No theater response: “Rock Holliday”

No Reply Theater is back again with another production in the Spring Catalog. This week, the organization presents “Rock Holliday.”

Directed by fourth-year students Julie Byrne and Madison Colantrillo, Rock Holliday tells the story of Doc Holliday, a man haunted by the loss of both parents and the ever-changing chaos of the old Wild West. Written by Tyler McClellan and focused on real life Shoot at Oak Coral, The music centers around a troubled dentist, his estranged wife, and a cowboy choir in Tombstone, Arizona. With rampant crime and a rising death toll, the drama finds a delicate balance between comedy and tragedy while also discovering meaning in an overarching lesson: while no one lives forever, the legacy we leave continues beyond one man’s life.


From the start, director Julie Byrne has committed to bringing production to Pennsylvania. As a high school student, Byrne was involved in the first and only production of the show at the time. Written by Bernie’s friend V Central Bucks Eastern High SchoolRock Holliday was performed only once before coming to the No refund stage.

“I’ve always wanted to direct the NRT show, and it was always in the back of my head,” said the director. “Slowly but surely, it suddenly began that more and more people became familiar with Rock Holiday.”

As current president of Thespians and a member of the No Return Theater since her freshman year, Byrne has made countless productions in University Park, yet this show holds a special place as a revival of a running prank among friends. Originally talk of lighthearted fun, this culmination of an actual production afforded the director the freedom to make work his own, with the blessing of the original writer.

“It has given me complete creative control to change or tweak anything I want on the show,” said Byrne. “That’s really cool from a mentoring point of view.”

Within this creative freedom, the directors have adapted the original work for a Pennsylvania audience. By incorporating details such as small text adjustments, meaning behind the costumes, and lighting plans on an intricate set, Byrne reinforced the original concept in a different light.

One example includes a stark contrast in costumes between the lead role of Doc Holiday and his wife Kate Holiday. Symbolizing their split as a couple, Doc Holliday wears red and black, while Kate wears blue and white, and the inverse of these colors is shown as they are their exact opposite.

Within the nature of production as Rock Holliday’s second-ever performance, another aspect of both creative freedom and challenge arose: crafting the original choreography. For assistant director and choreographer Peyton Thiem, the sky was the limit.

“Usually when you’re designing the choreography, you can look at some inspiration,” Tim said. “But, I didn’t have much of that, so it was a lot of just listening to music.”

Listening and learning to create her own style, Tim has benefited from choreographing original choreographies, which are emerging as a major aspect of production as a stage musical on NRT.


In another creative aspect on stage, the production includes unique visual aspects of lighting design and lighting. With the entire stage set centered around two salon doors selected and moved by Byrne herself, the venue also lights up along with the highs and lows of the show.

“I knew how powerful the lighting was and how it could really affect the show,” Byrne said. “Designing the little things has been so much fun.”

Using small aspects such as detailed costumes, attractive lighting design, and sound effects, Rock Holliday debuted on the No Return stage, which is also unique in its role as an original score musical theatre. Historically, the organization mainly produces plays, but the production of Rock Holliday also offered another opportunity: the opportunity to record an entire album.

“One of the things I brought to the table was that I would be able to do a soundtrack for the entire show,” said Assistant Director Brandon Vian.

Within a busy schedule before graduation, Fean found time to record individual cast members and edit each song to create an original recording.

“She was able to figure it all out and get her out, which is very exciting,” Fean said.


In the excitement, sophomore Jacob Malazio explained his philosophy and happiness for the opportunity to record an original album.

“The first song was called ‘None of us will live forever,'” said Malisio, “and they ask, ‘What will be on your tombstone?'” “It’s a show about legacy and reputation, and how the city of Tombstone recognizes each character.”

Comparing legacy topics, Malizio found similarities between Rock Holliday’s messages and the current NRT production process.

“Theatre is passing,” he said. “Once that happens, it disappears. But the cast album stays forever.”

In response to the opportunity to record the actors’ album, fourth-year student Jack Heimhauser explained what made the whole process more interesting.

“It’s really people who make things like this,” said Jacques Heimhauser. Playing Doc Holliday’s main protagonist, Hemhauser explained his process for playing the role, which was challenging in his claims as they are both tied to the present but haunted by the past.

“He was very affected by his past,” said Hemmhauser. “But one of the interesting aspects about the character is that the one thing he doesn’t lose is his sense of friendship. Because he can be mean and spiteful and brave and horrible, he really does hold onto that sense of friendship, and [with his friends,] They stand together to death.”


In a similar fashion to on-stage friendship themes, Heimhauser illustrated a special moment present at the real high point of the show: a production number featuring four male men harassing Doc Holliday posing as lifelong friends.

“The three of them, in real life, are my best friends here,” he said. “So this show kind of feels like the culmination of how close we are and how much we work together, and it was so much fun.”

Playing Wyatt Earp in this scene as well, third-year student Will Lyman attributed much of the comfort amongst the cast to the friendly environment the production team created from the start. Echoing similar sentiments, Lehman explained the experience as exhilarating within the bonds that formed, a classic differentiating factor for the establishment in which the all-encompassing nature of the no-refund theater shines through.

“The cast was really great because there were so many people I’ve met before and I’ve really made friends with,” he said. “Working with everyone was amazing and amazing, and it was just a pleasure for the people to be with them anyway.”

Working with the cast in this convenient production capacity, fourth-year student and director Madison Colantrilo shot and edited the cast’s portraits in the old Western style, enhancing the show’s overall theme. As the director, she also helped enhance the actors’ comfort and reflected on the results that emerged just before the curtain rose.

“You could see by the time tech week came around that everyone loved everyone,” she said. “It was so relaxing because everyone was like ‘We’re here to do a show we love.'”

While friendships formed supported the cast through the process, challenges arose during the final week of production. With multiple roles replaced due to illness, rapid changes were needed to adapt the show and ensure its continuity.

Speaking about the last-minute fulfillment of director Julie Byrne’s Kate Holiday role, Jack Heimhauser explained the feelings behind losing a family member just before opening night.

“It’s unfortunate that between me and Gabe, that character dynamic, we’ve never really been able to see. We’ve worked so much on our character’s dynamic.” “It’s on the soundtrack, it’s on the show. It’s very unfortunate circumstances, but Gabe will always be Kate.”

While disappointed with the loss of the cast members at the last minute, director Julie Byrne and assistant director Peyton Thiem stepped into production to allow Rock Holliday for opening night.

“At this point, the show has to go on,” Heimhauser said, “and Julie personified and crushed it.”


While surmounting last-minute challenges, Byrne remained focused on the excitement of opening night. As a fourth-year student surrounded by a community she has worked with for the past four years, Byrne concluded with a final thank-you note for her acting in her most recent directing appearance.

“I am so proud of these actors, and of all the challenges they had to overcome. They made every move and exceeded my expectations, and then some,” she said.

Rock Holliday takes off to town at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 14. Additional shows will follow at 8pm on Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16. As always, all tickets are free. Trigger warning of language, violence and loud noises are emphasized.

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