Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Work in Progress: CHASING THE SONG

An interview with Dana Harrel, Associate Producer, and Grabriel Greene, Director of New Play Development, at La Jolla Playhouse, about their upcoming production of Chasing a Song, by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, directed by Chris Ashley.  

Elegant Edie's team of ambitious hitmakers are upended by the arrival of the newest aspiring songwriter — Edie's daughter Ginny. As Ginny strives to earn her place in the male-dominated world of the early 1960s music scene, American rock and roll finds itself under siege from the incoming British invasion.

Chasing The Song is a reunion of the Memphis team (director, writers, producers) and La Jolla Playhouse. Why was La Jolla Playhouse excited to work onChasing the Song?  
Chasing the Song continues Memphis’s exploration into the history of American rock and roll, and the way that it shaped – and was shaped by – social movements. Memphis tracked how music was a bridge during the turbulent racial conflicts of the 1950's and 60's. Chasing the Song carries the story forward, and focuses on a completely different part of our social history: the attempts of women to break into and succeed in male-dominated fields.
La Jolla Playhouse has been working on the show for a while now. What has changed, shifted and grown with the show over the last year? 
We started working on Chasing the Song as part of our DNA New Play Series in 2013. The work we were able to do during that workshop process was invaluable in discovering that the central arc of the musical was a mother-daughter story. This happened right as we were about to give our first concert reading. It was a wonderful and nerve-wracking moment. A lot of the work over the last year was making this piece as much about strengthening the relationships between characters as it is about the music industry in the 1960's.
Why do you think Chasing the Song will sing to your audience and be a good fit for this season?

Festival Show Update: BLEEDING LOVE

This month, we check in on Bleeding Love from our 2012 Festival of New Musicals as it prepares for productions in Connecticut and Denmark. The show's writers, Harris Doran, Jason Schafer and Arthur Lafrentz Bacon have been hard at work during the past year to prepare the show for its next steps. 

Bleeding Love is a post-apocalyptic musical comedy about a sixteen year old cellist who has never left her building, who risks going out into the dangerous world in order to get her one chance at love.

When you presented Bleeding Love at the Festival, it was the premiere of the musical for any audience. What did you learn about the show from finally seeing it in front of an audience? 
Yes, NAMT was our very first reading! We learned a great deal about how specific the tone was, because it rides the line between bleakness and comedy, and honest emotion and farce, so we had to make sure we were making that balance clear to the audience.

You were up at Goodspeed Musicals last winter for the Mercer Writers’ Retreat.  What was the focus of that devoted time away?
That was an incredible experience. More productive than we ever could have imagined. The three of us, who do not all live in the same city, got to be together for a week straight and just write. We ended up writing an entirely new opening number, completing a very complicated multi-scene song and brainstorming what the end of the musical would be. An unbelievable amount of productivity in such a short period of time.

The show will have a premiere production this season at The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Connecticut.  What work are you doing on the show to prepare for its first production? 
We are tightening the show to make sure it is production-ready as well as getting our first orchestrations together. We are very excited.

What are you hoping to discover and sort out when the show finally gets on its feet in a production? 
We are excited to finally get the chance to see what the show is as a whole without the rhythm being impeded

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Festival Show Update: THE TROUBLE WITH DOUG

An interview with the writers of The Trouble with Doug, Daniel Maté and Will Aronson, about the developments on their 2010 Festival show as it prepares for a production at NAMT member theatre Arts Garage down in Florida this spring.  

A contemporary re-imagining of Kafka’s "Metamorphosis," The Trouble With Doug is a hilarious and moving new musical about a healthy young man who transforms inexplicably into a giant talking slug. Thrust together awkwardly under the same roof, Doug, his family, and his fiancée all struggle to understand and respond to this strangest of crises. 

Last time we checked in with you, Doug was heading to Palo Alto, CA for TheatreWorks' festival.  How was that process for you and the show? 
We had a great time in Palo Alto. TheatreWorks provides a unique workshopping opportunity – a chance to perform the show in front of an audience, rewrite, re-tech, perform again, and then repeat that process three times. You can really take the show into the laboratory and experiment. (There’s really no better way to see what works and what doesn't than to watch the show in front of actual people a few times!)

What changes did you make to the show while in California? 
After watching the show, we felt that our titular character was under-developed — so we added several new musical moments for Doug throughout the first act to clarify his arc and round him out a bit more. We also tried out a number of new scenes for Doug’s family, and also ended up with a slightly gentler ending.

You are currently rewriting the show for a production down at Arts Garage in Florida.  What are your goals with this rewrite?   

New Work in Progress: JUDGE JACKIE JUSTICE

NAMT member theatre Pittsburgh CLO recently opened the world premiere of Judge Jackie Justice, a new musical by Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond (both, NAMT Fest '11-Dani Girl). The show runs through April 27 at their cabaret space. We took a moment to chat with Pittsburgh CLO's Executive Producer Van Kaplan, who also directed the show and came up with its concept, about bringing some Justice to Pittsburgh.

