Rocket Boys the musical

about the project

Rocket Boys, a musical based on the 1998 New York Times #1 bestseller by NASA engineer Homer Hickam (also immortalized in the hit film, October Sky), has received a huge and overwhelmingly positive reaction from the musical theatre community since its initial stages. The memoir of a misfit coal-miner’s son who engages some skeptical friends to join his dream of rockets and space is one of the leading Community/Library Reads across the country, a staple on school lists, and is published now in nearly every language across the globe.

Rocket Boys was a winner of the NY ASCAP / Disney Musical Theatre Workshop, with Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Rags, Pippin) at the helm. That same year, Rocket Boys also won ANMT’s Search for New Musical Voices and was awarded a full reading and panel critique in Los Angeles. This was the Composer/Lyricist team’s second consecutive ASCAP win (unprecedented for this award), having won the previous year with their show Flyer, about the lives of the Wright Brothers.

Directing that workshop was Broadway veteran Craig Carnelia (Sweet Smell of Success, Working, Is There Life After High School?). Tom Schumacher, President of Disney’s Buena-Vista Productions, was also brought in from the West coast to sit on the panel for Rocket Boys. The Creative team is most grateful to have the ongoing support of Michael Kerker, Director of Musical Theatre for ASCAP.

A full Broadway cast was assembled for the ASCAP reading, including vets like West Virginia’s own Mark McVey (Les Misérables, Tommy, Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public) as Homer Sr., Terri Klausner (Sophisticated Ladies, Evita) as Elsie Hickam, Joseph Kolinski (Les Misérables, Titanic), Carl Anthony Tramon (Fame, Peter Pan, What Makes Sammy Run?, Rags) as “Sonny” Hickam and Director, as well as Musical Director Joe Baker (Bells Are Ringing, Footloose, The Life, Blood Brothers).

Most especially, the musical adaptation of Mr. Hickam’s wonderful memoirs has the unfailing commitment of the author himself; the script has been and continues to be developed hand-in-hand with Mr. Hickam, and the creative team believes that the work done in their rare “think-tank” situation continues to hold a tremendous potential for success.

Rocket Boys held its “premiere” staged readings in Huntsville, Alabama in May 2008 at the beautiful Merrimack Theatre. Huntsville is widely known as “Rocket City” and is home not only to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center but also Mr. Hickam himself. Those who live and work in Huntsville can relate to Hickam’s memoir about rejecting his coal-mining roots to work in the space program because “my little story is your big story … of many neighbors who came from distant small towns with a dream to work in space flight!” A Gala in honor of the Creative Team preceded the readings, with space “luminaries” in attendance, including Konrad Dannenberg. Immediately following the Huntsville process the Creative Team re-grouped, and a new script was begun with Homer Hickam himself as co-author of the new stage book with Carl Anthony Tramon; the music team remained the same.

In June 2010, Rocket Boys presented its New York industry-read, (which was, uniquely, reviewed!) - again featuring an all-Broadway cast of both veterans and talent from current shows. The audience included reps from Universal Studios, which produced the acclaimed movie version (October Sky) of the book. Rocket Boys then headed to the 1260-seat Theatre West Virginia, a beautiful amphitheater nestled in the New River Gorge state park, for a sold-out World Premiere in 2011, followed by two more successful runs there in 2012 and 2013, including a first Cast Album recorded on-site with the 2012 company. In November 2013, the show enjoyed a pre-holiday run at Fairmont Sate U, and is now booked for a month's production and development in Spring 2015 at The Legacy Theatre in Atlanta, GA, which also developed B'way's Jane Eyre.