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He Says: 1776’s Broadway Revival Casts its Historical Net Wide and Diverse, Thank God.

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I can’t say that I was blown away. But I also can’t really say that I wasn’t. I was engaged, excited, perplexed, and entertained. For the most part. It’s a problematic and complex rendering, this 1969 musical, filled with history and complications, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards (“Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose?”) and a book by Peter Stone (Titanic, Woman of the Year) that sets out to unpack the tense mess that leads to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with a focus on John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry) and his attempts to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to put their “John Hancock” (Liz Mikel) signature on the document. It’s not exactly the stuff that makes up an exhilarating show, especially with everything going on in this divided country. But there is also hope that lives on strong within this theatre junkie. An idea that we might be able to get it somewhat right, and maybe undo at least a portion of the problematic core. This particular revival of 1776: The Musical, after transferring from Boston’s A.R.T., does find its way somewhat, to pack an emotional punch or two, tell the historic tale within a complex framework, while forcing forth an idea and a visual that speaks volumes to our history and our world today.

The company of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

The revival pushes forth a dialogue that the original never really managed to elicit, let alone emotionally ignite. The production is wrought with big ideas and formulations, constructed to challenge our souls and intellect and force us to contemplate what it means to see the stage full of all those this document, generally idealized in some circles and in this conventional musical, left outside and didn’t consider. Co-directed with a strong sense of purpose by choreographer Jeffrey L. Page (Broadway’s Violet) and Diane Paulus (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill), 1776: The Musical surges forth on some strong unprecedented legs, stumbling through some concepts, and churning out some misguided attempts at clarity that unfortunately unintentionally do the opposite of the intended. Some glaring misteps in consent and connection, but the show also showcases some spectacular talent that would not typically be granted this moment inside this old-school, dusty musical.

The cast, made up of a crew of talented people who identify as women and nonbinary people of various races to play the Founding Fathers, is universally strong, particularly Crystal Lucas-Perry (Public’s Ain’t No Mo’) as John Adams, Carolee Carmello (Broadway’s Tuck Everlasting) as John Dickinson, Patrena Murray (Daryl Roth Theatre’s Gloria: A Life) as Benjamin Franklin, and Elizabeth A. Davis (Broadway’s Once) as Thomas Jefferson, delivering the ideals with force and a sense of purpose. These actors, all of them, including Gisela Adisa as “Robert Livingston,” Nancy Anderson as “George Read,” Becca Ayers as “Col. Thomas McKean,” Tiffani Barbour as “Andrew McNair,”  Allyson Kaye Daniel as “Abigail Adams/Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon,” Mehry Eslaminia as “Charles Thomson,” Joanna Glushak as “Stephen Hopkins,” Shawna Hamic as “Richard Henry Lee,” Eryn LeCroy as “Martha Jefferson/Dr. Lyman Hall,” Liz Mikel as “John Hancock,” Oneika Phillips as “Joseph Hewes,” Lulu Picart as “Samuel Chase,” Sara Porkalob as “Edward Rutledge,” Sushma Saha as “Judge James Wilson,” Brooke Simpson as “Roger Sherman,” Salome B. Smith as “Courier,” Sav Souza as “Dr. Josiah Bartlett,” Jill Vallery as “Caesar Rodney,” and Shelby Acosta, Ariella Serur, Grace Stockdale, Dawn L. Troupe, and Imani Pearl Williams as Standbys, should be celebrated and embraced, and they generally are, given that this document and this musical must be a tough jagged little pill to swallow at times. These were the ‘others’ that this Declaration left behind or didn’t even consider, and to act out some of these complications must sit heavy on their hearts and souls (just read Sara Porkalob’s fascinating and honest interview in Vulture -Bravo to her for being so candid).

Elizabeth A. Davis, Patrena Murray, Crystal Lucas-Perry in Roundabout Theatre Company’s 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

After seeing this musical the other day at Roundabout Theater‘s American Airlines Theatre, then reading the interview in the Vulture and all the comments that came flooding in on Twitter after it was posted online, I couldn’t agree more with what the brave actor stated about this musical. And I fully embrace their mindset and their need to speak up. I mean, their honesty is refreshing and should not be seen as anything but someone speaking up to the ‘powers that be’, asking for change, and hopefully being heard. I imagine some of the comments made by Porkalob might be hard for some to hear, but I’m also imagining that many are feeling ‘seen’ for their stance. Is it a terrible thing for an actor to admit that they are doing it for the paycheck and that they are not feeling totally fulfilled by the experience of being in this old-school musical? Not at all, I say. “To me, the play is a relic,” she says. “The salary is good. My favorite thing in the whole process is my cast. So the social aspect and the salary aspect are fulfilling. The creative aspect, not so much. I feel like I’m going to work.” “I admire Jeffrey and Diane for taking this on as directors. I wouldn’t have.” I think that this stance should be taken on and embraced for its honest depiction of a lot of work on Broadway, a position and idea thought by many actors that take on lesser work strictly for the paycheck, the Broadway credit, and the health care. Let’s not forget that this is a commonality for many in the workforce of America. And that this should be just the beginning of a conversation that needs to be had, without all the shaming going on around their honest answers to an interview about a show that has a lot of complicated problems floating around it.