You've been summoned for a brand new musical comedy: it's CourtTV meets Springer! The musical courtroom of Judge Jackie Justice is now in session at the CLO Cabaret. Behold "real" cases involving zombies, spaceships, furries and more! TV's hottest Judge relishes in ruling on the personal affairs of people just like you, but what happens when the tables are turned? You won't "object" to this brand new musical comedy! 
Judge Jackie Justice (JJJ) is a commission from Pittsburgh CLO. What was the motivation behind commissioning a show for your cabaret space? 
Creating new works is part of the mission of the CLO and we are always looking for fresh material, especially for the Cabaret. Finding new and exciting small-scale musicals for our year-round programming has been a challenge for us.
You had the original idea for JJJ. What was the inspiration for a musical about TV court shows?
After I saw Jerry Springer the Opera (which I thought was a hoot) in London I thought of creating a show along the same vein but also with some audience participation. The super-sized personalities and live and reactive audiences of Court TV shows seemed like good material to mine for musical comedy. 
Why did you go with the team of Kooman and Dimond to create the show and what has that process been like? 
I saw a reading of Dani Girl at the NAMT Festival and then had an opportunity to listen to Howard Barnes and was sold. They are imaginative writers and because I wanted humor that skewed a little younger for my show, they seemed right for the job. The process of creating the show was like others I have been a part of, highs and lows, agreements and disagreements, and striving to reach the best place possible. A commissioned work poses unique challenges because it is an inherently collaborative writing process. Because Judge Jackie was my idea, I knew what I wanted and was specific with the writers.

Why do think it is important for your theatre to create new musicals for your audience?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Work in Progress: SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE at University of Miami

An interview with The University of Miami's Henry Fonte about their upcoming developmental production (see listing on right) of Slaughterhouse-Five, with music by Jed Feuer and book and lyrics by Adele Ahroneim, based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel.

How did
Slaughterhouse-Five find its way to the University of Miami?  

Larry Wilker, the former producer at the Arsht Center here in Miami, an old friend, handed it to me and said, “I like this show and I like the people who wrote it. I can’t produce it. Take a look.” I almost fell over when I saw the title. One of my favorite books! But how the hell do you turn it into a musical? And then I read it and listened; and, by George! Jed and Adele really did it! And they kept the essence of the ordinal Vonnegut! I was floored.

Why is this show a great fit for your students and audience?  
Since the show is all about being “unstuck in time,” some characters appear at different stages in their life, and since the play is so presentational and so Brechtian in a way, the ages of the actors are irrelevant. This allows us to use a young cast beautifully, without anyone having to play old. And since we are doing this in our Studio Theatre, the audience is young and hip and expects to see new and even avant-garde work. So it is a perfect fit for us all the way around.

How does the process of this show fit in to the University's mission for training young artists? 

Festival Show Update: MEET JOHN DOE

An update from Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman about their 2005 NAMT Festival show Meet John Doe, based on the Capra film, about the getting the show licensed, recorded and ready to go out into the world.  

There are big new developments for Meet John Doe, and we're so excited to share them with all the NAMT members and our fellow writers. Since the Festival, we've seen several very different productions of the show, and now that it's been licensed by Rodgers & Hammerstein Theatricals, we can't wait to see what other theaters, large and small, do with it. We also just released the cast album on Broadway Records with Heidi Blickenstaff, Jim Moye and Robert Cuccioli (one of Talkin' Broadway's top 10 cast albums of 2013!), which was a huge thrill and an even huger surprise—more on that later.

We're so grateful to NAMT and all the organizations that have helped us along the way, and are very excited that the album will allow many more people to meet John Doe. NAMT was the beginning of a perfect development process for us. At a retreat at TheatreWorks, we were able to write several new songs, and then incorporate them at a workshop at Carousel Dinner Theater. A student production at the Hartt School of Music allowed us to see the show and fine-tune the book, and an extensive rehearsal process at Goodspeed Musicals gave us the opportunity to add another couple of songs and address big-picture issues like pacing and flow.

The process culminated with our world premiere in DC at the Ford's Theater. We swapped out another couple songs for that production, and were overwhelmed by how well the show played for large houses (9 Helen Hayes nominations and 2 wins!). What was maybe most exciting was how much it entertained and moved the Ford's many high school audiences, who had

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Musical Gift Giving this Holiday Season

The holidays are here and 'tis the season of giving. After you are done giving to your favorite not-for-profits (like NAMT) this year, why not spread your love of musical theatre!

Over the last few years, many of our Festival shows have released albums. They are all great gifts and run the gamut from rock (Lizzie) to bluegrass (Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge), something for everyone!

Or maybe you want an album devoted to just one artist?  We have a few of those, too, from NAMT Festival alumni writers who have put out non-show albums of their work: 


All of these albums and more (including scripts, piano scores and mp3 downloads) can be bought at NAMT's Amazon store!  And when you shop on our store, NAMT receives a portion of the profits from Amazon, so it is like you are giving twice!