Monday, September 30, 2013

25 DAYS OF NAMT: Remember When....

Day 5

The 2009 Festival featured Memory is the Mother of All Wisdom by Sara Cooper and Zach Redler. After the Festival, the show was a produced at Barrington Stage Company (a NAMT member theatre!), and with the help of a National Fund for New Musicals grant, Transport Group (another NAMT member theatre!) produced the show Off-Broadway this past year, now with the new title: The Memory Show.  Though the title changed, the cast stayed the same through all of these productions.   

Look below for images of Leslie Kritzer and Catherine Cox staring in this powerful piece—4 years apart! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

25 DAYS OF NAMT: "Part of Our World"...

Day 4

In 2003, the Festival featured The Ballad of Little Pinks a charming musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Marion Adler, and a book by Connie Grappo.

Take a peek inside the original festival program for the show below. Can you spot the 2012 TONY Award winner in the cast? Comment below!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

25 DAYS OF NAMT: Listen Up!

Day 3

Many NAMT shows go on to record cast albums. Here are a few shows that have recently gone through this exciting process. Click on each album cover to hear songs from the show or purchase the tracks!


*Lizzie will be released October 8th. Jump on this exciting pre-order right now!

Friday, September 27, 2013


An interview with Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor, writers of the upcoming Festival show The Sandman, about  adapting the horror genre for the stage and writing "a little nightmare musical" for kids and adults alike.

NAMT: The Sandman is a true horror musical, not something that we see a lot of. Have you always wanted to write in this genre?
Richard Oberacker: Ever since I was a very young child, I had two obsessions: musical theatre and haunted houses. I think I understood that a good haunted house was actually interactive, immersive theater. And, oddly, throughout most of my youth, I became a bit of an entrepreneur, designing and building haunted attractions. I guess I always wondered if my two obsessions could be combined—but, of course, it had to be the right story. The best horror movies are always of a singular vision and have a delicate balance of fright and comedy. Both of those are authentic and therefore work only if they are organically connected to the story—they arise out of the givens of the circumstances. That means only the perfect story can give rise to the perfect recipe. If we had not happened upon Hoffmann's work, and "Der Sandman" in particular, we would not have attempted a so-called horror musical.  

NAMT: How did you discover the stories The Sandman is based on? Did you immediately know you wanted to adapt them into a musical?
Robert Taylor: Saying "we happened upon Hoffmann's work" as Richard indicated is somewhat disingenuous, in that German romanticism in general, and the complete works of E.T.A. Hoffmann in particular, were a major area of study for me in my years at the Universities of Bonn and Princeton. Further, every child of the Western World knows Hoffmann's Nutcracker. Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann actually contains elements of The Sandman story, as does Delibes' classic ballet Coppelia. So in truth, I've known and been fascinated by Hoffmann's sinister fairy tales (as well as those of Edgar Allen Poe, who counted Hoffmann among his favorite writers) for most of my life—and they seem to naturally lend themselves to musical theatricalization. I'm not sure why that is, but I suspect it has something to do with Hoffmann having been a brilliant musician and composer in his own right, with chamber music, symphonies, ballets and operas to his credit, as well as an unparalleled writer of fantasy. His fiction is filled with music and tales of musicians. He worshiped

25 DAYS OF NAMT: The Four-Timers Club

Day 2

Today we highlight David Kirshenbaum—the only author to have four shows presented through the NAMT Festival: Vanities (2006), Party Come Here (2005), Summer of '42 (1999) and Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1997). 

Take a look at this video spotlighting the Original Off Broadway production of Vanities, and featuring an interview with David: 

Congratulations on all your successes, David!

P.S.: Attend "SHOW OFF!" for a special performance from one of the Vanities original cast members. Can you guess who?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: The Importance of the Demo

A guest blog entry from Tim Rosser, writer of The Boy Who Danced On Air to be presented at this year's Festival of New Musicals.  

Everything about making a demo takes an extraordinary amount of time. Writing the orchestrations, rehearsing the singers, doing take after take, mixing it all together. Hours and hours and hours of your life. And it can always take longer. It's basically up to you - how many hours and dollars are you willing to put in. You want it to be perfect because in some cases you need to sell your show with a song or two and the better technology gets, the more perfect it can be. And if you are a product of the catholic school system like me, you never think you're trying hard enough. It's the perfect storm. And then there are the practical decisions that make me want to pull my hair out. Who should sing the song? Who should play? How many people does it take to sound like a chorus? Like an orchestra? Will a click track make this song sound super tight or squeeze the life out of it? To use computer generated sounds or acoustic? How much money are we really willing to spend on a track of a song that could very realistically be cut from the show in a month? I have a heart-breaking story (my heart!) for every one of these variables and even so I still don't feel like I'm in control most of the time Charlie and I go into the studio. I'd like to think I'm a little better at recognizing when we have a real problem on our hands and knowing how to fix it efficiently. But even then, I don't actually know how much people care when the drums aren't tuned right or there's a mysterious purring sound on the guitar track or the tempo is too slow. Maybe no one notices any of those things. Or only some of them. That's the thing with writing music and recording demos, I guess. It's all taste and guessing.  