Staged on a somewhat placid stage, designed with only flashes of visual excitement by Scott Pask (Broadway’s American Buffalo), with lighting by Jen Schriever (Broadway’s A Strange Loop), costuming by Emilio Sosa (Broadway’s Trouble in Mind), and sound design by Jonathan Deans (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill), the framework pushes the concept up for inspection. There is a lot of talk and unpacking to do of the historic moment at the heart of this musical instruction, without much processing given to the LGBTQ+ cast members, and in a way, the whole idea of their color-blind casting. That is a subject worthy of a whole lot more than a sentence or two in a theatre review. But the piece plows forward energetically, with solid and exciting early flourishes by choreographer Page. The music sings forth energetically, thanks to some fine work done by music supervisor David Chase (Broadway’s Finding Neverland) with orchestrations by John Clancy (Broadway’s Mean Girls).

With this diverse cast made up of women and non-binary actors, most of them being Persons of Color, the imagery transcends the material adding weight and an altered perspective – even though queerness is completely disregarded throughout. Yet, the performances are worthy and wonderful with standout musical moments stepping forward throughout. One of those moments is Martha Jefferson‘s lovely song, “He Plays the Violin” sung by the (much applauded) understudy Ariella Serur (RedHouse’s Rent), who stepped into the talented ‘Martha’ shoes of Eryn LeCroy (Barrow Street’s Sweeney Todd) who was out the day I went.

The company of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

The musical covers the story with detailed determination, but the central keystone comes flying forth close to the end of the show. That is when the historic bomb dutifully explodes on the stage, when Edward Rutledge, played intensely by the magnificent Sara Porkalob (A.R.T,’s Dragon Cycle), smashes forth the incredibly powerful “Molasses to Rum.” It’s the pivotal performance moment for the show, and Porkalob relishes in it, singing the song with passion and fire. The song is clearly meaningful and important, centered around the demand that the anti-slavery clause written into the Declaration of Independence by Jefferson be removed. Rutledge, smiling up until this point (most meaningfully), holds a sledgehammer over the signing, calling out the hypocrisy of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and the rest of the North, who are all advocating for the anti-slavery clause while drinking rum made from slave labor, profiting off of the slave ships, and the raping of enslaved women whose children end up on the same auction block. And demanding the removal of the clause. Rutledge gets his way, and the document gets signed by all.

As staged, it’s the most powerfully complex moment, with the directors constructing an interlude to the chanting of “molasses to rum,” recreating the emotional visual of a slave auction to the sound of the creaking of the ships. It’s dark and as uncomfortable as it should be, and although the moment is complicated by the visual of seeing the non-black POC actors sitting behind the auction table (carrying their own complex trauma), the taking back of power is the object of this moment, and the weight is there. 1776: The Musical stomps the moment forward, even while sometimes tripping on its own two left feet. It’s worthy of inspection and debate, even when it gets mired down in the complications of consent and the complex visuals presented during “The Egg” song that fill the head with a complicated blend of strong, conflicting emotions.

Porkalob states in the Vulture interview, “the reason we were directed to look at the audience [when we all hold out our coats at the end] was to remind the audience that we weren’t considered when this compromise was made. Does that read? No, it doesn’t. It drives me crazy. I think you’ve already achieved that goal, directors, by casting us in this show. People are going to interpret the text, first and foremost.” Very true. So go, see, and interpret. Think about what this show and this production are trying to say, even if the outcome is flawed from within. This is the point of theatre and this production of 1776. Does it all work? No, but it sure does get the mind racing, and thank God for that.

The company of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 1776. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

The Heart of Rock and Roll’s Huey Lewis Gets His Portrait On Sardi’s Wall

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Huey Lewis had the honor of being placed on the Sardi’s Walls of Broadway fame with his portrait at an unveiling by Max Klimavicius, owner of Sardi’s.

Huey Lewis Photos by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Max Klimavicius – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Max Klimavicius – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey was represented on Broadway this season with the musical Huey Lewis  but he also made his Broadaway acting debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago in 2005 where the iconic Grammy Award wining rocker fell in love with the Broadway community.

