Lots of scenery, lots of costumes, lots of music and a lead actress who is making her big break into theater – that is how director Adam Hester, chair of the department of theater, described “42nd Street,” the homecoming musical that will hit the stage of the Abilene Civic Center this weekend.
“This show has more costumes than any show, in my memory, in the past 30 years,” Hester said. “Our first dress rehearsal was a wild ride and it was exciting to see. It has a lot of eye candy as well as one fun number after another.”
The musical, which features many elaborate tap numbers, was selected for its entertainment value as well as the value it brings to theater students who were given the opportunity to sharpen their tap skills, a skill that Hester believes will be invaluable to them in the next phases of their careers.
The musical also highlights a student who Hester said, in many ways, parallels the character she is playing. She is a student who has come from a small town bringing a lot of talent to the stage, finally able to prove her ability.
Ashley Markgraf, senior musical theater major from Boerne, will be taking the spotlight as Peggy Sawyer which is the first lead role she has played at ACU.
“I feel like I’m portraying a very tangible character,” Markgraf said. “I’m Peggy’s age and most of our beliefs are really the same. I feel very connected. I don’t really have to act when I’m Peggy, I just am Peggy.”
Markgraf said the most challenging part of the role is the tap dancing, but otherwise said she feels relaxed and comfortable in the part.
“Both Ashley and Peggy have a big heart, big dreams and a lot of talent,” Hester said. “And Ashley’s situation is not unlike this funny happy-go-lucky play we’re doing because the character she’s playing is a truly nice individual that people are rooting for as she achieves her dreams.”
Markgraf’s acting career started in fourth grade, but was put on hold as she focused on animation and dance. However, after a performance in her last semester in high school, an audience member came up to her and urged her to continue acting professionally.
“Two or three weeks after that, I came to ACU and auditioned and got in,” Markgraf said. “I’d never thought about it until that semester, and I will never regret that decision.”
Next semester, Markgraf will be going to New York to do a Tepper semester with Syracuse University which will offer a unique opportunity to learn from industry professionals and to strengthen her acting skills.
“I’m really proud to have Ashley as an ACU ambassador there representing us in New York City,” Hester said. “It’s been really rewarding to watch Ashley’s growth these past four years and I feel like the audiences are going to love her in this show.”
The musical will be performed at the Abilene Civic Center on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Be prepared to be entertained,” Markgraf said. “It’s a very fun show, the dancing is incredible and I feel a lot of people would really enjoy coming to watch it.”
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