Unlikely Impresarios

Students standing side by side
Future Tony Award winners, probably, Josua Lutian and Katie Monteleone at Colby College. Photograph by Ben Wheeler.

Two college kids create a full-blown musical ­— you know, in their spare time.

By Will Grunewald

[dropcap letter=”L”]ast winter, Colby students Katie Monteleone and Josua Lutian started making up show tunes together — as one does, just for fun — and before they knew it, they found themselves with a portfolio of nine pretty good songs. They put on a revue in the campus chapel that so impressed Colby’s theater and music faculty, the profs connected the duo with Broadway pros to help with direction, choreography, and music and arranged for cast and crew to develop the play for academic credit. Monteleone, from Massachusetts, wrote the book and lyrics, while Lutian, from the Philippines, composed the music. They recently workshopped an hour-long preview in New York, and this month, they’re staging longer shows at Colby.

The plot of Lost with You focuses on a family of four: daughter Juliette opens a lemonade stand to win the attention of her busy mom, owner of an iced tea company; son Jerome struggles to form meaningful relationships until striking up a romance with the new boy in town.

We chatted with Monteleone and Lutian (who plays Jerome) just before winter finals. Now juniors, they met as freshmen in a singing group. “We started talking about how we both loved musical theater and how it would be really fun to write a musical someday,” Monteleone recalls. “I don’t think either of us was serious about it — but here we are.”

How’d you get started?

KM: We weren’t thinking we were actually going to write a musical.

JL: We were just fooling around and making songs. We never would have realized this opportunity if we hadn’t just done what we like to do.

How do you describe your musical style?

JL: We both really like the new musical theater sound, even though it can be a bit poppy. That’s what we grew up with, so our style is definitely modern, with elements of rock and punk.

What motivates the story?

JL: We wanted a simple story as a vehicle to talk about issues that, on a campus, tend to get discussed in very academic ways. We wanted something that everyone could relate to, because a lot of people struggle with trying to find themselves.

KM: The characters all feel lost in some way, but when the two boys meet each other, it’s the first time they feel it’s okay to be lost — you don’t need to have all the answers if you have people you care about.

How’s the process gone?

JL: A big part of it was learning to let go of the things you really, really like. We wrote a lot of songs that aren’t part of the show because they didn’t help the story. Trashing those was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s for the greater good of the show.

What’s the time commitment like?

KM: It feels like taking an extra class, but I think both of us care about it so much that putting in the time is never much of a struggle. Sometimes it’s hard to balance other schoolwork because we only want to be working on this.

How are you both feeling about the upcoming shows?

KM: One of the special things about theater is that we get a chance to share our work with an audience and see how it actually affects people.

JL: I’m so excited — it’s like I’m going to watch my baby take its first steps. It’s such a big part of our lives right now.

For information and free tickets to Lost with You performances February 9–11 at Colby, visit colby.edu/theaterdance