By Marisa Religa
Niagara Gazette — Billy Horn dreamt of becoming a famous rock star when he grew up. He found he had a niche in playing guitar, singing and writing songs and performing live. But during his senior year of high school at Niagara Catholic he was introduced to the world of theater which lead him down a new path where he began to explore his musical creativity from a new perspective.
His high school drama club was staging Evita. Although acting was new to him, Horn decided to audition. He earned the lead role and had such an exhilarating first experience he decided he’d come back for more, this time diving right into the waters of theater.
“I had performed on stage before in a band but acting on stage was completely different and I loved it,” he said. “Theater became my career after that.”
Horn later enrolled in the theater program at Niagara County Community College. It was in this first year he wrote his first play “Legacy,” a character-driven piece with themes of family dynamic, self-identity issues, life and loss. Heavy topics, but sprinkled with humor.
“Legacy” tells the story of three adult siblings who come together on the night of their father’s funeral. They stay in the basement in an attempt to keep their space from the other family members as they begin to process the loss. Because he was a famous rock star, their father’s history left them with feelings of ambiguity as they work to build their own identities and free themselves from living in the shadow of their father’s success.
Horn added music and got a spot in the 1 Act Play Festival at the Manhattan Repertory theatre in NYC last year. Horn has since created a new draft for the musical, adding in another act which will chronologically precede the original and follow the characters throughout their lives.
“The idea for the musical started in my imagination as a conversation between two people and the story has evolved organically since I began writing it in 2003,” he said.
As the show’s sole writer, producer and composer, Horn’s reconstruction of “Legacy” has required a great deal of drive and dedication. Horn not only wrote the lines and the songs of the musical, he also plays the drums, bass, guitar, and piano for the show’s music.
By design “Legacy” consists of a simple set: just three actors – Horn, Rosie Lorenti, and Nick Lama – and a couch as the main stage prop. Bandmate and set designer Doug Life has the responsibility of making sure the stage looks exactly like the image Horn has pictured in his head.
“We don’t have a fancy set so you can’t hide behind anything,” he said. “It’s an intimate setting where the challenge lies in allowing subtle affects to make a big impact.”
Lorenti, bandmate of Horn and a main actress in the musical, plays the role of the sister Willow. Lorenti found a deep connection with the show’s music and the strong presence of the characters.
“The songs are very heartfelt and it helps create compassion for the characters as you get to know them and where they’re going to in the story,” she said.
Horn and his crew urge the community to come in and watch the new version of the musical.
“It’s raw and unique and because it’s the first time it will be staged it’s something very special,” said Lorenti.