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Musical Has Kernel of Truth
By Doug Gruse
Published: Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Susan Cicarelli Caputo and Dan Garfinkel in Corn!Fort Salem Theater productions are known for their biting wit, but the company’s upcoming musical isn’t meant to be corny.

Well, maybe literally.

Corn! The Musical: A Tribute to Growing Families, which opens Friday and runs through July 19, takes the theater company from lighter fare to a serious look at the struggles of modern farmers.

"I was inspired by driving back and forth from my house in Shushan to Salem and seeing some farmsthat have been around since the 1700s. In the olddays, the kids would kind of take over, and it would be passed from generation to generation," said playwright Al Budde.

Budde thought it would be interesting to take a close look at the issues modern farm families face. "We’re seeing that these farms are in transition. I wanted to see what would happen if a farmer died and they had to divide the estate and everyone had different ideas on how to do that," he said.

Working with Jay Kerr, who wrote songs for the production, Budde developed a fictional story based in Washington County. He talked with a number of local farmers to get a feel for agricultural life. "They are a very resourceful group and are finding new ways to make a living. One thing they are definitely not doing is selling out to some of the developers," he said.

The cast includes Broadway actor Tom Flagg, Albany actors Susan Cicarelli Caputo and Shannon Rafferty, singer-songwriter David Turner, Peter Kidd and Salem residents Dan Garfinkel and Jessica O’Keefe. Flagg has taken a two-week vacation from his current role in the Manhattan revival of The Fantasticks to be in the production. "It’s quite different from my other shows," Budde said. "The songs are really heartfelt. I think it will touch people — given the subject matter, which is close to many."

The production is directed by Budde’s son, Tyler Budde, who is a theater and film student at American University. "It has been a real thrill for him," Budde said of his son’s work as director. "It’s been tough. He’s been working pretty much from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 at night."

Budde is hopeful that Corn! will be a good growth opportunity for the company. "I think there’s been a lot of buzz, and people are intrigued about it," he said.
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