Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Work in Progress: FIELD HOCKEY HOT

Last month, we checked in with Kate Galvin, Associate Producer and General Manager at 11th Hour Theatre Company, as she told us about their brand new musical, Field Hockey Hot.

Field Hockey Hot is a smart and entertaining new satire about a high school girls’ field hockey team, their ambitious coach and America’s favorite pastime…winning! When Applebee Academy’s star goalie is injured two weeks before the championship, Coach Shipley Barnes will stop at nothing to win the North American title. It's a hilarious and zany comedy featuring a pop score inspired by iconic musicians of the 1980s and a world where field hockey rules all!

How did Field Hockey Hot find its way to 11th Hour? 
Writer/Composer Michael Ogborn had come to see our 2008 production of Reefer Madness and it just clicked! Michael has an outrageous sense of humor and he'd been kicking around an idea about field hockey and female athletes (those hot, tough, unapproachable girls from high school) but the show hadn't taken shape for him yet.  When he saw our version of Reefer, the style and performances and musical drive matched what he wanted Field Hockey Hot to be. He knew then that he wanted 11th Hour to produce this show.

What attracted you and the rest of 11th Hour to the show originally?  
We love Michael's work and we also love him. Although he may be unknown to many of the NAMT members, Michael's work is beloved in Philadelphia;  he's been produced by 1812 Productions, the Arden Theatre Company and People's Light and Theater, where he has written many British-style Pantos for the holidays. So we were honored that he wanted to work with us. And we couldn't stop laughing when he pitched us the show! Michael sat down at a piano and talked us through the basic story, playing a little bit of the songs and stepping in to each character. He's a master; we were rolling!

Festival Show Update: THE SANDMAN

Last month, we caught up with alumni Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor about the development of their 2013 Festival show, The Sandman, with Playing Pretend and their upcoming production in Denmark.
Drawn from the more nightmarish fantasy of E.T.A. Hoffmann, author of The Nutcracker, comes a new and darkly comic musical tale: The Sandman.  When Maria, the wife of an ingenious German clockmaker named Albert Strauss engages a new nanny, Fraulein Kaeseschweiss, to care for the two children, Nathaniel and Theresa, a series of bizarre and unnatural events begins to unfold.  As Theresa falls mysteriously ill, a flamboyant and unconventional physician, Dr. Copelius, is summoned upon the nanny's recommendation. The doctor comes with a young ward in tow, Clara Stahlbaum, recently orphaned after her entire family was incinerated in an inexplicable Christmas tree fire.  And as the Strauss family is thrust ever deeper into chaos, the sinister and Machiavellian forces at play are gradually revealedforces from which only the children may be able to save them.

What was the feedback like after you presented at the Festival?  
The feedback immediately following the presentations was very strong.  This included members approaching us directly after the performances and at the followup "meet the authors" events.  There were certainly a lot of questions about how the story ended, the true "fear factor" and the appropriateness of the material for various age groups.  From our point of view this was a perfect response because it meant we had used the presentation to introduce the material, but not give the whole thing away and to make people curious about whether or not the show was right for their theater.  It seems to us that the best thing an author can do is to present an excerpt that makes the members want to read and listen to the complete work.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Festival Show Update: BLOODSONG OF LOVE

Last month, we caught up with alumnus Joe Iconis as he prepared his 2011 Festival show, Bloodsong of Love, for a new immersive presentation at 54 Below on October 20.  

A wild musical theater interpretation of the Spaghetti Western film genre.   It follows the story of a wandering guitarist, known only as The Musician, on a journey to reclaim his bride from the evil clutches of Lo Cocodrilo.  Raucous, heartfelt and hilarious, Bloodsong is a raging battle cry for those who believe in art and love and sticking together.

What was the response to Bloodsong of Love after the Festival? 
It was really encouraging to hear the positive reactions of audiences and NAMT members. I met a rather large bearded man in the lobby of New World Stages and he said it was pretty good, so that was nice.

