, and it was obvious that he was having an absolute blast playing a hilariously awful Spanish teacher. The performances of both Seifarth and Spurlock were expertly comedic and a joy to watch.

The musical’s director, Joanna Underhill, and book writer, Matt Johnson, also doubled as actors with their turns as Father Fred and the outrageous reporter Gil Dalrymple respectively. Even stage manager Kelsey Pollard got to join in on the action. It was very neat to see members of the creative team getting their moments to shine with the rest of the cast. Their energy onstage was truly infectious.

The direction by Joanna Underhill greatly complimented the hysterical book of Matt Johnson that had the audience laughing throughout the performance. The show moved seamlessly, and the audience was well along for the ride.  The lighting brought a rock and roll atmosphere to the performance, while the projections provided sight gags that were always extensions of the scenes. All of the tech elements worked together seamlessly, and greatly contributed to the success of the show.

Overall, the world premiere of the musical “Sorry Brian You’re Derek Now” was a major triumph not just for the cast and crew, but for the Lancaster Theater community as well. The mainstream shows at The Fulton are wonderful, but smaller riskier productions like “Sorry Brian You’re Derek Now” are the ones that ultimately revitalize the Lancaster Theater scene.