Musical ‘Becoming Nancy’ encourages teens in search for self


Courtesy of Isabel Pruitt

Juniors and theater students Isabel Pruitt (left) and Nicky Taylor (right) both saw and enjoyed the play “Becoming Nancy” at the Alliance Theater. Tony Award-winning Director Jerry Mitchell (center) stands between the students.

Elise Isakov

A new musical “Becoming Nancy” follows the life of a high schooler, David Starr. Starr is cast as the lead female, Nancy, in “Oliver,”  the musical his high school is performing. 

The Alliance Theater introduced “Becoming Nancy” on Sept. 9. The script, based on a book by Terry Ronald, and first published in 2011, is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. He has won two Tony Awards in the past for his work.

Junior Nicky Taylor, who has been involved in Grady theater for the past two years, had the chance to go see the production. Taylor saw the first preview thanks to a group he is part of called The Alliance Theater Teen Ensemble.

“We are all high schoolers and part of the Alliance Theater,” Taylor said. “A really great benefit of this is that we get to see the first preview of these shows.”

His thoughts about the show can be summed up in how he initially described it as “phenomenal.” In fact, Taylor loved the show so much that he saw it several times: three to be exact.

“It was really interesting to watch how they changed stuff throughout the previews and then throughout the actual runs,” Taylor said.

Taylor said watching the show so many times allowed him to really understand the core of the story.

“The second time that you’ve seen it, now you really get things other than the main character,” Taylor said. “You get to look at the background, at the other characters in the scene; you get to take a moment and really appreciate what the lyrics are saying and what the deeper meaning is.”

After countless viewings, Taylor has been able to grasp this “deeper meaning.” 

“I think the theme is to be true to yourself, and just be yourself, and don’t try to fake personality, or don’t go along with something just because everyone else is doing it,” Taylor said.

This idea of what Taylor calls “being your own individual you” has presented itself as a challenge to many students in high school and beyond.

Junior Leo Hollingworth can relate to this feeling throughout his high school experience.

“Definitely, I feel like everyone is a little uncomfortable just because there’s a lot of unfamiliar faces,” Hollingworth said. “I feel like at that stage in life (high school), it’s normal to constantly be worried about what your peers think.”

Isabel Pruitt, a junior also involved in The Alliance Theater Teen Ensemble, also attended the preview. She believes the show is relatable for students.

“The story was very connectable, especially since it was about high school,” Pruitt said. “I thought it taught everyone a really big lesson: to be yourself.”

She noticed that the musical doesn’t shy away from the obstacles that high school presents when students are trying to be themselves. It addressed bullying and other hardships of everyday life.

“It touched on issues of gay relationships, minorities and racism,” Pruitt said. “The cast is really diverse, so I think that for anyone that would like to go and see it; it appeals to a lot of audiences.”

“We’re so caught up in social media and being online, where you see people that society has kind of said, ‘Oh this is who you should be,’” Pruitt said. “But in this story, it’s like, ‘No, you don’t have to be that, and it’s OK to be yourself.’”

Pruitt said she believes that recently society has had a push toward wanting everyone to be similar, but she thinks everyone is different and should be applauded for their individualism. She encourages other students to see the show.

“Just for people to go for two hours and see this show, they can literally just learn about that (individualism) and see it in a romanticized setting,” Pruitt said. “It kind of makes you connect it to real life easier.”

Taylor has only been doing theater for a short period, but shows like “Becoming Nancy” have compelled him to move forward.

“It absolutely inspired me,” Taylor said. “Seeing a production that was so well put together, and it seemed like the cast had such a fun time doing it, it just reminded me why I want to do this.”

In the last scene of the musical, before the lights dim down, the whole cast assembles. And seemingly in an all-encompassing chorus, they proclaim through song the words “You Matter,” a phrase that they believe people should always be reminded of.

“This musical advocates a very good message, ‘No matter what happens, you still matter’,” Taylor said. “You should accept yourself for who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”