How to Break – Musical – Village Theatre

Elevator Thoughts (aka Tweet): How to Break hip hop Latino mashup dance musical at Village Theatre. Interesting to attend the final concept after already seeing as a developing beta musical years ago. Cleaver lyrics. #dancing #theatre #Cancer #Latin

Synopsis from the Theatre: An electrifyingly innovative world-debut Mainstage production of new work developed by Village Theatre! Featuring a dynamic kaleidoscope of music, poetry, breakdancing, and beatboxing, How to Break follows two hospitalized teenage hip-hop dancers and how they navigate their adolescence in the confines of a hospital room, finding ways to love and learn amidst IV bags and chemotherapy as inspired by real-life events in writer Aaron Jafferis’ time as an artist in residence at a children’s hospital. Part commentary on the American health care system, part moving autobiography, and part profound journey through the joy and pain of growing up, How to Break reveals just how resilient the human spirit is in the face of change and transformation.

Reviewed Performance: 3/31/23 Opening Night – Sorry for the late review! But in my defense, you have about 2 months to see it. 🙂

Type: Musical

World Premiere: Yes

Several or Few Scenes: Several

Several or Few Settings: Several

Defined Plot/Storyline: Yes, but most (if not all) of the scenes took place in a single hospital ward and there’s only so much that can occur unless it’s a TV show like Grey’s Anatomy!

Live Band/Orchestra: I don’t think there was a live band especially since they didn’t credit a band in the program. I assumed it was mostly pre-recorded synthesized music. However, Olivia Griffin’s character played the guitar and John Kent Rickenbacker Jr’s character beatboxed, which was a unique mashup.

Recommendation: See it if either

  • You like musicals with substance
  • You like stories about poor inner-city teens like in Sister Act 2 and Freedom Writers
  • You liked the hip-hop and rapping portions of Hamilton
  • Or you’re not triggered by adolescent cancer

Was This the First Time I Attended a Production of this Show: No, I previously saw this as a developing beta musical.

Would I See It Again 3 Years from Now: No, I think twice is enough for me. In my defense, I’d say the same thing about Hamilton. I know, sacrilege!

Rating Compared to Other Shows with the Same Production Value:
4 Stars (Out of 5 Stars)

Equity Actors: 3

Total Number of Actors: 6

Length (Including Any Intermission): 2 hours, which seemed a bit long especially without an intermission

Intermission: No

Other Rave(s) Not Mentioned in Elevator Thoughts

  • Beatboxing: John Kent Rickenbacker Jr’s character was a nurse who provided the beat and sound effects in this musical. He uniquely did not speak any lines and it was fun guessing what he was saying when he beatboxed his responses to other characters in “dialogue.”
  • Stage Design: The scenic design was simple with clean lines but still dramatic. Ironically, it reminded me of the Loony Toons concentric circles stage background. See the stage in my video below.
  • Stagehand Costumes: I appreciated that the stagehands wore scrubs when they performed their duties on-stage so they didn’t look out of place.
  • Powerful Voices: Talia Thiesfield and Olivia Griffin frequently showcased their showstopping voices in this production.
  • Favorite Line: When Maddy asked the Aana to join yoga or some other new age holistic therapy, Ana responded something like “if my family walks in, they’ll think we’re worshiping the devil.”
  • Medical Accuracy: As an oncology healthcare professional, I was impressed by the many correct aspects of cancer treatment they explained to the audience like the common acute lymphoblastic leukemia chemotherapy regimen consisting of an anthracycline, vincristine, and a glucocorticoid. For the record, they could have included pegaspargase though. Also, I’ve never seen an oncologist participate in yoga or chess with patients. Maybe they do that in pediatrics?


  • Downer Show: As I alluded to previously, this musical has substance. But usually that means it’s a downer. They present an important perspective in this show, but I personally see musicals as an escape. Who wants to escape to sick kids? It didn’t help that a little too much silence and a little too much runtime (with no intermission) contributed to the slow pace. This was Village Theatre’s annual world premiere production where they choose one beta developing show from the last season. I much rather would have preferred Village Theatre to choose The Passage (which was also about cancer) than How to Break, since The Passage had more comedic relief and was overall less serious.
  • Inner-city Teen Trope: I mentioned this in my previous review, but I’m not a fan of stereotypical inner-city teen characters with nobody-understands-me rude attitude. It’s a tired old annoying trope.

Other Musing(s) and Observation(s)

  • Be the Match: This show inspired me to get on the ball and sign up for Be the Match. This nationwide non-profit helps match you with patients that need bone marrow transplant. It is especially important that people of color (like me) sign up since it’s usually difficult for POCs to find matching donors (like the main character). Bone marrow donation is similar to donating blood and does not require surgery. I’ve been meaning to sign up but always never get around to it. This musical is a perfect opportunity for Village Theatre to promote Be the Match.