I'd like to think that you can't make a bad song sound like a good one with a good demo or a good song sound like a bad one with a bad demo, but I don't believe that. I don't necessarily believe that

Welcome to 25 Days of NAMT!

Today marks 25 days until our Benefit “SHOW-OFF!"  celebrating 25 years of  NAMT’s Annual Festival of New Musicals. Leading up to the concert on October 20, we will be posting daily facts, photos, videos, and more, remembering some of the shows and authors from the last great 25 years. 


We begin with a blast to the past, heading back to the year 1989 to rediscover some of the shows that started it all... 

Little Ham recorded a cast album and it also available for licensing through Samuel French—visit their page on the show.

Read a New York Times review of Capitol Catwalk, which calls the show “ambitiously conceived” and “ingenious.”

Browse a newspaper article announcing the premier of the new musical Angelina by Barry Kleinbort.

And if you have the means, head to the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center in New York City to watch the Goodspeed Opera House production of The Real Life Story of Johnny De Facto.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: It Takes a (NAMT) Village...

A guest blog entry from Irene Sankoff, writer of Come From Away to be presented at this year's Festival of New Musicals.  
On August 6th, I delivered a brand new production that my husband and co-author, David Hein, and I had been working on for nine months. At 6 lbs, 1 ounce, she was heavier than most of our scripts (although nowhere near if you counted every draft). The delivery took 37 hours, but thanks to a crazy rotating team of doctors, nurses, residents, doulas and David, trying (in vain) to look calm and distract me by reading all the parts from Peter And The Starcatcher, opening night was (relatively) painless. We named her Molly.
Two days later, with a newborn in one hand and a keyboard in another – with the wi-fi password from Mt. Sinai hospital – we delivered the NAMT Act One 45-minute cut of our musical, Come From Away: Molly’s sibling. This cut and the entire presentation at NAMT took no less of a stellar team of professionals to accompany its birth.
We’d been working on Come From Away for longer than nine months – we started writing it in 2011, when we traveled out to Newfoundland to research it. Come From Away tells the true story of when thousands of international residents were stranded in a tiny, Canadian community in Newfoundland – and how the experience changed the lives of the passengers and the people there. It’s an inspiring story of cross-border collaboration during an international tragedy. We spent almost a month out in Newfoundland interviewing countless passengers, flight crew, locals and more. We returned home, continued to interview people across the world over Skype and then finally started putting the pieces together in workshops at Sheridan College’s Canadian Musical Theatre Project and then at Goodspeed Musicals’ Festival of New Artists. Then we got the incredible honor of being accepted into NAMT’s Festival… and did I mention I had just discovered through a series of (not so) subtle signs and discomforts that I was pregnant?
As Canadian playwrights, we don’t know many people in the New York Theatre world, so we considered it good fortune when

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


An interview with George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, writers of the upcoming Festival show The Three Little Pigs, about the ups and downs of writing for children, the insights gained from international productions and their upcoming performance in the Festival of New Musicals. Interview conducted by NAMT's Program Intern Audra LaBrosse.  

NAMT: Three Little Pigs is a familiar story to most people. During your writing, how did you go about updating the tale and adding original touches?
George Stiles: Well, we did a similar thing with Honk!, our re-take of The Ugly Duckling. We enjoy making the characters as "human" as possible, and updating the dialogue so it feels contemporary and classic all at the same time! Family dynamics always interest us, how brothers and sisters manage to get along with each other, even though they're often very different characters. So with the Pigs, we liked the idea that the father of the family had been "taken" by the Big Bad Wolf, so there's a tension from the outset and makes the Mother a strong but put-upon figure who's had to raise her piglets single-handed. We also thought a Wolf who reckoned he was "misunderstood" was fun... after all, he's just doing what wolves do!

NAMT: This show is part of a "trio of trilogies.” Tell us a bit more about that concept.
GS: That's all [Anthony’s] fault. He's greedy. One's never enough. But what's great about it is that a theatre can choose to "mix and match" the shows. The second is Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which we premiered earlier this year - and the final part will be The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Each is 45-50 minutes long, so you can do 1, 2 or 3 of them with the same 5 actors, and design a simple set that works for all three. That way, theatres can program the shows for daytime or evening presentations. 

