for the World Premiere at Staged!
"The show offers a rite of passage compared to no other: Hold onto the railing, please...It’s a complex, intelligent score, one of the best out there in the musical theater world...Here, composer Zrebski appears to pull from Russian orthodox choir music for his sophisticated dark harmonies. Bobby McFerrin-style diphthongs surface now and again, and generous percussion full of pagan rhythms (played by the actors), does much to augment the story’s powerful mood."
-HOLLY JOHNSON, The Oregonian - see full review
"A little like the station in William Inge’s “Bus Stop,” the hidey hole in “Ablaze” exists mainly as a psychological and emotional testing ground for the people stuck there. If Inge’s sensitive American realism is amped up in “Ablaze” with a heavy dose of modern horror-movie paranoia – well, this is a play about teens and their hopes and fears, after all."
-BOB HICKS, Oregon Arts Watch - see full story
"From the opening panicked notes of the a cappella musical thriller Ablaze, it’s clear the audience is in for a dark and gripping ride. The musical centers on eight students trapped in the basement of a high school as it burns down, and the aftermath once they’re found. A sparse and confined set conveys the claustrophobia and despair the characters feel as they tackle the show’s weighty subjects: young love, friendship, suicide, abortion, rape. This is the first time Ablaze has been professionally staged: Local playwright Matthew Zrebski first developed the play for Lincoln High students in 2004, and in 2011 transformed it into a musical at Wilson High. He again directs, and his young cast of 23 is sincere and impressive. One of the highlights is the fire, portrayed by 11 cast members dressed in black, faces painted red and orange. Their unrelenting presence reminds one character of being bullied and another of a ticking clock and the demands of perfectionism. Throughout, the fire lurks, biding its time until it can engulf both characters and audience."
-KATIE TODD, The Willamette Week
"Matthew Zrebski wrote and directed this extraordinarily ambitious piece. The large cast of young actors handled the material wonderfully, and the result was a stirring often mesmerizing evening of theater."
-RICHARD WATTENBERG, The Oregonian, Best of 2013 - see full story
The Oregon Public Broadcasting Story on Matthew B. Zrebski and Ablaze.