Huey Lewis, Mike Baerga – Photo by Tricia Baron

Jonathan A. Abrams, Brian Usifer, Hunter Arnold, Huey Lewis – Photo by Tricia Baron

Brian Usifer, Huey Lewis – Photo by Tricia Baron

Many of The Heart of Rock and Roll’s creative and cast came out to congratulate him!

Lorin Latarro, Brian Usifer – Photo by Tricia Baron

Mike Baerga, Robin Masella, Huey Lewis, Autumn Guzzardi – Photo by Tricia Baron

Kayla Greenspan, Jonathan A. Abrams, Hunter Arnold – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Tamika Lawrence – Photo by Tricia Baron

Huey Lewis, Ross Lekites – Photo by Tricia Baron

F. Michael Haynie, Huey Lewis – Photo by Tricia Baron

Autumn Guzzardi, Taylor Marie Daniel, Josh Breckenridge, Michael Olaribigbe – Photo by Tricia Baron

The Company of The Heart of Rock and Roll – Photo by Tricia Baron

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents John Patrick Shanley

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week John Patrick Shanley is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck. His play, Doubt: A Parable, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Drama Desk Award and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play; he wrote and directed the film adaptation and earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Shanley is the author of more than 23 plays, which have been translated and performed around the world, including 80 productions a year in North America. He has often directed his own productions. In 1990, Shanley directed his script of Joe Versus the Volcano. Shanley also wrote two songs for the movie: Marooned Without You and The Cowboy Song. He wrote the screenplay for the film Congo (1995), which was based on the Michael Crichton book.

Shanley’s journey in playwriting began in the early 1980s, with his first play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, which premiered in 1984. This powerful drama showcased Shanley’s talent for creating deeply flawed, yet sympathetic characters.

In 2012, Shanley wrote the libretto for an opera version of Doubt: A Parable, which premiered at the Minnesota Opera in January 2013, with music by Douglas J. Cuomo. In 2012, his play Storefront Church ran Off-Broadway in a production by the Atlantic Theater Company. His play, Outside Mullingar, opened on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, produced by the Manhattan starring Debra Messing and Brían F. O’Byrne.

Prodigal Son, which he directed, was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club. It starred Timothée Chalamet and Robert Sean Leonard. His play The Portuguese Kid opened on October 24, 2017, at the New York City Center Stage I. Directed by Shanley, the cast featured Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott and Mary Testa. His new play Brooklyn Laundry opened on February 6, 2024, at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Shanley directed, with a cast featuring Cecily Strong and David Zayas.

The New York premiere of his new mystical comedy Banshee, starring Elizabeth Bays (Simpatico) and Erick Betancourt (Cost of Living), with David Zayas Jr. (Simpatico) directing for the Chain Theatre’s 2024 Summer One-Act Festival August 8 – September 1.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, Podcasts.

Host Suzanna Bowling was also just named Most Engaging Hosts on TV, Radio and Podcasts on “The Daily Geek Report.” We are so grateful.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here, fifteenth here , 16th here, 17th here, 18th here, 19th here, 20th here, 21st here and 22nd here.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Cast Albums, Queen of the Mist, Kimberly Akimbo and The Oyster Radio Hour

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The new Broadway cast recordings for The Great Gatsby, The Outsiders and Suffs are out. However Here We Are, the final Original Cast Recording from legendary composer Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown’s The Connector are out on YouTube and these are the best scores of the year.

Another CD out is My Favorite Things: The Rodgers & Hammerstein 80th Anniversary Concert: featuring a 40-piece orchestra and stars, including Michael Ball, Maria Friedman, Daniel Dae Kim, Audra McDonald, Aaron Tveit, and Patrick Wilson, the Concert was recorded live at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The celebration showcases original arrangements of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s iconic songs from Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Cinderella, The Sound of Music and more.

Mary Testa return to Queen of the Mist in New Jersey Concert Performances at New Jersey’s Montclair State University. The concert performances of Michael John LaChiusa’s Queen of the Mist featuring the work’s original star, Broadway favorite Mary Testa.

Adam Gwon and Sarah Hammond’s Richard Rodgers Award-winning musical String has joined BroadwayLicensing Global’s catalogue and is now available for professional and non-professional productions. The company also dropped a studio cast recording of the show July 16, which is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, and all digital platforms.

Carolee Carmello

Carolee Carmello

Three-Time Tony Nominee Carolee Carmello to Star in Kimberly Akimbo National Tour” by Broadway.com’s Darryn King – “Three-time Tony nominee Carolee Carmello will play Kimberly in the national tour of Kimberly Akimbo.

Little Island is bringing Tony Award® nominees Amber Gray (Hadestown) and Amber Iman (Lempicka) to perform in The Oyster Radio Hour, which begins performances on Wednesday, July 31 and will run through Sunday, August 4 as part of Little Island’s blockbuster summer season.

