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Sycamore Aves Theatre Presents: R&J The Musical

There has been plenty of modern-day takes on Shakespeare plays, but Sycamore High School Theater Director John Whapham is taking it a step further…transforming the classical play Romeo and Juliet into “R&J the musical" April 8-10 at 8:00 p.m.

“We’ve had to get creative with what we can do during COVID,” says Whapham. “We didn’t know what would be possible…whether we could perform in a theater or how many could gather, so it was risky to plan to put up our typical big spring musical. Choosing something rights-free and making it our own was a way to bring something new and exciting to our performers and patrons…while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to whatever COVID restrictions we might have at performance time.”

“R&J the Musical” was adapted by Whapham and Sarah Garvey, former Sycamore English teacher now with the Educational Theater Association, with Music and Lyrics by Nashville-based CCM grad Ryan Fine. It combines original Shakespeare text with contemporary language, music, and lyrics written specifically for the show. The adaptation was conceived by Whapham expressly for Sycamore High School Theatre Arts students.  

Whapham is no stranger to adapting his approach. “Having to cancel our 2020 spring musical after months of rehearsals was crushing to students,” he said. “I wanted to give the students the opportunity to showcase their talents, but we had to do it safely.” That meant choosing material that enabled them to perform solos and small vignettes, with minimalistic sets outdoors. So far this year they have performed the musical “Working,” student-directed One-Act Plays, as well as their Improv show all outdoors for socially distanced audiences. They also debuted an original play “Sheltered in Places” on video, performed, acted, directed, and edited by the students. 

R&J The Musical will be performed April 8-10 @  8:00 pm at an outdoor theatre venue behind  Blue Ash Elementary School located at 9541 Plainfield Rd. Cincinnati, Ohio. For this event and three other spring productions, Sycamore is transforming this field into an outdoor performing venue complete with stage, lighting and a sound system. Patrons are invited to bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the show from designated socially distanced areas on the grass. Tickets can be purchased in advance at  

About the Creative Team

Ryan Fine is a Nashville-based artist and songwriter from Cincinnati, OH (Mariemont). He studied Commercial Music Production and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (‘17). Ryan has been voted Best Instrumentalist of the Nashville Scene for both 2019 and 2020, accumulated 600,000 Spotify streams for his own music, had songs placed on network TV, and started his own custom songwriting company Fine-Tuned Custom Songs. To learn more, please visit

Sarah Garvey holds a Bachelor's degree in Theatre Education from the University of Evansville and a Master's degree in the Advanced Teaching of Shakespeare from the University of Warwick (United Kingdom). She taught Theatre and English for three years at Sycamore High School and has worked with Aves Theatre since 2009. She also taught and directed PK-12 students in Yorktown, VA and Syracuse, NY, and is currently working at the Educational Theatre Association. Sarah offers Shakespeare-related educational services via

John Whapham has been the theatre arts teacher and director of Sycamore High School's AVES Theatre since 2005. Over his 25 year career in educational theatre, he has directed 100 plays and musicals. John is the founder of Sycamore Summer Theatre Camps, a program for elementary and middle school theatre students.