Theatre Company: Village Theatre

Venue: Village Theatre – Issaquah

Venue Physical Address: 303 Front St N, Issaquah, WA 98027

Price: Medium

Ticket Affordability Options: Check out their discount tickets page. TodayTix and Goldstar usually offer good options too.

Dates: Issaquah March 29 – April 30, 2023 | Everett May 5 – May 28, 2023

Seating: Assigned Seating

Parking: Free street parking and some free parking lot. Lot parking is pretty difficult to find availability though. I’ve basically given up on that. I usually end up parking on Rainier Boulevard North. As a last resort, I think you can always find parking at the library but it’s a little far. Remember, there’s a bottom floor parking lot under the library’s main parking lot that most non-locals don’t know about.

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Other Video +/- Pictures: See pictures in video and under video below

Cast and Production Team: See after pictures and video below

@showsiveseen "How to Break" #hipHop #Latino mashup #dance #musical at Village Theatre. Interesting to attend the final concept after already seeing as a developing beta musical years ago. Cleaver lyrics. Photos: Angela Sterling. Review: #dancing #theatre #cancer #Latin #theatre ♬ Girl That Was Perfect – Alina Smith
Cheryse Dyllan and Andrés López-Alicea in Village Theatre’s How to Break (2023). Photo by Angela Sterling.
Cristian Rodriguez in Village Theatre’s How to Break (2023). Photo by Angela Sterling.
Cheryse Dyllan and Cristian Rodriguez in Village Theatre’s How to Break (2023). Photo by Angela Sterling.
Cheryse Dyllan and Talia Thiesfield in Village Theatre’s How to Break (2023). Photo by Angela Sterling.
Cheryse Dyllan and Cristian Rodriguez in Village Theatre’s How to Break (2023). Photo by Angela Sterling.
Ana Cheryse Dyllan
Joel Cristian Rodriguez
Dr. Aden Talia Thiesfield*
Nurse Bowen John Kent Rickenbacker Jr.
MaddyOlivia Griffin*
Mr. Ramos Andrés Lopez-Alicea*
Ana u/s Ash Fetherbay
Joel u/s Dan Haile
Dr. Aden u/sCharles L. Simmons*
Nurse Bowen u/s Edward-Vincent Montemayor Bantasan
Maddy u/s Jasmine Joshua
Mr. Ramos u/s Quetzie Taborga
Director Logan Vaughn
Writer and Lyricist Aaron Jafferis
Composers Jacinth Greywoode, Rebecca Hart, and Kiriakos “Yako 440” Prodis
Conceived by the Mixing Texts Collective Aaron Jafferis, Adam Matta, Christopher Edwards, Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio, & Ana “Rokafella” Garcia
Scenic Designer Jack Magaw
Projection Designer Elizabeth Barrett
Choreographer Kevin Boseman
Lighting Designer Robert J. Aguilar
Sound Designer Andrea Allmond
Music Director Jacinth Greywoode
Costume Designer Pete Rush
Stage Managers Miranda C. Pratt, Erin B. Zatloka
Assistant Stage ManagerIsabella Marziello
Director of Breaking Jerome Aparis
DramaturgMorgan Smart
Associate Director Tré Cotten
Intimacy Choreographer Moises “Moy” Hinojos
Assistant Projection Designer Hannah Gibbs
Associate Lighting Designer Casey Price
Original Projection Content Marcy Suarez
Production Assistant Kimberly Le
NYC CastingBase/Valle Casting (Gama Valle and Harriet Bass)
Head Stage Carpenter (Issaquah) Whitman Paylor
Head Stage Carpenter (Everett) Chris Mikolaizik
Head Sound Engineers (Issaquah) Lisa Finkral, Abigail Graham
Head Sound Engineer (Everett) Josh Blaisdell
Lead Stagehand — Deck (Issaquah) Justin Babbitt
Lead Stagehand — Deck (Everett) Kyle Morgan
Lead Stagehand — Props Chandler Eichele
Head Electrician (Everett) Brandon Cullinan
Head Electrician (Issaquah) Paul Arnold
Head Wardrobe (Issaquah) Kate Simpson
Head Wardrobe (Everett) Courtney Kessler-Jeffrey
Head Projection Techs Derick Avitt, Hannah Tran
Programmer Zac Andersen
Followspots Casey Leugemors, Olof Sander
Scenic Painter Gabrielle Duong
Scenic Carpenter Blake Whitmore
*The Actors And Stage Managers Are Members Of The Actors’ Equity Association, The Union Of Professional Actors And Stage Managers In The United States.

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