Belch! Yes, Belch! That’s the name of the title character, an actual homework machine, in Boston Children’s Theatre’s (BCT) World Premiere musical production of THE HOMEWORK MACHINE. Playing alongside ‘Belch’ is 15 year-old Ethan Koss-Smith in the role of the jock ‘Snik.’
Based on the popular children’s book by Dan Gutman, THE HOMEWORK MACHINE features music by Tony Award nominated composer Keith Herrmann and book and lyrics by award-winning writer Mark Cabaniss. THE HOMEWORK MACHINE runs April 19 – 27 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.
A native of San Diego, California, Ethan is currently a freshman at Newton South High School where he appeared as ‘Cinderella’s Prince’ in the school’s production of Into the Woods. He has also been seen on stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as ‘Demetrius/Theseus,’ Bye Bye Birdie as ‘Albert Peterson,’ and Les Miserables as ‘Enjolras.’ A member of the Schola Choir at Trinity Church in Boston, Ethan has performed A Song for Peace, Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, and Brahm’s Ein Deutches Requiem. He also studies ballet with the Boston Ballet School in Newton.
When four fifth-graders create a machine named ‘Belch’ to do their homework, what can possibly go wrong? Everything! This unlikely foursome of students- a geek, a class clown, a teacher’s pet and a slacker- have a big secret code-named ‘Belch’ and that secret threatens to take over not only their schoolwork, but their lives! As ‘Belch’ continues to grow and become more powerful than they ever expected, things can get out of control- and they do. THE HOMEWORK MACHINE is an exhilarating and entertaining glimpse into the lives of these students as they navigate their way through the challenges and rewards of being their age.
“We are thrilled to work with such a creative and accomplished team as Mark Cabaniss and Keith Hermann to produce this World Premiere musical,” said Burgess Clark, BCT Executive Artistic Director. “This is our inaugural production under BCT’s Marcia J. Trimble’s New Works Program which is designed to champion the development, production and continued life of new plays and musicals for children. The Homework Machine is a tremendous project to kick off our New Works Program.”
According to Mark Cabaniss, he and Keith Herrmann chose BCT to produce the World Premiere for many reasons. “We researched several different theaters across the country, and chose Boston Children’s Theatre because of the company’s reputation for launching new works of substance,” said Cabaniss. “We needed to work with a theater that understood the complexities of a new production. Boston Children’s Theatre has been a wonderful collaborator and the right choice.”
Led by the creative team of Cabaniss, a nationally recognized music publisher, producer, playwright and ASCAP award-winning songwriter, and Keith Herrmann, composer, arranger, musical director and Tony Award nominee for Romance/Romance, THE HOMEWORK MACHINE is an energizing mix of Broadway and contemporary music combined with a story that is both intriguing and enlightening. “Not many kids like to do homework,” remarked Cabaniss. “What kid wouldn’t like a homework machine? But that type of invention comes with risks and lessons to be learned about cheating and doing things the right way. By writing a musical for young audiences, we have a platform to teach kids in an entertaining way, in an environment that sparks creativity and discussion.”
According to Herrmann, this was his first foray into writing for young audiences. “I have never focused on a specific age range before, and I asked myself ‘What type of score can I create for this population and their parents?’ I didn’t want to do the typical fluffy, clownlike score. Instead I wanted the music to be cutting edge so it appeals to that age range. It was a challenge but extremely rewarding.”
Directed by Mary Guaraldi, who recently directed Pinkalicious The Musical at BCT, THE HOMEWORK MACHINE will be performed in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA on April 19, 20, 23, 24, 26 and 27. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by visiting the BCT website at www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org or calling 617-933-8600. School groups can also reserve tickets by contacting the BCT Box Office.
THE HOMEWORK MACHINE is running in rotation with OF MICE AND MEN, which runs April 25 and 26 and May 3 and 4 at the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA. All performances are at 2 pm. Tickets are $25.00 and can be purchased by visiting the BCT website at www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org or calling 617-933-8600. School groups can also reserve tickets for weekday performances by contacting the BCT Box Office.
About Boston Children’s Theatre
For over 60 years, Boston Children's Theatre has served as one of the regions premier not-for-profit theaters. Named Best of Boston® 2013 and 2012 by Boston Magazine for Best Children’s Theatre, BCT’s mission is to provide access to exceptional theatrical experiences dedicated to fostering the artistic and personal development of diverse youth, with a focus on professional training and the development of new works. Programs at Boston Children’s Theatre provide a unique chance for self-discovery and individual expression in a supportive, and productive environment. At BCT, talented and motivated students gather from across traditional boundaries and nationalities to learn about themselves, each other and the world as they create some of the finest theatrical productions in New England. www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org