The Oyster Radio Hour is a live, three-act family-friendly radio show combining science, story and song that celebrates the resilience of oysters and their crucial ecological roles. Beginning at 8PM each evening, the show blends hope and interconnectedness, spotlighting the humble oyster’s journey of revival, including special Broadway guests Amber Gray and Amber Iman.

During The Oyster Radio Hour’s run in the Amph through August 4, the Island’s central plaza, known as the Play Ground, will transform from 6:30-10PM daily into a one-of-a-kind Oyster Market, with food and beverages curated and overseen by New Amsterdam Market founder and world-famous market designer Robert LaValva.

Alongside live oyster shucking, the market will feature 10 local vendors selling their unique culinary creations, which pair perfectly with the live performance. The local vendors include Real Mothershuckers, Oyster Party, Lobster Place, Houseman, Dayboat Blue, Cervo’s, Té Company, La Newyorkina, Chomps Elysées, and Pamina Dolce Gelato. Danny Childs, author of Slow Drinks, will make summer bespoke cocktails during a bar takeover on Friday, August 3.  

The Oyster Radio Hour is a collaboration between RR Sigel, who was the Associate Artistic Director of NY PopsUp in 2021; WNYC podcast producer Ana González, previously of Radiolab: For Kids; composer Angélica Negrón who has performed at Opera Philadelphia, the LA Philharmonic, NY Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and more; and Emmy® and Drama Desk Award®-nominated songwriter Mark Sonnenblick.

Keenan Tyler Oliphant (Hadestown) serves as director with Miller & Harlow as writers; Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (Kimberly Akimbo) as lighting/video designer; Beth Lake(Camelot) as sound designer; Dr. Matthew Hare, Elliott Ma, Ayasha Guerin, Moody Harney, and Alan Michelson as audio interviewees; and Beatrice Perez-Arche as stage manager.

Little Island’s first annual, four-month-long summer season of world premieres, which kicked off on June 1, features a total of nine newly commissioned pieces. Little Island’s new arts program moves towards the future with a commitment to a multi-year roster of original work, all commissioned by and developed at Little Island. Bookended by the premiere of choreographer Twyla Tharp’s newest work How Long Blues and a 90-minute remix of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in which outré opera diva Anthony Roth Costanzo sings every leading role, the season offers premieres of varying scales across all areas of performance – including music, dance, theater, opera, comedy, jazz, pop, and funk, all outdoors and directly sited on the Hudson River at 14th Street in New York City. The Amph, the park’s 700-seat amphitheater, will house larger scale performances at a $25 ticket price, while The Glade, the park’s

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes

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Patti Lupone is on a roll. Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes will be released digitally on July 19, and on CD on August 30, from Center Stage Records. Her first new studio album since 2006, the Grammy Award winner’s new double album can be pre-ordered now at Amazon and www.CenterStageRecords.com, and the digital album can be pre-saved at https://orcd.co/lifeinnotes.

Never say never, LuPone also returns to Broadway in The Roommate  this fall. It’s been more than two years since LuPone tweeted “Quite a week on Broadway, seeing my name being bandied about. Gave up my Equity card; no longer part of that circus. Figure it out.”

The three-time Tony Award winner will star opposite none other than Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play “The Roommate,” directed by Jack O’Brien (“Shucked”). The Roommate will begin previews at the Booth Theatre on 45th Street in late August and then open in mid-September.

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Broadway

Disney Broadway In Bryant Park Part Two

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106.7 LITE FM’s brought Disney to Broadway in Bryant Park. We brought you the video and now the pictures so you are there.

Tshidi Manye

Jackie Rene

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Tshidi Manye

Jackie Rene and Tshidi Manye

Tshidi Manye and Gilbert Domally

Tshidi Manye and Gilbert Domally

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Ben Jeffrey, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Gilbert Domally

Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Ben Jeffrey

The Lion King’s Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Jackie René, Ben Jeffrey and Gilbert Domally

Charissa Hogeland

Charissa Hogeland

Chad Burris

Frozen’s Charissa Hogeland and Chad Burris

Michael James Scott

Adi Roy

Adi Roy

Michael James Scott, Adi Roy

Michael James Scott, Adi Roy

Sonya Balsara

Sonya Balsara

Adi Roy, Sonya Balsara

Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy

Adi Roy, Sonya Balsara

from Aladdin‘s Michael James Scott, Sonya Balsara and Adi Roy

106.7 Lite FM’s Hosts-Paul Cubby Bryant and Christine Nagy

Paul Cubby Bryant and Christine Nagy

The hosts were Paul ‘Cubby’ Bryant and Christine Nagy.

Chad Burris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Gilbert Domally

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

 

 

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