Goodspeed's Terris Theatre hosts 'Hi, My Name is Ben'

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Centering a musical on a man who was mute for decades might seem impossible, but that was the challenge for Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie in creating “Hi, My Name is Ben.”

The inspiration was an article they read in the New York Times in 2016 about a man who had lost his voice after surgery. Bernhardt Wichmann III lived in New York City, and he used a notepad to write messages to people. In their writers' notes about the show, Gilmour and McKenzie say that Ben ended up "turning a neighborhood of strangers into a community of friends. His story is a modern-day fairytale about hope, friendship, and grief, before finally encountering a miracle.” It’s an inspirational story with a folk-infused score.

Gilmour and McKenzie worked on the musical while in residence at the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed in 2017.

Now, they are back at Goodspeed to watch as their show is developed and staged at Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre in Chester.

Joel Rooks, who has been on Broadway, plays Ben, while Adam Kaplan plays Young Ben. The production is directed by Andrew Panton, who is artistic director and joint chief-executive of Dundee Rep Theatre in Scotland, where “Hi, My Name is Ben” was previously performed.

As for figuring out the central challenge of the show, Gilmour and McKenzie write that "through the use of music, projection and physical interaction, we began to create a language that allowed Ben to communicate."

“Hi, My Name is Ben,” Terris Theatre, North Main St., Chester; opens Friday and runs through June 9; 2 and 7:30 p.m. wed., 7:30 p.m. Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 3 and 8 p.m. Sat., and 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sun.; tickets start at $49; (860) 873-8668, www.goodspeed.org.

 

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