By Pamela Jansson
IRONWOOD — The third annual Emberlight Festival will offer for the first time a full
theatrical production in the form of Buyer and Cellar, a one-man comedic play starring
Bessemer native Miles Mykkanen.
Manhattan-based director Colton Pometta is directing the performances, which will begin on
Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Theatre North in Ironwood, MI.
Broadway playwright Jonathan Tolins wrote the comedy about a character named Alex,
described as “an out-of-work, aspiring actor hired for a mysterious job at the home of legendary
Barbra Streisand.” Promotions of the play claim that it “examines life and work relationships on opposite sides of the red carpet.”
In an interview last Saturday, Mykkanen — who normally tours as an international opera singer
— described his inspiration for taking on this new role. “It was a play that Colton Pometta and our two designers did in Sun Valley in 2016,” said Mykkanen, referring to lighting designer Lucrecia Briceno and video designer Eamonn Farrell.
Hence, Mykkanen was familiar with the play and thought it would be a fun project.
Then, members of the Emberlight Board of Directors, approached him, as the festival’s Artistic
Director, with the idea that they’d like to add a play to this year’s entertainment schedule.
Mykkanen decided “maybe this is the time” and added that he thinks Buyer & Cellar is a
“perfect project for this region.”
He decided to take the plunge by starring in the production even though he hasn’t acted in a play
since the age of 16, when he was in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Theatre North. After a solid grounding in local theatres, Mykkanen received three degrees at The Juilliard School
in New York before starting his career in opera.
He now will play six characters, including Barbra Streisand, in Buyer & Cellar.
“It gets pretty crazy when we start getting into fights with each other,” he said, laughing. But he added of the play at large, “It makes you feel good, and it’s really quite touching.”
Undertaking the responsibility was a serious task, he noted. “The fun part of it is also the challenge,” he said of discerning how best to present the unique nature of each character. “It is not opera, that’s for sure.”
Another tall order was the necessity to memorize the entire 80-minute show. “It’s 45 pages of
text — basically an 80-minute speech,” he said.
Moreover, he added, “For Buyer & Cellar, there’s no music. That is literally the opposite of
opera, which is all music and no talking.”
Mykkanen said that Pometta, whom he described as “a great blessing,” was a significant
component in building his confidence.
“Colton is just a dream,” said Mykkanen, adding that they met when they were teenagers. “First
of all, he knows me so well. He’s my best and dearest friend.”
Regarding the process of learning his stage role, Mykkanen said, “At times, I can feel so
vulnerable and scared.” But he assured that Pometta knows when to provide support versus space or an actual break.
Performance dates for Buyer & Cellar will be on Friday, July 14 and again on July 20, 21 and 22. All
shows will start at 7:30 p.m. at Theatre North. Due to language, the play is not recommended for
viewers under age 14.
As part of Emberlight’s “Behind the Curtain” series, one rehearsal of Buyer & Cellar is expected to be open to the public on Wednesday, July 12.
“We want to start incorporating our community into the process,” said Mykkanen of that option.
“Step behind the curtain and see what happens.”
Mykkanen also will perform in a separate Emberlight production called Characters, scheduled
at Theatre North on Aug. 3 and Aug. 5, with both shows at 7:30 p.m.
That show, which Mykkanen likened to “an intimate cabaret,” also will include New York
conductor and pianist Adam Rothenberg.
According to Mykkanen, the performance will include a mix of “Broadway show tunes, Disney,
“I can guarantee the audience has never seen Adam and me like this,” he said, noting that they
will be singing the songs as the characters associated with the melodies.
Mykkanen said that Rothenberg will be finding time to participate in the show despite now
undergoing a new Broadway role as the Associate Conductor of Sweeney Todd on Broadway.
That show stars Josh Groban and a 28-piece orchestra.
Regarding the ever-growing festival at large, based mostly in Ironwood, Mykkanen is pleased.
“We’re getting attention from all over the country,” he said, adding that donors and patrons from
New York City will be visiting here this summer.