Irish song, dance play key roles in Parkland Theatre's original musical

Irish song, dance play key roles in Parkland Theatre's original musical

CHAMPAIGN — For having no background in theater, Kenny Chumbley — with the help of people who do — has put together an interesting cast and crew for his original musical, "The Green Children."

The two-act musical, opening tonight at the Parkland Theatre, features professionals and products of Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, among them John "Brent" Strauss, a tenor who just received a master's degree in vocal performance, and Colleen Bruton, a UI junior from Orland Park, also majoring in voice.

And there’s Jason Morgan, an opera singer who teaches voice at Millikin University. He sings the first solo in the show.

And Ingrid Kammin, who has a UI doctoral of musical arts degree in vocal performance and teaches at Illinois Wesleyan and privately. She’s the music director.

"The Green Children," adapted from Chumbley's award-winning children’s book of the same title and set in the forest of Ballybogey, also features a dozen or so Irish folk tunes, with new lyrics written by Chumbley and Jim McGuiggan.

All in the public domain, the Irish songs, which will be recognizable to most listeners, will be performed by an ensemble of fiddle, piano, guitar and percussion. The musical has an integral flow between the music and the drama, and is unique in the ages and level of skills among the cast members, Kammin said.

"People like Jason Morgan, who has sung for years all over, and then 10-year-olds performing smaller roles: Everybody is important," she said.

There's also a big "River Dance"-style scene that puts a spotlight on Erika Smith, who placed among the Top 5 in her age bracket at age 17 last year in the All-Ireland dance competition in Cork.

Also part of the cast are 16-year-old identical twins Maya and Sara Kesan of Champaign, who also have experience in Irish dance.

Sara called the musical "Green Children" energetic and original.

It features a magical tree that acts as a portal from the real world to one full of fairies and hobgoblins. There's a villain, Squire Scrum (Stephen Condon), who captures the two green children, Bud and Blossom (Strauss and Bruton), cages them, and shows them off to paying viewers.

Their escape, when it comes, is through the tree.

"The tree is a symbol of transformation and passage," said Morgan, who plays the adult Granda, or Bud.

"The central theme of 'The Green Children' is dehumanization," Chumbley said. "The bad guy, Squire Scrum, dehumanizes the green children because they're different, and he 'owns' them. He can do what he wants to do."

Other cast members said another theme is love. And they all seem to agree that the new musical is a lot of fun.

"It's a really interesting way to use old folk tales and tell a story about them," Smith said.

If you go

What: "The Green Children," a new musical written by Kenny Chumbley and Jim McGuiggan, featuring Irish folk tunes and Irish dance, based on Chumbley's award-winning children's book, "The Green Children."

When: 7 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Harold and Jean Miner Theatre, Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C.

Tickets: $10 for all seats today; $20 for reserved and $10 for general seats for the remaining three shows.

Reservations: Call 217-493-8905 or go online to

Topics (2):Education, Theater