What did you learn from the Festival process and what changes have been made to the show since? 
By cutting down the show to a 45-minute preview, it helped us see what the most “important” moments were in a very clear way. When you’ve got to encapsulate an entire musical in a third of its own running time, songs you thought defined your entire piece suddenly seem less essential. It was a great exercise in forcing myself to be un-precious about my own work. I’ve done a ton of script work since then, and I think that’s it’s not only different but better.

The thing that has always been special about the show is that it is versatile in the ways that it can be presented. Was that intentional from its creation or something that evolved with the piece?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Stu for Silverton’s Peter Duchan paints us a portrait of an artist as a (rightfully)
neurotic man as he prepares, worries through, and survives his first rehearsal

First Rehearsal - A Neurotic's Schedule
7:44am. I give up on sleep and climb out of bed. Our first rehearsal for Stu for Silverton is today at 11:00am. I check the clock. Three hours stretch before me. I will do my best fill it with anxiety. But the problem with the first rehearsal is that nothing's actually happened yet. There's nothing concrete to be stressed about. I don’t let this deter me; I can invent something.

8:10am. A watched bagel doesn't toast, so I distract myself with fear fantasies about rehearsal while I wait for breakfast. We've created a forty-five minute cut especially for the NAMT Festival, so today will be my first time hearing this version of the script read aloud. It will be the actors’ first time hearing it aloud as well. What if they don't like it? That's nonsense, Peter: they wouldn't have agreed to be in it if they hated the material. But what if

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Casting for the Festival

As their show “graduates” from Southern California to New York City, Mary Marie bookwriter and lyricist Chana Wise sweetly reflects on how it felt to be greeted by a fresh new group of
actors and singers who will breathe new life into their musical.

So, we’ve made it into the NAMT Festival. We’ve got an amazing director and musical director, we’ve sweated over cutting our piece to the required 45-minutes, and now—casting!

Truth be told, almost from the first moment I put fingertips to keyboard in the creation of Mary Marie I was able to hear the voices of the characters coming from the mouths of specific actors; friends who had agreed to help us develop the show. They got us through the teething, crawling, first steps, dare I say potty training, and eventually the adolescent stage of the show, and we have been so fortunate that these actors stayed with us through the whole development process, which included five or six staged readings. Not only had they become entrenched in the work, but we all

Monday, October 20, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Writing my First Musical

We kick off Festival week with Sarah Hammond’s delightful reflections on what
inspired her to transition from playwright to bookwriter of this year’s Festival show, String!

I came to New York as a playwright, but I'm like most theater kids from the farflung suburbs of America: I grew up on musicals. At 9, I was choreographing dances for "If Momma Was Married" to be performed on roller skates at the bottom of our cul de sac. I grew up singing Aladdin in the carpool, playing munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and from 5th through 8th grade, cast myself as Little Red for school talent shows, in which I sang in a dress my grandma made. What a geek!  I had an aquablue tie-dye JC Superstar tee-shirt, in the bible-thumping South, and I remember insisting earnestly, "it's not a church shirt, it's a theater shirt, it is a show, a musical, and it is by Andrew Lloyd Weber." Geek.

Then in college, I discovered Falsettos and Hello Again, and while I wrote plays in South Carolina and then Iowa, I secretly loved these great ruthless musicals created by faraway people. In shows like these, singing's like breathing. Like there's no other way to exist except in music. It's tumultuous and it's funny and it's the best thing there is. But I loved all that in secret. I never knew any musical theatre writers till I got to New York in 2006, and when I got here, one of the first people I met was Adam Gwon, which turned out to be a pretty lucky break. Adam loves playwrights, and I love musicals, so... crazily, we decided to

Friday, October 17, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Returning to the Festival

With less than a week until the Festival, How to Break bookwriter/lyricist and Festival Alum Aaron Jafferis reminisces about his successes and memories (albeit sporadic)
since the 2007 Festival, and why returning to the Festival proves to be an important step in the development of his latest project.

Along with Rebecca Hart and Yako 440, I’m one of the authors of How to Break, a hip-hop musical about being ill, that will be showcased at this year’s Festival.

