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DALO's new production puts a musical twist on the Enron scandal

A new Dona Ana Lyric Opera/Mark Medoff production, "We Are Enron," a musical about the rise and fall of Enron, will open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the New Mexico State University Music Center Recital Hall.

The musical, co-produced by Talia Lapid, will run through Sunday, Feb. 24. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 to 23 and 3 p.m. Feb. 24.

"We Are Enron" writers, Bradford Hodgson, Christine Sanders and Justin Raines began writing the musical almost two years ago, after being approached by Medoff to work together on a project of their choice. Sanders, a former voice teacher at New Mexico State University and Raines, a music theory and composition graduate of NMSU, worked on the movie "100 MPG" with Medoff and Hodgson was a student of Medoff's from Florida State University.

"Bradford said during his first semester [at FSU] he wanted to write a musical," Medoff said. "I was so impressed by Justin and Christine and their work on "100 MPG" that I asked if they would be interested in working with Bradford."

"I was passionate about doing something about Enron," Hodgson said.

With help from local artist Bob Diven, state Rep. Joni Gutierrez and Phil Christenson, former artistic director of DALO, the trio received a $40,000 grant from the state for "We Are Enron" and "Extinction: A Love Story," another musical that was produced during the fall semester written by Diven and directed by Medoff.

Sanders said the writing process for the musical was both fun and hard.

"Sometimes we had to work a song for a weekend and once it only took an hour," Sanders said.

"It's a funny, big musical parody, showing real people with real flaws," Hodgson said. "It shows humans making mistakes."

The story focuses on Jeff Skilling, the brains behind Enron. Viewers will watch his entrance into the corporation, his rise to the top and his ultimate downfall.

"His undoing was a case of pride and ambition run amok," Hodgson said. "He wanted to be the best and pushed too far."

"Instead of dwelling on the end, which everyone knows, it shows how the company and employees were trying to do something great. You see their dreams not just their corruption," said the director Megan McQueen, who also directed "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" for the Las Cruces Community Theater.

Hodgson, Sanders and Raines said the musical will have death, suicide, dancing, singing, strippers, illusions of love, backstabbing and corporate drama. Songs will include "Shred Evidence," "How to Marry your Secretary" and "When the Lights go Down in California."

"It's a huge production," said Lapid, a freshmen majoring in CMI. "It incorporates all different kinds of music types. It's going to be great."

"We Are Enron" has a production staff of about 70 people, including 40 dancers and singers, an orchestra and one designer dedicated to making a robot costume for Steve, Enron's stock broker robot that ends up losing $2 million.

"The production staff is really amazing," Sanders said.

"There is an enormous amount of collaborators with very interesting ideas to tell the story," McQueen said.

Staff members include choreographer Debra Knapp, director of dance at NMSU; musical director Dianne Schutz, former Las Cruces High School choir director; conductor Shawn Robinson, a recent NMSU Music Department graduate; and set designer Diven, an award winning artist.

Cast members include NMSU alumni Isaac Quiroga as Jeff Skilling and Della Bustamante as Rebecca Mark; NMSU voice instructor Andrew Zimmerman plays Ken Lay and graduate assistant Ian Sidden plays Andrew Fostow. Community actors include Gabe Morison, Brandon Brown and Robert Harrison.

Saunders, Hodgson and Raines said that while "We Are Enron" is a home grown effort, their ultimate goal for the musical is Broadway.

Medoff said after the production, they will take what they have learned, make whatever changes are needed and try to get it out to theaters and producers.

Lapid, who began working with Medoff during "Extinction: A Love Story," said she hopes university students come and enjoy "We Are Enron." To help get the word out, CMI instructor Rajeev Nirmalakhandan shot a 30 second commercial. The commercial can be seen on CMI's Myspace and Facebook pages, YouTube and on the Milton Hall TVs starting on Monday, Feb. 11. A link to the commercial also will be distributed through Hotline.

"We Are Enron" has both a contemporary feel and traditional Broadway music, making it appealing to both university students and those that enjoy classic Broadway productions, McQueen said.

Medoff said he wants people to be entertained and pleased with what the creators and company have done.

"I think it's going to be fabulous," Medoff said. "We hope to fill the hall the four nights the musical premieres at NMSU."

Tickets are available at the Pan American Center by calling (575) 646-1420, or through Ticket Master by visiting www.ticketmaster.com or calling (575) 532-2060. Tickets also can be purchased at the door. Prices will vary.