NAMT: Can you tell us briefly how you went about updating the other stories in the trilogy?
Anthony Drewe: Well we haven't written The Three Billy Goats Gruff yet, but Goldilocks And The Three Bears is ready to go and played very successfully in Singapore earlier this year. Our self-imposed conundrum in writing the trilogy was that we wanted it to be possible to perform all three shows with the same five actors. In the story of Goldilocks there are traditionally only 4 characters, but this limitation actually gave us our way into retelling the story. We first meet Goldi as she

Friday, September 20, 2013


A guest blog entry from Michael Shaieb, writer of The Astonishing Return of... The Protagonists! to be presented at this year's Festival of New Musicals.  

About fifteen years ago when I graduated from the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program, I was faced with the reality of what I would do for a living. I had some recording equipment and thought that perhaps I could start a recording studio. When I met my partner, Brent Lord, who had the technical knowledge, we formed a company which later became FatLab Music. We specialized in recording demos for music theatre writers and performers.

When I began writing The Protagonists with my collaborator, Kevin del Aguila, the question was how do we record our show to convey the different stylistic choices we created for our world. The Protagonists contains a world of

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


An interview with Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser, writers of the upcoming Festival show The Boy Who Danced on Air, about the careful process of writing a show about the Afghani tradition of Bacha bazi, which literally translated means “boy play,” a practice where wealthy men take in poorer boys and train them to dance. Interview conducted by NAMT's Program Intern Audra LaBrosse.  

NAMT: Bacha bazi is not a well-known practice to a Western audience. How did you learn about this tradition and what about it inspired you to write a musical centered on it?
Charlie Sohne: We saw a documentary about bacha bazi called The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan and it kind of smacked us in the face. The access that the filmmaker got to both the men and boys involved was really amazing and the existence of the practice brought up so many questions that to us felt universal to all cultures, including our own. The discussions we had afterwards about religion, the different ways sexuality expresses itself and the intersection of tradition, morality and a community’s power structure made us feel like there was a lot there to be mined.

Tim Rosser: We were also very interested at the time in finding material that “demanded to be musicalized” – as in, it would feel like a let down to tell this story without music because music and dance are essential to this subject matter.

NAMT: Was there a moment of this documentary that stuck out most, that you saw and imagined a dramatic moment immediately?
CS:  The most striking moment for me was when one of the boys talks about growing up and owning boys of his own. It was absolutely fascinating to hear how matter of fact it was and how much of an inevitability it was for him. 

TR: And that moment was actually the basis and inspiration for the song “When I Have A Boy Of My Own” that ends Act I. (Editors note: listen to a clip from this song on the Festival info page)

NAMT: Historical and cultural accuracy are important in the writing of any show, and especially one with a sensitive subject matter like The Boy Who Danced on Air. What has the process of writing the show been like, keeping this in mind?
CS: Our first step was

Monday, September 16, 2013


A guest blog entry from George Stiles, writer of The Three Little Pigs to be presented at this year's Festival of New Musicals.  

The Three Little Pigs was written in response to a specific brief from the Singapore Repertory Theatre. Over the past few years, they have built up their younger audiences - from 3 years and over - with their dedicated "The Little Company." Singapore has a huge number of school-age children, for whom English is their first language, with Malay, Mandarin or Hokkien as their second. SRT realised that this audience was barely catered for with live entertainment and that, aside from large, highly-visible branded tours, there was a lack of high quality musical theatre material.

Since we already had considerable experience writing for a truly "family" audience (Honk!, Mary Poppins, Just So, Peter Pan) we were intrigued to see how we could adapt our style to cater for an audience of 3 years and upwards. We were encouraged to find a story that "sold itself" by having title recognition, and that had a small cast to make the numbers work. We briefly thought of Snow White, before realizing it inherently demanded at least 8 in the cast! So we soon settled on The Three Little Pigs - immediately wondering if we could write a "trilogy of trios" - and move on to Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Well, we figured the "rule of three" works even better as the rule of three threes!

We quickly found a sense of liberation knowing that we wanted the show to run at 45-50 minutes, have just 5 in the cast and be understood by very young children as well as be enjoyed by their older brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents. As kids, we both remember loving

Monday, September 9, 2013


An interview with Paul Gordon, writer of the upcoming Festival show Analog and Vinyl, about revisiting his musical roots and just how different developing Analog and Vinyl is from working on his 2006 Festival show Emma. Interview conducted by NAMT's Program Intern Audra LaBrosse. 

