PREVIEW: Sisyphus musical aims to endear myth’s morals of free will through song


AURORA | Whiffs of ancient Greece will be floating into Aurora this month thanks to a new guest production at the Aurora Fox Arts Center.

“Sisyphus the Musical,” based on the eponymous Greek myth of the self-righteous braggadocio eternally sentenced to push a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again, is making its world premier at the Aurora Fox main stage June 9. The show runs on weekend nights through June 18.

The work is an amalgamation of several myths, ultimately honing in on the never-ending philosophical debate between predestination and free will, according to April Alsup, the local theater aficionado who penned the show’s music and lyrics.

“(Sisyphus) has to teach the citizens to embrace their free will despite the wrath of the gods, which is the paradox between — let’s call it divine intervention — but some people might call it predestination, and free will,” said Alsup, a resident of Greenwood Village. “Imagine trying to take some of those topics, like predestination and existentialism, and weaving them into a fabulous, entertaining musical. That was the challenge – and it was lot of fun.”

The show, which features a book by Mary Scott, will debut about 26 Alsup-penned songs. A graduate of Marietta College in Ohio and the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the local composer has been crafting original music for decades.

The spark for the show came about three years ago, shortly after Alsup premiered her first musical, “WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) The Musical” at Crossroads Theater in Denver. She said she was ready to pursue a production with more levity than her more sobering debut.

“(WYSIWYG) was a very personal, emotional and dramatic piece,” said Alsup, who is self-producing the show. “With ‘Sisyphus’ I really wanted to find a topic that was entertaining and had more of a … classic, musical theater feel to it. And ’Sisyphus’ was just a perfect fit for that.”

With choreography by Heather Westenskow and musical direction from Drew Bradley, the story jumps from the present day to ancient Greece and back again, following Sisyphus (Blake Nawa’a) as he seeks political clout, but angers Zeus (Owen T. Niland) — and somehow ends up courting the Goddess of Dawn (Carolyn Jordan) along the way.

Alsup said she spent more than a year conducting mostly online research on the Greek history behind the Sisyphus myth in an effort to fine-tune her concept.

“I just sort of gravitated toward it,” she said. “It resonated with me … because, in some ways, we’re all Sisyphus.”

Brandon Bill, director of the show, said tackling a world premier offers a unique chance to permanently imprint actors and their characters into audience members’ minds.

“Everything is being done for the first time,” Bill said. “You think of the first time you listened to your favorite Broadway album … from then on your perception and your vision, as well as everyone else’s on the planet, is going to be based on that production and the way that person created that character.

“We have the same opportunity,” he added. “This is the first time the world has seen these characters and from here on out, the world will think of that actor as that character first. And that’s really neat.”

The new production at The Fox marks the first show at the theater in nearly a decade without former Fox Executive Producer Charles Packard at the helm. Packard resigned from his post at the theater last month.

“Sisyphus the Musical”

7:30 p.m. June 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. June 11 and 18

The Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora

Adult tickets start at $24