I’m pretty sure my and Ian Williams’ show Kingdom was in the NAMT festival 2007. Though I have no memory of the year 2007, I have evidence that it worked out well, since many of the contacts in my “theatre industry” Excel spreadsheet say “NAMT 07.” I also know that it was at the NAMT festival where folks from The Old Globe first got interested in Kingdom, which is what led to our first production, first agent, first improper liaison with a cast member, etc.

(Note: that last “first” is in dispute, thanks to differing definitions of words like “improper” and

Thursday, October 9, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Creating a 45-minute Cut of our Show

The 2014 NAMT Festival is just TWO WEEKS AWAY, and today we have Cubamor bookwriter and lyricist James Sasser giving us a special video blog capturing, in "real" time, his process of creating a 45-minute version of his musical to showcase at New World Stages.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Preparing Orchestrations and Arrangements

As we get closer to the Festival, Mary Marie composer Carl Johnson reflects on the daunting task of preparing musical arrangements for his Festival presentation, as
well as the challenges and great rewards of live performance.

I’ve been working on orchestrating the music for our show Mary Marie for the Festival, and have been pondering the differences between writing for live theater and writing for film and television. It seems almost as if it’s the difference between planning for a worst-case or a best-case scenario!

In studio recording you plan for a best-case scenario in terms of the performance you get out of the musicians. The recording studio is temperature-controlled, the lighting is optimized for reading, there are a variety of microphones set up around the instruments so that every nuance of their playing can be captured without the musician having to overplay or hold back. Even the catering and bathroom-break schedule is designed to put the players in the best frame of mind to play perfectly.

In a live situation, you never know what the players are going to encounter! Even the best-

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


This month, we check in with Donna Lynn Hilton, Line Producer at Goodspeed Musicals, as they start rehearsals for the world premiere of Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, based on the classic movie!

Happy holidays! Check into the tuneful world-premiere musical about a Connecticut farmhouse transformed into a jubilant nightspot—but only on holidays. From Valentine's Day to the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving to Christmas, expect a cornucopia of hit songs by Irving Berlin in a dance-dizzy romance based on the classic film that first starred Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. Raise a glass of cheer to "Happy Holiday," "Easter Parade," "Be Careful, It's My Heart" and more of the world's greatest show tunes.

Who had the initial idea to turn Holiday Inn into a stage show and what was that impulse? 
Universal Stage Productions launched the initial process of turning the beloved film “Holiday Inn” into the stage musical Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn.  Universal has a thriving development arm led by Chris Herzberger.  Chris came out of the regional theatre in Chicago and values our place in the development of new work.  Under Chris's leadership, Universal is working with partners across the country on developing their catalogue and Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn will be one of the first to make it to full production.

What is Goodspeed's relationship with Universal pictures through this process?  
Universal and Chris Herzberger have been truly wonderful partners and colleagues throughout this process. Universal brought writers Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge on board to begin developing the adaptation of “Holiday Inn” in 2012.  Goodspeed has developed several projects with Gordon as either bookwriter or director (or both!) and he suggested to Chris that Goodspeed was a natural fit as the first home of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn.  From our very first conversation at the NAMT conference in the fall of 2012, it was clear that Chris and I shared a love of this film and a vision for bringing it to life on the stage. Universal led the charge in the early stages of development working closely with the Irving Berlin Music Company, but Goodspeed's early commitment to producing the show on the Opera House stage in the fall of 2014 was a critical piece of the plan from Universal's perspective. Once the major players committed to the project, work moved very quickly. Chris and I have worked for about a year with Gordon and Chad to bring the script to the point where we are excited to begin rehearsal this week—in fact, I am writing this in the afterglow of the read-through on our first day of rehearsal.  Goodspeed suggested Sam Davis as vocal and dance arranger for the project and that has proven to be a brilliant choice—if we say so ourselves!  And we worked together with Universal to identify the remainder of the creative team.  Honestly, Goodspeed and Universal have been on the same page about this project at every turn.

 Why does Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn fit well with Goodspeed and the Opera House audience?  

Festival Show Update: MY HEART IS THE DRUM

This month, we check in on 2013 Festival show My Heart is The Drum and its authors Stacey Luftig, Phillip Palmer and Jennie Redling on their recent reading at NAMT Member The Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA and their upcoming production at NAMT Member Kent State University.

