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Behind the scenes of a Broadway musical

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BIG SKY – It’s been an unusual season within a deeply unusual year, but the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center is still committed to bringing artists and performers together. “We’ve had to get really creative with how we present, but we certainly weren’t willing to give up in the face of this challenge,” said John Zirkle, WMPAC’s executive director.

The next show in the center’s annual winter season, its eighth, explores the life and legacy of one of Montana’s most celebrated historical figures. The show will be a sneak peek in the form of songs and scenes of a Broadway-bound musical titled “Jeannette,” which unpacks the story of Jeannette Rankin, America’s first Congresswoman. Elected to Congress in 1916—three years before women were granted the right to vote—Rankin found herself as the only female voice within the halls of power to vote on women’s suffrage.

The musical was written by Lauren M. Gunderson, who holds the distinction of being America’s most produced playwright, in spite of the fact that three-quarters of the plays produced in the U.S. today are written by men. In a 2017 bio on Gunderson in The New Yorker, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner observed that “A typical Gunderson protagonist resembles her author: smart, funny, collaborative, optimistic—a woman striving to expand the ranks of a male-dominated profession.”

Ari Afsar both wrote and performs the musical’s songs. Afsar is a writer and singer best known for originating the role of Eliza Hamilton in the Chicago adaptation of “Hamilton.”

The show will take a look at how a Broadway musical comes together, and will feature excerpts from the show, new orchestrations by Grammy and Tony-winning orchestrator and music producer Todd Sickafoose, and live performances from the creators and local Montana-based performing artists. Jeannette is directed by Erin Ortman, a New York-based director who grew up in Helena, Montana.

As with all of the remaining shows this season, audience members have the option of attending the event in-person, or of streaming the performance at home. This summer, WMPAC launched its own streaming platform called, through which audiences can watch a high-quality livestream of the show in case they don’t feel comfortable socializing in public spaces.

“A silver lining of this strange year is that we’re now able to share these performances with people all over the country and the world, instead of having the audience limited to just people in Big Sky,” Zirkle said.

Tickets and more information available at

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