Pitt Stage’s new musical comedy ‘Abduction’ is ‘out of this world’


Image courtesy of Pitt Stages

Students perform in Pitt Stages’ musical comedy “Abduction.”

By Trinity Foster, Senior Staff Writer

Many people wouldn’t consider a musical comedy about alien abductions heartfelt, but that’s exactly how assistant director Sydne Samuels describes “Abduction.”

“It just celebrates who you are as a person — to embrace that and go out into the world with your heart on your sleeve, being who you are and staying true to yourself,” Samuels, a senior theater arts and psychology major, said. 

Pitt Stages’ “Abduction,” running until April 16, takes place in the fictional town of Pluto, Pennsylvania, and focuses on high school senior and student council president, Pippa. While residents were organizing the small town’s annual Corn Fest, Pippa witnesses a supernatural abduction. The story follows Pippa and her friends Teddy and Quinn as they try to convince the town of the truth before it’s too late.

Written by T.J. Pieffer with music by Pitt professor Becki Toth and Brad Kemp and lyrics by

Toth and Pieffer, the story is inspired by Pieffer’s hometown of Mars, Pennsylvania. Directed by Toth, “Abduction” at Pitt Stages is the first performance of the show at this scale.

Samuels said Toth’s involvement makes the show doubly special. 

“I think that because we all care about Becki so much and this show is so her, we are bonded by that and want to do the absolute best by her,” Samuels said. “That’s a really unique experience.”

The show is a special experience for all 30 cast members, according to Molly Twigg, a senior communications major. Twigg, who plays Pippa, said having the original writers involved in the production is something the cast will likely never experience again. 

“The most special thing about this show is that it’s a new work and we had the writers in the room with us,” Twigg said. “It’s so exciting because, to me, after working on this show, it feels like it’s going places.” 

Nandita Mahesh, a senior marketing major who plays Quinn, agrees that the presence of the writers has made the experience valuable. 

“There’s times in rehearsal where they’ll change the line on the spot. It’s really cool that the writers get to see something and decide ‘This doesn’t work anymore,’” Mahesh said. “Becki, T.J. and Brad have been working on [the show] for seven years. I can’t imagine the pride they’re feeling.”

Quinn, like Pippa and Teddy, is an outcast, wearing gothic clothing in reds and blacks that contrast the set’s bright green, orange and pink set, Mahesh said. 

Teddy, played by Cade Teribery, a sophomore theater major, is Pippa’s right-hand man 一 until Quinn enters the picture. The show features a queer romance, which Teribery said helped persuade him to audition. 

“Having an opportunity to perform on stage in the fall encouraged me to go for a big musical,” Teribery said. “Having queer elements throughout the show that are very authentic while still being comedic really persuaded me [to audition].” 

Twigg said although there is a queer love story, it’s not the focal point of the show — and that’s a good thing.

“It also is important that there isn’t any hurdle or homophobia. There’s zero coming out story, it’s just, these are two people that are queer,” Twigg said. “It’s not a part of the story really, it’s just that’s what they are and I think it’s really important to have new stories that focus more on the fact that it’s a normal thing, it’s just life.”

“Abduction,” described by the cast as “campy,” “wild” and “out-of-this-world,” still maintains its tenderness and broad appeal through its relatability, Teribery said.

“I feel like digestibility in theater is huge. Theater is evolving as time goes on, so having new productions really gives the opportunity to expand audiences,” Teribery said. “That relatability factor brings in people who might not be generally drawn into theater.”

“Abduction” won Second Prize in the New Musicals Inc. International Search For New Musicals 2021, but Mahesh said a show needs more than great writing to flourish 一 the audience can greatly influence a performance. 

“It’s both of us kind of coming together,” Mahesh said. “This is a story that we’re telling to the audience. The audience is talked to, we’re addressing them at points. We’re in this story together, they’re coming on this journey with us.”

The cast has bonded over the four-hour nightly rehearsals and intense tech week needed to put on this caliber of a performance, according to Twigg. Each actor is an invaluable piece of the show’s overall success, she said.

“A relatable script is nothing without relatable actors. Every member of the ensemble put their entire heart and soul in it,” Twigg said. “It’s really fun to tie your own personal life into the characters you play. It makes them so much more readable to the audience. I think it’s so important to have actors who can create such life on stage.”

The cast of “Abduction” has only performed two shows so far, but Samuels has already gained lifelong experience and knowledge from the process, she said. 

“This experience has made me fall in love with theater and given me the fire to know that this is what I want to do with my life,” Samuels said. “Throughout the whole process, Becki really did take my thoughts and opinions into account. I’m so grateful to be involved in any capacity, but especially how much Becki involved me.”

Toth calls “Abduction” a “love letter to your hometown,” which perfectly encapsulates the show, according to Samuels.

“Our favorite stories are our favorite stories because they resonate with us,” Samuels said. “I hope that [audiences] give new work a try. New stories deserve to be told and need to be told.”