by: Sandi Durell
If you’re a producer or other musical theatre industry professional and member of NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre), then you probably spent two days at the 25th Annual Festival held at New World Stages on October 17th/18th viewing the 45 minute presentations of what could possibly be the next Broadway musical hit!
I do not say this lightly because the nine shows presented were diverse, each compelling in their individual ways. Take a look at this year’s selections!
Analog and Vinyl, a quirky romantic comedy, with book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon and a cast that included Bryan Fenkart, Harriet Harris and Sarah Stiles is the story of Harrison, obsessed with LPs from the 60s and the superior quality of analog but Rodeo Girl (a quirky Silver Lake hipster) is obsessed with Harrison. However, he doesn’t notice as he’s so involved with his vintage record store about to bite the dust. Along comes a mysterious ‘devilish’ customer who makes an offer they can’t refuse!
The Astonishing Return of . . .The Protagonists! – book & Lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, music Michael Shaleb (directed by Christopher Gatelli), an action comedy, was this year’s all star presentation featuring Marc Kudisch, Sutton Foster, Andy Karl, Tyler Maynard, Chris Sieber, Kara Lindsay, Douglas Sills, Todd Alan Johnson, with an ensemble including Auriella Williams, Alice Lee,Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Carlos Encinias. It’s all about a mighty group of superheroes battling the forces of evil but it’s now 20 years later as they find themselves battling thinning hair and menopause instead. Will they pull it together to save the world when an old nemesis re-emerges?
The Boy Who Danced on Air, book & lyrics by Charlie Shohne, music by Tim Rosser, a drama, with Giuseppe Bausilio, Anthony Lee Medina, Jonathan Raviv, Fajer Al-Kaisi, Sorab Wadia, is about an Afghanistan tradition called Bacha Bazi – wealthy men take in very young poor boys and train them to dance. They perform at parties and are often sexually abused. This is the story of two boys who meet and fall in love, exploring opposing forces of tradition vs. freedom and violence vs. love.
Come From Away, book, music & lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, a drama/comedy, with a cast including Becca Ayers, Klea Blackhurst, Allison Case, Nick Choksi, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Colin Hanlon, Ruthie Ann Miles, Spencer Moses, Jason Michael Snow, Barbara Walsh, Jason Sweettooth Williams, Lenny Wolpe is based on a true story of 7000 people who landed on the doorstep of Gander, Newfoundland . . . and the residents ‘put the kettle on.’ It’s a rocking musical about 38 planes diverted to this small Canadian community on 9/11. While the world witnessed horrendous acts of humanity, these stranded passengers had their faith restored by the wonderful people who comforted those who had come from away.
Eastland, book & lyrics by Andrew White, music by Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman, a folk operetta, with Emily Walton, Melanie Vaughan, Lauren Marcus, Katrina Lenk, Andi Alhadeff, William Parry, Randy Redd, Erik Hellman, William Ryall, Will Connoly, Derek Hasenstab is the story of the S.S. Eastland, moored on the Chicago River July 24, 1915. As the boat leans to port, and keeps leaning, it tips completely over – hundreds perish, families vanish and unexpected heroes emerge in this American folk musical.
My Heart is the Drum, concept & music by Phillip Palmer, book by Jennie Redling, lyrics by Stacey Luftig, a coming of age drama, with Saycon Sengbloh, Krystal Brown, Tommar Wilson, Rebecca Covington, Natalie Venetia Belcon, Nicole Lewis, Mel Johnson Jr., Danielle K. Thomas, Crystal Joy, John Eric Parker, Donald Weber, Jarran Muse is the story of a young girl in Ghana, pulled from school, forced to marry but flees to pursue her dream of a college education, confronting life-threatening dangers to discover her true strength. Driving African rhythms, rich vocal harmonies.
The Sandman, music by Richard Oberacker, book & lyrics by Robert Taylor & Richard Oberacker, a little nightmare musical. It featured Heidi Blickenstaff, Kelly McCormick, Mavis Simpson-Enrst, Joshua Colley, Robert Creighton, Douglas Sills, Bailey Ryon. It’s 1838 in Germany. What if Clara’s nutcracker had been built by a clockmaker whose children were held hostage by the Sandman who steals children’s eyes at night? Such horrors in a musical?
The Single Girls Guide, book by Gordon Greenberg, music & lyrics by Tommy Newman, a comedy, with Jenny Powers, Graham Rowat, Adam Heller, Susie Mosher, Clarke Thorell, Farah Alvin, Steve Rosen, Gwen Hollander, Julia Mattison, Amber Iman, Sydney James Harcourt, Michael McCorry Rose. This is Jane Austen meets Helen Gurley Brown in 1964 Manhattan, filled with the sounds and bright spirit of the 60s, it’s a fizzy riff on Emma and Sex and The Single Girl.
The Three Little Pigs, book & lyrics by Anthony Drewe, music by George Stiles, billed for younger audiences, with David Larsen, Clara Renee, George Salazar, Ann Harada, Chris Sieber, certainly engaged its adult audience as the little Piglets and their Mom, and the misunderstood Big Bad Wolf proceeded to huff, puff and blow us away!
An additional Songwriter Showcase featured Joe DiPietro with Joe Iconis; Nell Benjamin & Laurence O’Keefe with Jill Abramovitz & Brad Alexander; Lisa Lambert with Sam Wilmott and Chad Beguelin & Matthew Sklar with Jordan Mann & Jeff Thomson with a glimpse into the new material each is currently working on.
Without a doubt, theater audiences will be hearing more about many of these new shows as they refine their paths hoping to make it to the great white way. www.namt.org
*Photos: Ric Kallaher