Count the Moon

Camille Gribbons, Marshall Scott, Thomas F. Graca, Katlynn Wilmott and Howard Waldie star in “Count the Moon: A Minstrel’s Tale” at Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria.

Submitted photo

Christian Graca’s husband, Thomas, wrote a musical about minstrels 15 years ago and put it away until they found the perfect opportunity to produce the show.

As their children got involved in acting, the Gracas found their way to Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, where they met artistic director Jim Gradillas.

The couple presented the idea to Gradillas more than a year ago and now they’re debuting their musical, “Count the Moon: A Minstrel’s Tale.”

“It’s been an incredible experience for us and these kids,” Graca said. “We’re very fortunate to have an awesome chance like this to do an original piece.”

“Count the Moon” follows a group of minstrels who go to a town for a guild meeting, but the village isn’t very welcoming. While they’re in the town, scandal and chaos ensue among the minstrels.

Thomas Graca created the book, lyrics and music for the show, while Christian directs and her brother-in-law, Glenn Graca, orchestrated the score and is the musical director.

In addition, Thomas and Christian Graca’s two children, Savoy and Thomas F., are a part of the production.

“It’s definitely a family affair for all of us,” said Christian Graca. “I remember when we were on a family cruise and a lot of that time was spent talking about this musical with Glenn, Thomas and myself. We really know what we want for this show.”

When he heard the tunes from the musical, Gradillas thought “Count the Moon” would be a perfect fit at Creative Stages.

Every season, Creative Stages performs a number of original works in addition to the well-known shows often seen at theaters.

The Gracas’ show is the second original musical at Creative Stages, the first being last season’s “Merry Christmas, Frankenstein.”

“Their musical really goes along with our mission of doing original works, so it falls right in with our motto,” Gradillas said. “I think our kids get even more out of the rehearsal process when you’re doing shows that haven’t been done before.”

Graca agreed with Gradillas.

“It’s been amazing for these kids to start fresh from scratch, and we’ve given them a general outline but they have to put more into it themselves,” she said. “This is not one of those cases where you can give them a CD of ‘Annie’ or ‘Guys & Dolls’ and say go learn it.”

The cast features 24 actors ages 13 to 18 and is considered an ensemble show.

“While there are critical characters, it’s truly an ensemble show where everyone has a crucial role to play,” Graca said.

In the last year, “Count the Moon” has taken shape since it was first written almost two decades ago, including the addition of 10 more original songs and a complete score.

“This is incredible to see something that happened so many years ago come to fruition for us,” Graca said.

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