'A Night in Olympus' merges talents of Chan Poling, Jeffrey Hatcher, Bill Corbett

Jessica Fredrickson and Tyler Michaels play Maggie and Harry in A Night in Olympus.
Jessica Fredrickson and Tyler Michaels play Maggie and Harry in A Night in Olympus.
Photo by Lauren B. Falk.
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Jeff Hatcher, Bill Corbett, and Chan Poling bring three unique perspectives to A Night in Olympus, but the genesis of the idea comes from the New Standards pianist and member of the legendary Suburbs.

"It was a story he was thinking about that was about looks, young women, beauty, and transformation," says Hatcher. The piece is the last of this year's Fresh Ink series featuring works in progress.

"I've had the core idea for years, and I had written a bunch of songs. I couldn't get the story right, and I kept trying on my own. I woke up and called Jeff. We talked about it, and I said that I needed some help," Poling says.

Hatcher signed on, and the prolific playwright brought in Corbett to help on the book. Corbett, a veteran playwright and alum of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (and a member of one of the modern-day offshoots, Rifftrax), has collaborated with Hatcher on the musical's book, leaving Poling to focus on the music.

A Night in Olympus takes place in a high school, but one that has a special distinction: the staff are all Greek gods. That comes to a head when nerdish Maggie finds herself transformed into a "beauty," turning the school on its head.

"There are risks in a collaboration," Corbett says. "We might see this project in fundamentally different ways. We may not be fans of what the others have produced. I don't hate these guys -- yet."

For Poling, there are a couple of issues at play. "Coming from a pop music and rock 'n' roll background -- a career where you have to be young -- I started thinking about getting older, and what I was going to do. There was the idea of getting to be older and wanting to be something different. The other thing is that I love old-fashioned musicals. I love those magical transformational stories, like Damn Yankees."

The trio hopes to have a score full of memorable music -- something that is often lacking from "rock" musicals. Corbett recalls seeing the recent show Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. "It had a lot of thrilling moments, but was lacking good music," he says. 

The show's structure allows Poling to explore not just the pop and rock styles, but also traditional musical-theater forms. "With the gods' world, it allows me to write songs that are pastiches of old musical-theater styles," he says. "When the kids sing, it is more heartfelt. I get to indulge my pop and rock thing."

The Fresh Ink staging gave the trio a platform to hammer the work into shape. "I want to use this time to make the show better, to tighten up the script, and iron out the plot confusions. Hopefully, by the end of it we will know what we want to do next," Corbett says.


Fresh Ink: A Night in Olympus
Illusion Theater, Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
For information, call 612.339.4944 or visit online
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Illusion Theater

528 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403



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