OLEAN — After a nearly two-year hiatus, the curtain will rise over the Olean Community Theater stage with the first production in its new home on South Barry Street.
“STEM: The Musical” is a 50-minute show ideal for kids and adults with music, dancing and an interactive performance about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Olean native Kevin Badanes, along with co-writer Amy Pruitt, created the fun and educational show in 2017 and it has been performed in schools and other educational settings all over the country more than 200 times.
“The show was written to inspire kids, especially from marginalized or disconnected communities, to pursue careers in STEM but to also pursue anything that calls them,” Badanes explained. “It’s an opportunity for us to reach the students that perhaps are not getting the kind of support at home or in their community and really get them stoked about whatever it is they’re stoked about.”
While the message is fun and inspirational, “STEM: The Musical” takes its content straight from Kindergarten through eighth-grade curriculum standards. Because the show is a scholastic program, Badanes said he and Pruitt wanted to find a good balance between academic and entertainment.
This show stars Devyn Schoen, Madison McClelland, Kaleb Shaw and Skyler Schapp as four kids who get an impossible homework assignment to explain the universe and how it works, Badanes explained. Through the course of the show, they learn if you apply STEM to the questions they can explain almost anything.
As fans of both “School House Rock” and “Hamilton,” Badanes said they wanted to do something where all the words rhyme like “Hamilton” while making it feel like a “School House Rock” show for the STEM fields.
“It’s full of songs, and I wouldn’t call the dialogue rap,” he said. “It’s more halfway between rap and Dr. Seuss. It all rhymes.” The songs range in everything from classic Broadway show tunes to techno/electronic to a samba, Badanes said.
Since 2019, the Olean Community Theater has been in the process of renovating the Temple B’Nai Israel building into one of the most modern theater spaces in the region.
Work includes a 342-square-foot addition on the west and north sides of the building to allow for a wheelchair lift, new audio gear and LED lighting systems, organizers said. Along with the stage, the existing seating will be replaced and a ramped floor is planned to give theater-goers in the rear area a better view of the action.
The basement would be renovated into dressing rooms, a green room, concessions and meeting space.
As a fundraiser for the OCT building fund, Badanes said he happily donated the rights for OCT to do the show for free. He said he’s been home for two weeks for the group’s final rehearsals before showtime, noting this will be the first time “STEM: the Musical” is performed by a community theater.
“As performers and directors and people who put together shows, we’ve been literally dark for 18 months. It’s been dreadful,” he said. “It’s exciting for OCT because this is their first production in their new space, even though the space is still undergoing transformation.”
Even though the show was written for kids, Badanes said anyone of any age can enjoy it, adding that many adults love it more than kids. He said they hope kids will take away the core message following your dream or inspiration no matter what it is.
“Our tagline is, ‘What’s your “next”?’ Our cast members say, ‘I am the next Broadway star’ or ‘I am the next astronaut,’” he said. “We ask the kids in the show, ‘What’s your next?’ and we hope that they’re inspired to think about what they’re ‘next’ is and go for it.”
The show will be presented at the new OCT building, 127 S. Barry St., at 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday and again on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Kids activities such as face painting, a kids snack bar and more will be presented in between the Saturday shows, and an ice cream social will follow the Sunday performance.
Tickets can be purchased at the door only. All proceeds will benefit the OCT building fund. For more information, call 375-1628 or visit www.oleancommunitytheatre.com.