Illinois State’s School of Theatre and Dance boasts many talented alumni, from household names like Jane Lynch and Sean Hayes to Broadway legends like Laurie Metcalf and Judith Ivey. This fall, theatre and dance students have the exciting opportunity to work with another successful alum, Broadway veteran Ray Roderick, while workshopping his new musical Brooklyn’s Bridge.
A graduate of University High School, Roderick majored in Theatre at Illinois State. When he graduated in 1980, he went straight to New York City, a somewhat unusual move among his classmates, most of whom went to Chicago. But, as a musical theatre performer, New York was the place to be. By 1982, he was cast in the long-running Broadway hit Cats. Other Broadway credits over the years included Grind, Wind in the Willows, Crazy for You, and the 1996 revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Roderick has continued to act, direct, and write for the stage, while also taking on large commercial events such as Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day for CBS and serving as creative director for the United States Tennis Association’s U.S. Open. With James Hindman, he formed Miracle or 2 Productions (Miracleor2.com), which is dedicated to the creation and development of the new American musical.
Brooklyn’s Bridge is the latest of Roderick’s musical projects. Written with composer Joseph Baker, Brooklyn’s Bridge tells the story of Emily Roebling, wife to the engineer charged with designing and building the Brooklyn Bridge. After her husband Washington Roebling falls ill during the bridge’s construction, Emily steps into a man’s world and takes over the completion of the project for the next eleven years. The story is inspiring and romantic as it delves into the couple’s resilient relationship and Emily’s newfound strength.
“I was astonished to discover that a woman finished the engineering and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge,” Roderick says. “I knew I had to tell this story and felt only a musical could capture its epic nature and bring it to life. I’m so delighted to return to ISU and my hometown to work on the development of Brooklyn’s Bridge with this next generation of artists.”
Brooklyn’s Bridge performs October 1st at 7:30pm in the Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall. Faculty members Maggie Marlin-Hess and Janet Wilson have facilitated the project.