AUSTIN, Texas — "If you have something that lights you up inside, you have to keep chasing it because you might end up writing and directing your own show,” J. Quinton Johnson said.
The show is a hip-hop fairytale adaptation called "Alice’s Wonderland," J. Quinton Johnson, or “Q,'s," exciting new Austin Summer Stock Musical at the McCullough Theatre.
"We haven't tapped into the fullness of what musical theater can do,” Johnson said.
Pushing the limits is what helped the 27-year-old go from Athens to Austin. His journey included a stint in "Hamilton" on Broadway, and now he's back in the Texas capital.
"I'm so glad to be able to come back to what felt like a giant leap all those years ago and be in this position. It's incredible,” Johnson said.
A true renaissance man of the arts, the co-writer and director has poured his heart and soul into this theatrical project which opens Thursday night.
"I don't know any other way to do it. If you don't give your full self to something, why even do it?” Johnson said.
It’s not only a dream opportunity for Johnson, but also for the cast of high school- and college-aged actors from across the Lone Star State.
"He says this thing all the time during music rehearsals or anything: we need 'crispy bacon' because you always want go give 100%,” actor Noah Wood said. "Whether you're cooking or whatever you're doing in life, never hold back."
Showcasing a diverse cast representative of what urban communities resemble in 2022, many actors are getting their first chance to star in major roles.
"Being able to show not only what we bring as people of color to the table, but showing anyone can be what they want on stage because it's art,” actress Michelle Ko said.
It’s a refreshing and new take on an old tale, one that Johnson hopes opens doors for not only himself, but also for these budding stars of tomorrow.
"I had a conversation with Lin Manuel Miranda. He signed a book for me. In that signature he wrote, “Give us more things to see,” Johnson said. "So that's my hope and goal. There's a place for you, figure it out, let's get it up and let's do it.”