A Walk on the Moon Lands at A.C.T.

By Taylor Steinbeck

For the first rehearsal of A.C.T.'s world-premiere musical A Walk on the Moon, 30 Grant studios took a trip back in time to the summer of 1969. “This was a time when the world was moving,” said director Sheryl Kaller, addressing the room of Moon creatives and A.C.T. staff members. The musical tells the story of Jewish housewife Pearl Kantrowitz, who undergoes a personal transformation after meeting a free-spirited traveling salesman. With her newfound liberation, Pearl learns how to love freely, dance like no one’s watching, and defy society’s rigid gender roles. “Pearl was my mother. She has the look my mother had in her eyes,” said Kaller.

Vocal arranger AnnMarie Milazzo and director Sheryl Kaller at the first rehearsal
of A.C.T.'s 2018 production of A Walk on the Moon. Photo by Taylor Steinbeck.
Fueling the revolutionary spirit of the era, music director Greg Kenna and Tony Award–nominated vocal arranger AnnMarie Milazzo immediately got the cast on its feet to record the musical’s big Woodstock number. The aim was to record a huge soundscape for The Geary to create the illusion of 400,000 Woodstock attendees rocking out. Kenna instructed some of the actors to sing like fired-up activists and others to belt out lyrics as if they were inebriated festivalgoers. Book writer Pamela Gray—whose childhood experiences in the Catskills inspired the script—shared a scan of a Woodstock newspaper advertisement. Powerful lyrics such as “we call for love, we pray for peace” and “we’re the chosen generation” filled the air.

Book writer Pamela Gray looking at an advertisement for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair
at the first rehearsal of A.C.T.'s 2018 production of A Walk on the Moon. Photo by Taylor Steinbeck.
One of the younger members of the Moon cast was particularly eager to be in the room. “It’s special to originate a role in a new musical,” said current twelfth-grader Nina Kissinger, who plays Myra in the show. “To know that a whole team of brilliant artists have faith in you to bring a character to life feels great. It starts feeling more real with each day.”

The cast of A.C.T.'s 2018 production of A Walk on the Moon. Photo by Taylor Steinbeck.
Though Moon is a big Broadway-style musical set in the ’60s, Kaller hopes that its political resonance will shine through for a 2018 San Franciscan audience. “This musical is so important today,” Kaller said, “in light of what’s happening in our country and the world.”

A Walk on the Moon begins at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater June 9. Click here to purchase tickets. Want to learn more about A.C.T.’s production of Moon? Order a copy of Words on Plays, A.C.T.'s in-depth performance guide series.

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