'Edison Lite' gets 20th anniversary revamp

Cary Ashby • Feb 18, 2017 at 4:00 PM

MILAN — Rebekah Klepper had one of the original songs from “Edison Lite” stuck in her head.

“You don’t expect that out of a show you’ve never seen before,” said the 18-year-old Edison High School senior. 

But that’s a good thing in this case. That shows that the songs in the 20-year-old musical being performed March 9 through 12 at EHS are catchy. Klepper said the musical has a “really funny script” and should be “fun for everyone.”

The Edison Drama Club is revamping “Edison Lite,” written by Jim Barron and Rex Stanforth, for its second set of local performances in 20 years. 

“I wrote most of the script and lyrics for the play and Jim Barron, who at the time arranged music for Cedar Point’s live show, wrote the music,” said Stanforth, who again is directing the musical.

After its first staging at EHS in 1997, “Edison Lite” was selected as the Ohio Thespian’s All Ohio Show and performed as the centerpiece of the 1999 State Thespian Conference, with a cast of students from many schools throughout the state. In June of that year, the all-Ohio cast performed selections as part of the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb. Also in 1999, portions also were performed as part of Palooza, a high school theater festival at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square.

“Edison Lite” is a celebration of the life of Thomas Alva Edison. 

Sophomore Evan Hoffman plays both Edison and his father Sam, which he said with a smile requires “a lot of running backstage.”

“Sam is more of a strict character,” Hoffman said. “He yells at Tom for burning down a barn.”

Act I follows his life from his birth in Milan to the family’s move to Port Huron. Mich. The second act celebrates three of Edison’s major inventions — the phonograph, incandescent light and motion picture projector and finally the October 1929 reenactment of the lighting of the first incandescent lamp. That happened in the newly reconstructed Menlo Park laboratory in Greenfield village, two years before his death.

For playing Edison, Hoffman has found real-life inspiration in Bill Nye the Science Guy. The sophomore said the inventor seems to be “everywhere” with “a thousand thoughts at once.” 

The 24-member cast has been rehearsing since Jan. 26.

“There is a lot of diversity in the roles,” Klepper said. “There’s a lot of double-casting. All the people in the cast are very talented and have to do multiple roles.”

Klepper is the female lead, playing both Edison’s mother, Nancy, and wife. The EHS senior said Nancy is “a stay-at-home mom” who was supportive of her son and “what he wanted to do.”

“She let him do his thing as opposed to the norm,” she said.

Stanforth said he believes rehearsals have been going well.

“They are courageous for trying it,” he said. 

In August, the officers in the Edison Drama Club watched a professional video of the 1997 production at the Milan Coffee House. The students decided to bring back the musical for its 20th anniversary.

“It was really helpful because we got a feel for the script,” said Klepper, who is assisting with the choreography.

One of the challenges is tweaking some of the dated pop-culture references.

“I had a line about crowd-funding. Zach (Roth) suggested Edison kick-started crowd-funding,” Stanforth said.

About two weeks before the 1997 premiere of “Edison Lite,” Stanforth’s father died and he found himself scrambling to finish writing the musical.

“I’ve got more time (now) to be thoughtful in my directing,” he said.

Performances of “Edison Lite” are at at 7:30 p.m. March 9 through 11 and at 2:30 p.m. March 12.

Norwalk Reflector Videos