NAMT: Analog and Vinyl marks your second time as part of the Festival. What part of your experience with Emma in 2006 drew you back?
PAUL GORDON: The Festival is such a wonderful opportunity, not only to show your work to a large theatre community, but it also allows the authors to see their work in an entirely different light, as we are required to present the essence of the work in 45 minutes. This forces you to truly identify what's important in your storytelling and make hard choices. With Emma, the big discovery was having the character of Emma break the fourth wall through narration, a device we use today that never would have been discovered without the Festival. The Festival directly led to many first class regional productions of Emma and a possible Broadway future. 

NAMT: Has the Festival process so far revealed or refined anything about Analog and Vinyl?
PG: Absolutely. When you condense your script to 45 minutes you learn things about the storytelling you didn't know before. My biggest challenge with Analog and Vinyl was trying to balance the songs between the two leading characters. Once I cut the script down, the character of Harrison was short changed on songs at the beginning of the show, so I decided to write a new song just for the festival called "My Mythology.” Now I can't imagine doing the show without that song. The Festival has already improved the show and we're not even in rehearsals yet.

NAMT: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Analog and Vinyl.
PG: Analog and Vinyl's original title was: “Analog and Vinyl: A Jukebox Musical of Songs That Nobody Has Ever Heard of That Were Never Hits.” (Too long?) A few years ago I decided to write a musical based on my own catalogue of pop songs that I used to perform myself back when I was a singer-songwriter playing clubs around Los Angeles. I wrote the first draft of the show as an exercise for myself to see if I could write a jukebox musical. Since I did not have access to a famous music catalogue, I decided to use my own, which I own and control myself.  So I took one song and

Thursday, September 5, 2013


An interview with Tom Mizer and Curtis Moore, writers of 2012 Fest show Triangle, about the development of the show and their upcoming production at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma in the spring.
Logo for the Lyric Theatre workshop production

Triangle is an original romantic drama that weaves together the story of two couples from different eras — in 1911 a Jewish seamstress and her Italian foreman, in 2011 a chemistry grad student and a free-spirited stranger who has broken into his lab. It all takes place in the same building, the site of New York's infamous Triangle Factory Fire. Although the facts of the Triangle fire are tragic, the musical is full of humor, love, mystery and emotion. In the end, it's not about grief — it's about moving beyond the past to find joy in the here & now — how we need to take a risk and reach out to another person.

What was the response like to the show at the Festival? 
The response to Triangle at the Festival was incredibly warm and positive. Once we could actually breathe again after the terror of our first presentation, we were so grateful that the audience seemed to fall in love with the characters as much as we have. The best part, more than any of the productive conversations about "next steps," was seeing people emotionally affected, truly moved — and from just a cutting at music stands. Honestly, with just 40 minutes to tell our multiple stories, we would have been thrilled if people had simply followed the time period jumps without their heads exploding — but to have people also getting a good cathartic cry at 11am at New World Stages, that was amazing!  It gave us such encouragement to know that the story we are telling can move people and that it belongs in a live theater where people can experience it together. 

You were rewriting leading up to the Festival. How much did the Festival presentation influence your continued work on the show? 
It was essential and transformative. Doing a 40-minute cut of the piece forces you to get to the heart of the show, to figure out what really matters in each scene and get rid of everything else. When we went back to the full script, we wanted to keep that momentum and focus – get rid of extra complications, cut the chit chat and get to the emotion and the conflict.  As much as we may enjoy a page long conversation about the retrosynthetic analysis of haplophytine, it's not the chemistry people come to the theater for... though Curtis will perform it for you if you ask him nicely.

What has changed with the show since the Festival? 
Our Festival experience confirmed what we'd been feeling since our readings at TheatreWorks Palo Alto. Since then we've been focusing on the first 20 minutes of the

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Finding the Right Director

A guest blog entry from Jennie Redling, writer of My Heart Is the Drum to be presented at this year's Festival of New Musicals.  

As a librettist and playwright, I've always considered rehearsals to be the most exciting part of a production. It's when the characters who have allowed me to hear and write their voices and passions and who have lived inside and beside me are suddenly before me—alive.

In terms of preparing for rehearsal, choosing a director is, for me, the most important part. This is a story about how we discovered a director who is an uncannily ideal match for our NAMT presentation of My Heart Is the Drum.

You need to know that for this show I had developed a major case of the jitters. I had become unusually attached to, and protective of, the characters I had been writing for our musical, especially the two lead girls: a tenderly naïve sixteen-year-old protagonist from Ghana and her equally innocent best friend of the same age. Could the universe deliver the special person in whose hands they would be safe and bloom?

When Branden [Huldeen, NAMT’s Festival Producing Director] presented our team with a list of possible directors to choose from, Stacey, Phillip and I set about learning as much as we could about them on the Internet. I can't remember in what order I reviewed the various (fine and highly reputable) directors, I only know (thank you, PBS Video) that the smiling image of