‘The Gaslight’: A tribute to ‘60s folksingers and their songs

Liam Weiland as a precocious Bob Dylan. —Sam Moore

Three performances of “The Gaslight,” an original musical conceived and produced by MVRHS seniors Darby Patterson and Miles Thornton, took place last weekend on the Performing Arts Center stage. An homage to the folksingers who surfaced at the end of the Beat culture and the dawn of the counterculture era, “The Gaslight” featured the talents of Liam Weiland as Bob Dylan, Rykker Maynard as Phil Ochs, Darby Patterson as Joan Baez, and Dana Edelman as Dave Van Ronk. Additionally, Oshantay Waite played Odetta, Oliver Silberstein, Ben Nadelstein, and Jared Livingston summoned the Clancy Brothers, and Willy Mason strummed up Hamilton Camp.

With candlelit tables, a bar tended by a poker-faced bartender (MVRHS theater teacher Brooke Ditchfield), a drunken pianist, and a heavy sprinkling of acoustic guitars and wine bottles, the stage evoked the Gaslight Café, a bygone coffeehouse on MacDougal Street in New York, where many legends of early ’60s folk met and cut their teeth.

“The idea to do this show stemmed from my and Darby Patterson’s mutual love for folk music,” Miles Thornton said in an e-mail to The Times. “Darby and I knew that we wanted to do a musical for our senior project. Once I started to do some research on characters like Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan, I noticed that they all started playing in the same club around the same time.”

It took about a year for the show to take shape after the initial research. When the curtain finally opened, regardless of his co-creator status, Mr. Thornton had no urge for the limelight. He managed to keep himself offstage and squarely in the director’s chair at the back of the auditorium, where there was plenty of work to do that didn’t involve singing.

“I was not tempted to sing at all. I spared the audience from four minutes of pure torture by not singing,” he said in jest.

Darby Patterson managed to keep herself right in the spotlight, singing no less than three duets: “You Were On My Mind” with Rykker Maynard, “It Ain’t Me Babe” with Liam Weiland, and “Dink’s Song” with Dana Edelman, an artist she held particular respect for.

“Dana Edelman was a joy to work with,” Ms. Patterson said in an email to The Times. “His impeccable skills with music made this project possible — his respect for me and everyone there was amazing.”

Ms. Patterson’s work on the show included the role of music director.

“Miles proposed a group of songs, and we sifted through them and decided, then I took the reins and analyzed them,” Ms. Patterson said. A veteran of the recent MVRHS musical “Chicago,” Ms. Patterson found “The Gaslight” a departure from her usual singing style.

“This singing was different from ‘Chicago,’ because the focus of the songs wasn’t the notes hit or the skill of how you sang the song, but on what was being sung,” Ms. Patterson said. “What message was being conveyed? The emphasis was the poetry.”

With the successful completion of their two-act musical, not to mention high school, Ms. Patterson and Mr. Thornton are readying for experiences off-Island. Ms. Patterson plans to attend the Boston Conservatory next autumn in pursuit of a B.F.A. in musical theater. Mr. Thornton plans to hike around the world beginning next winter. A leg of this journey is slated to be a trek in the Himalayas with his dad.