Creative Team & Cast Announced For 'How To Dance In Ohio' Syracuse Premiere

Producers Ben Holtzman (he/him), Sammy Lopez (he/him), Fiona Howe Rudin (she/her) and Syracuse Stage announce that the creative team has been finalized and tickets are now on sale for the world premiere musical How to Dance in Ohio. Inspired by Alexandra Shiva’s Peabody Award-winning documentary of the same name, How to Dance in Ohio features book and lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik (she/her), music by Jacob Yandura (he/him), choreography by Mayte Natalio (she/her) and direction by Sammi Cannold (she/her). The musical is scheduled as the 2022-23 season opener at Syracuse Stage this fall, and will run Sept. 21 – Oct. 9, 2022. Tickets are available at www.syraucsestage.orgor at the Syracuse Stage Box Office (315-443-3275).

The full creative team includes scenic designer Robert Brill (Cabaret, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, Thoughts of a Colored Man) co-costume designers Sarafina Bush (For Colored Girls…) and Michael Ryan Andolsek, lighting designer Bradley King (Tony Awards Hadestown and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) and sound designer Connor Wang. Music direction is by Lily Ling (she/her) with music supervision by Matt Gallagher. Scott Rowen (he/him) is the production stage manager and Laura Jane Collins (she/her) the assistant stage manager. Mary McGowan (she/her) is the associate director, Justin Prescott (he/him) the associate choreographer, and Nicole D’Angelo (they/she) the music associate. 

The How to Dance in Ohio cast includes Tony Award-winning RENT star Wilson Jermaine Heredia (he/him), Broadway veterans and seven autistic actors. Heredia leads the cast as Dr. Emilio Amigo, alongside Haven Burton (she/her; Shrek the Musical, Violet) as Teresa, Darlesia Cearcy (she/her; Shuffle Along, Once On This Island) as Johanna, Carlos L. Encinias (he/him; Les Misérables, Mamma Mia!) as Kurt, Desmond Edwards (he/him) as Remy, Amelia Fei (she/her) as Caroline, Nick Gaswirth (he/him; Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) as Michael, Melina Kalomas (she/her) as Amy, Madison Kopec (she/her) as Marideth, Liam Pearce (he/him) as Drew, Marina Pires (she/her; Aladdin, On Your Feet!) as Ashley Amigo, Imani Russell (they/them) as Melissa, Conor Tague (he/him) as Tommy, and Ashley Wool (she/her) as Jessica. Elana Babbitt (she/her), Corrine Ferrer (she/her), and Zach Simpson (he/him) are the understudies, and Imri Leshed (they/he) and Nicole Fazia (they/she) are the swings. 

How to Dance in Ohio is a heart-filled new musical that explores what it means to belong, the courage it takes to put yourself out in the world, and the universal need to connect. Based on Shiva’s award-winning documentary, produced by HBO in 2015, the musical follows the challenges and exhilarations faced by a group of seven autistic young adults at a counseling center in Columbus, Ohio. With the support of clinical psychologist Dr. Emilio Amigo, the center arranges a spring formal dance, and encourages them as they encounter love, fear, stress, excitement and hope, along the path to human connection.

Through a dedication to authentic autistic representation, the musical’s creators adhere closely to the documentary’s narrative and spirit, offering a visible platform for autistic actors in a way that has never happened before in a new musical, both on and off the stage. Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt (she/her) serves as the production’s ASD Creative Consultant with Becky Leifman (she/her) as the Director of Community Engagement. Additional administrative support will be provided by associate producer Jeremy Wein (he/him), assistant producer Keara Moon (she/her) and producing intern Pua Tanielu (she/her).

The musical was originally developed with the legendary Broadway director Harold Prince and is dedicated to his instrumental work on the project. The production has received support from the Prince Fellowship and the Shubert Organization’s Artistic Circle. Holtzman, Leifman and Lopez are alumni of Syracuse University.


P3 Productions is a Tony Award-winning producing team led by Ben Holtzman (he/him), Sammy Lopez (he/him), and Fiona Howe Rudin (she/her). Upcoming Productions: HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO (World Premiere: Syracuse Stage), GUN & POWDER, MIDSUMMER, BRADICAL, and projects with award-winning artists John Leguizamo and Shakina Nayfack. Select Co-Producing/Investment credits: HAMILTON, MOULIN ROUGE, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, BE MORE CHILL, THE KITE RUNNER, and A STRANGE LOOP (with A Choir Full Productions), and others. Keara Moon (she/her) serves as the company’s assistant producer with Pua Tanielu (she/her) as the producing intern.


Founded in 1974, Syracuse Stage is the non-profit, professional theatre company in residence at Syracuse University. It is nationally recognized for creating stimulating theatrical work that engages Central New York and significantly contributes to the artistic life of Syracuse University, where it is a vital partner in achieving the educational mission of the University’s Department of Drama. Syracuse Stage’s mission is to tell stories that engage, entertain and inspire people to see life beyond their own experience. Each season 70,000 patrons enjoy an adventurous mix of new plays, and bold interpretations of classics and musicals, featuring the finest theatre artists. In addition, Stage maintains a vital educational outreach program that annually serves more than 21,000 students from 16 counties. Syracuse Stage is a constituent of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, and a member of the Arts and Cultural Leadership Alliance (ACLA), the University Hill Corporation and the East Genesee Regent Association. Syracuse Stage is a member of The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theatre association in the country.