Samford presenting world premiere of Ryan Scott Oliver’s musical based on Shirley Jackson’s work

“Tomorrow, the Island Dies” in rehearsal at Samford University.

A world premiere musical at Samford University this week started with Chelsea Reynolds’ love of literature.

Specifically, it started with her love of Shirley Jackson, author of “The Lottery” and “The Haunting of Hill House,” among many other things.

It turns out that composer Ryan Scott Oliver (a 2023 winner of the $100,000 Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre) had released an EP, “Future Demons,” featuring musical-theater songs based on some of Jackson’s short stories.

“I reached out to him on social media over that shared love, as she’s my favorite novelist,” Reynolds says. “After working with the estate and exploring adapting one of her novels into a musical, we went another direction and brainstormed the themes of her work we are drawn to – sibling relationships, community othering individuals, isolation, murder, hope and compassion where it’s not warranted.

“We are also both interested in exploring horror on stage because it’s hard to build that sort of tension on stage when you can do so much editing in cinematography on film,” she adds.

What that has led to is “Tomorrow, the Island Dies,” commissioned by Samford University School of the Arts and having its world premiere Thursday through Sunday at the university’s Harrison Theatre. Reynolds, assistant professor of musical theater, is directing, with a set created by David Glenn, associate professor and technical director for the Department of Theatre and Dance at Samford.

You can read more about the musical here.

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