Iowa State student engineers a moon-based musical


Provided by Sascha Antropov. Courtesy of Iowa State.

Cast members rehearse for the Jan. 20 production of “Moonrock: The Musical,” written and arranged by Sascha Antropov, senior in mechanical engineering, and Lyndsay Nissen, an ISU MFA alumna.  

Averi Baudler

Sascha Antropov is not your average Iowa State student. Not only does this school year mark the third time Antropov, 33, has attended Iowa State, but it also marks the first time he has attempted to write and create an original musical entirely from scratch.

The show, titled “Moonrock: The Musical” first came to be when Antropov’s friend and fellow Iowa State alum, Lyndsay Nissen, visited the Ames City Auditorium and noticed how nice of a space it is and how rarely it gets used by the city. 

Nissen had the idea to write a musical to perform in the auditorium and brought the idea to Antropov, who originally did not see the project making it past the planning stage.

“I thought it was a joke because you always think of a million musicals with your friends and then, you know, you don’t actually write them,” Antropov said. “I ran into Lyndsay again a couple weeks later and she asked me how I’m doing on my part of the musical and I said ‘I’ve got nothing.’”

Nissen, however, had been hard at work in the weeks since they had last met following through with their ideas for the show to become a reality.

“She gave the long laundry list of all of the things she did so I felt kind of guilty and then started writing songs,” Antropov said. “After that we started meeting every week … we just got going and created all of this music.” 

Both Antropov and Nissen have a background in music and have played in bands in the past, so Antropov says that the music, which they began writing in July, came naturally.

“I guess we just kept playing music and writing more songs and creating a story around it and then creating songs to bridge gaps where the story didn’t make sense,” Antropov said.

The musical quickly took over Antropov and Nissen’s lives and it did not take long for their team of two to grow exponentially.

“[The show] is pretty much what we lived so whenever our friends would come by or see us they’d ask what we’re doing and we’d say ‘we’re doing musical stuff, we’re writing a musical,’” Antropov said. “Eventually a giant group of our friends got interested in doing it and they were all on board.”

Antropov is currently enrolled at Iowa State as a mechanical engineering student and soon realized that trying to balance school work and the duties of creating a musical was going to be a difficult task. 

“We wrote it mostly during this past school semester, which for me was kind of interesting because it’s a huge undertaking to write a musical apparently,” Antropov said. “There’s a lot that goes into it that you don’t realize goes into it.”

This large workload was what urged Antropov and Nissen to seek help and support from outside sources and in doing so brought in professional sources to help this show reach its full potential.

“We’ve been at the point for a while where the two of us can’t do everything, so we actually have a professional director, a stage manager, a choreographer, and people to work on the props,” Antropov said. “We also have a technical director and a guy who is doing a huge lightshow for the musical. It’s really impressive.”

With Antropov and Nissen, their friends, and professionals now in on the project, the cast and crew of “Moonrock: The Musical” is comprised of 32 individuals.

Though there are a few Iowa State students on the Moonrock team, most of the members are either friends of the duo or come from the community, which Antropov believes sets this show a part from others.

“That’s one of the reasons why this musical is really unique compared to other productions, it didn’t come from any theatre background,” Antropov said. “Neither me or Lyndsay have any experience in theatre so we kind of made it up.”

Antropov believes that the way that he and Nissen wrote the show is what’s allowing the actors and crew to thrive through this production.

“All of the actors and people on stage are not professionals by any means and some of them have never performed before,” Antropov said. “I think the way that we wrote the story and how we created a skeleton for it and let everything else build organically allowed people to develop their own characters and plot lines around it just so they feel comfortable in their own skin.”

Though the current plan is for the show to be “one and done” following Sunday’s performance, Antropov isn’t entirely against continuing to see what this project can become.

“People keep saying ‘Sequel! Sequel!’ so we’ll see how that goes,” Antropov said. “It’s really interesting, in our circle there’s a lot of people always talking about the musical so I guess we’ve got to keep doing things like this. But we’ll just see how the show goes.” 

The show follows a group of people who wake from a collective dream and decided to travel to the moon. Along their journey, the group makes many pit stops that are “hilarious and fun.”

“Moonrock: The Musical” will be performed at 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at Ames City Auditorium.