Native American Musical Making World Premiere This Month

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma will present the world premiere of the Native American Musical Distant Thunder this month as part of the organization’s New Works Initiative.


Casting is set for the production and will include: Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Darrell), Ryan Duncan (Hector/Sam Silver), Spencer Battiest (Tonto), Xander Chanucey (Jim Running Crow), Jonathan Lynch (Smudge), Chelsea Zeno (Shareen/Tourist), April Ortiz (Betty Still Smoking), Brent G. Florendo – Sitwalla – Pum (Old Man), Jeff Barehand (White Feather), Matoaka Little Eagle (Grandma Jingle Dress), Carolyn Dunn (Roberta), Katie McCollum (Aiyana), Johnlee Lookingglass (Sheriff Running Buck), Angela Gomez (Dorothy Dark Eyes), and Chava Florendo (Pow Wow Singer/Musician).


Distant Thunder will be staged at Lyric at the Plaza, 1725 NW 16 St., March 25 through April 11. Sponsorship opportunities, as well as single and season tickets, are now available.


The production centers on Darrell Waters, a successful young attorney, who returns to his childhood home in Montana to broker a deal that can benefit his tribe, the impoverished Blackfeet Nation. He soon faces his reclusive father about their painful past and grapples with the paradigm of what it means to be Native American in the United States. Cultures collide and unite through music, dance, stories and faith as we witness the dawning of a Distant Thunder.


“Bringing new works to Lyric Theatre's stage creates relevant and meaningful experiences and provides a rare opportunity to engage with the future of musical theatre,” said Lyric Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron. “Each new work tells the story of our condition, the culture of our time and adds to the canon of musical theatre. I am proud to have Distant Thunder premiere at Lyric Theatre, where Native American tribes are an integral part of the state of Oklahoma. This new American musical educates audiences and promotes Native peoples and artists to the world through a powerful, heartfelt and inspiring story.”


The book is written by famed director/choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett and her actor/writer son, Shaun Taylor-Corbett. Distant Thunder features music and lyrics by Chris Wiseman and Shaun Taylor-Corbett, with additional music and lyrics from Robert Lindsey-Nassif and Michael Moricz. The production will be directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett and feature scenic and lighting designs by Shawn Irish and costume design by E.B. Brooks. Music direction will be provided by Michael Morris with stage management by Laurena Sherrill.


“A lot of this production represents my own journey,” said Shaun Taylor-Corbett. “We (Native Americans) are so invisible oftentimes in the arts and media, so having a contemporary story, telling our understanding of history, is really exciting.”


"I am so looking forward to the prospect of helping de-marginalize the culture and contemporary issues of Native people,” said Lynne Taylor-Corbett. “We are honored to have this opportunity on the doorstep of 39 tribes."


Lynne Taylor-Corbett has been nominated for two Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award for Broadway’s Swing! And received Drama Desk and Lortel nominations for My Vaudeville Man and Wanda’s World. She directed and choreographed Cougar the Musical and KICK! Off-Broadway. She adapted and directed The Lion King for Disney’s production in Hong Kong, and her choreography can be seen in feature films Footloose and My Blue Heaven. Her dance works have been commissioned by, among others, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Carolina Ballet, where she is resident guest choreographer. Numerous companies throughout the world have performed her works, which have been seen on Live from Lincoln Center, Live from the San Francisco Opera House and on UNC TV. Presently, she is working on a book entitled Token White Girl about her experiences dancing with the Alvin Ailey company throughout Europe and Africa.


Shaun Taylor-Corbett starred in the original production of In The Heights on Broadway and closed the show in the role of Sonny. Inspired by so many great musicals from his past, including his stint as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, Juan in Altar Boyz and Usnavi and Sonny in In The Heights, he and his mother decided to make a musical for Native People. Much of the plot of Distant Thunder stems from a trip the two of them took to the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana, when he was 15 years old. In Los Angeles, he has worked closely with Native Voices as an ensemble member – acting, directing and writing to create new works by Native Americans for the stage. He is currently an acting company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In 2014, he was honored as an artist of distinction by the Association of American Indian Affairs for his work on Jersey Boys and Distant Thunder.


This marks the sixth production in Lyric’s New Works Initiative, which began with the world premiere of Triangle (2014), Bernice Bobs Her Hair (2015) and Mann… And Wife (2016) and When We’re Gone (2018) – all staged at the Plaza Theatre. Lyric unveiled a new production of Disney’s When You Wish during the 2017 Summer at the Civic Center season.


Lyric received a Production Grant, part of the Frank Young Fund for New Musicals, from the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) to assist with the production of Distant Thunder. Additional show support comes from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Osage Foundation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation/Grand Casino, Sac and Fox Nation and The Chickasaw Nation. Lyric’s season sponsors are Devon Energy, The Chickasaw Nation, Allied Arts, The Oklahoman, The Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Single tickets start at just $25. For more information, visit or call Lyric’s box office at (405) 524-9312.