Arts and Entertainment

Making a dream a reality

Multitalented Penn State contingent drives launch of musical theatre company in New York City

Members of the J2 Spotlight Musical Theatre Company include (from left): Grant Strom, Rob Schneider, Russell McCook, Lauren Echausse, AJ Jimirro, Jim Jimirro and Ben Nissen. Credit: Photo ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A dream will become a reality beginning in mid-February for a Penn State alumnus who has crafted a successful career in the entertainment industry.

Jim Jimirro has launched the J2 Spotlight Musical Theatre Company, which will conduct revivals of Broadway shows beginning Feb. 13 at the Kirk Theatre in New York City. The inaugural three-show season includes “Seesaw," Feb. 13-23; “No Strings," Feb. 27-March 9; and “A Class Act," March 12-22.

Jimirro — the creator and founding president of The Disney Channel and Walt Disney Home Video, and who revived the National Lampoon brand — serves as executive producer and co-founder of the musical theater company.

“It’s a labor of love and it’s been in the back of my mind for years, because I love Broadway musicals,” Jimirro, who graduated from the College of the Liberal Arts in 1958, said. “It’s really exciting and, as it turned out, there’s a large Penn State presence helping make it a reality.”

Joining Jimirro, who earned the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Penn State Alumni Association in 1985, is artistic director and co-founder Rob Schneider, associate professor in the School of Theatre at Penn State. The associate artistic director, Benjamin Nissen, earned his bachelor of fine arts from Penn State. Also, Jimirro’s wife, Ajchara “AJ” Jimirro, who has a telecommunication engineering degree, helped with her computer skills and project management.

The social media team and several interns are also Penn Staters. Plus, sets for the shows are being built on the University Park campus and transported to the theater in New York City.

Such a hefty blue-and-white core group was not specifically planned, though.

Jimirro met Schneider after seeing a revival of “The Happy Time” that Schneider produced. They were introduced after Jimirro praised the production and asked to meet the person in charge.

They talked and subsequently came to an agreement that Jimirro was interested in making his passion project possible but not running it day by day.

“I’ve done that already,” he said. “But we had a shared dream and vision. So, we shook hands — that was about a year ago — and here we are.”

In 2018, Jimirro endowed a $1 million professorship in the Donald P. Bellisaro College of Communications. His gift created the the James P. Jimirro Professor of Media Effects, further positioning Penn State as a leader in the study of the impact of media messaging and communication technologies on the way individuals consume and process information as well as the way they think, and, ultimately, behave. Faculty member S. Shyam Sundar, a fellow of the International Communication Association, was selected as the inaugural holder of the professorship.

Last Updated June 14, 2021