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Autistic performers share Broadway stage in new musical ‘How to Dance in Ohio’

NEW YORK (WABC) — ‘How to Dance in Ohio’ began previews at the Belasco Theater on Broadway, where seven autistic performers star in the new musical.

It’s based on a 2015 documentary about a gifted therapist in Ohio who staged a spring formal for teens with autism.

What makes the musical so remarkable is how it draws you into a world that too few of us understand.

The previews have just begun, but the musical, which started in Syracuse, has already made history, because this marks the first time so many performers with autism have shared a Broadway stage.

“I think the representation that that gives our entire community as a whole is so brilliant and important and moving,” Liam Pearce said.

“It was very like affirming, validating, and empowering and liberating to be in the room with other autistic actors working in this industry,” Amelia Fei said.

The rehearsal room was specifically designed to make working more comfortable, by minimizing a variety of challenges including whistling, chewing and the sounds of pencils on paper.

“I have a lot of sound sensitivities,” Desmond Edwards said.

The musical is based on a documentary about a group of Ohio teens with autism and their counselor, who thought they should go to a prom.

Those who finance Broadway shows didn’t love the idea of this film as a source for a musical.

“A lot of people said to us, ‘the show stars seven autistic individuals. I don’t think you’re gonna be able to cast it with seven autistic actors,'” director Sammi Cannold said.

But a wide search yielded more than enough performers.

“All of these myths got exploded for all of us by working on this show,” producer Fiona Rudin said.

The beauty of it, says producer Fiona Rudin, is now the audience can experience the same transformation.

“You can see this beautiful, joyous celebratory musical, and you will actually leave feeling a little transformed in your understanding of what it means to be autistic, which to me is magical,” Rudin said.

That’s no hype, this musical is as entertaining as it is significant.

‘How to Dance in Ohio’ is that rare show like ‘Hamilton” which alters your perception of what’s possible on a Broadway stage.


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