My Heart Is the Drum is a big musical set in West Africa with a driving, African-influenced score. It is about Efua Kuti, a 16-year-old girl who aches to leave behind her stifling, poverty-struck village to become a teacher, and Edward Adu, a traditional farmhand who is in love with her. Inspired by the spirit of her grandmother, Efua runs away to the city of Accra to attend the university, but on arrival gets abducted into prostitution. Edward sets out to find her. Efua has always been able to draw on her cunning to solve her problems, but will she escape these most desperate circumstances? And if Edward finds her, will he still love her now that she has been “disgraced?” At its core, the musical is about finding the inner strength to achieve your goals and create social change.​
What was feedback like for your show after you presented in our Festival?
Mainly, people told us they wanted to know what will happen to Efua, our heroine, in Act II. We took that as a good sign.

You had the opportunity to bring the show to Goodspeed’s Johnny Mercer Writers Colony this winter.  What did you work on during that time in snowy Connecticut? 
First, we went through the script and pinpointed the scenes, lyrics and music that we had always labelled "good enough for now" and that we'd fix "later." Our time at Goodspeed was our "later."
We also focused on two pivotal moments for Efua, one in Act I, one in Act II. We all feel very passionately about her, and it took several passes—including one serious crash and burn—before we found the monologue in Act I, and the completely unexpected song in Act II, that we all felt to be "effortlessly" right.

This month at Village Theatre, you had your first ever reading of the full show.  What was it like to finally hear the whole show aloud in front of a public audience? 
Thrilling and gratifying.  After so many years since its start at the BMI workshop, we could see that we had a full, working show and one that moved people. The audience also responded strongly to the script's humor. For the songs, they not only clapped, but cheered for most of them and scene moments also drew applause.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Cutting Down Your Show

We kick off this year's Festival season with our first Festival Countdown Blog!  In this
entry, Duane Poole, bookwriter of Beautiful Poison, gives us insight on how to prepare the 45-minute cut of the show for the Festival.

So we get the news that we made the cut.  (By “we” I mean composer Brendan Milburn, lyricist Valerie Vigoda, and bookwriter me.)  Our “Beautiful Poison” is in this year’s NAMT Festival!  The thrill of the announcement is still fresh when we realize we have yet another cut to make -- bringing our two-hour musical down to a strict forty-five minutes for the presentation.

Okay, this shouldn’t be a problem.  As both a writer and producer, I’ve done this sort of thing countless times over the years.  But there seems to be extra pressure on this particular cut. Perhaps it’s knowing who might be in our audiences this October.  What can we show these theatre insiders in that abbreviated time that will truly represent the variety of music, the twists of plot, and the richness of character we three have worked so hard to create?

We briefly consider using a narrator to present the entire musical, speeding past plot points

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Work in Progress: THE MAX FACTOR FACTOR

This month, we check in with Elise Dewsberry, Artistic Director at New Musicals Inc. as she tells us about the reason for their new name and tells us about their brand new musical, The Max Factor Factor. 

It’s 1936; the golden age of Hollywood, and two rival movie studios are in a heated battle for survival when their opposing leading men fall in love. Reminiscent of screwball comedies of the past, this new musical takes place in a world of artifice, backstabbing, lavender weddings, double-crossing starlets, and a moral crusader from the Legion of Rectitude, making it increasingly more difficult for the leading men to hold on to the one real thing each has ever found.  It’s funny, charming, romantic, happily nostalgic, and very tuneful.

Before we dive in to the show, Academy for NewMusical Theatre recently rebranded as New Musicals Inc.  Tell us a bit about the motivation behind the change and what this means for the company. 
This is actually our second name change:  for 30 years, we were the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, focusing entirely on writers.
But in 2002, we added workshops for actors and producers, and felt we needed a new name to reflect the larger vision.  Since THAT time, we have expanded our mission to include public performances, concerts, and production.  That expansion has been very successful, giving us national presence, national partners with producers and theatre companies, and so we felt the need to make a distinction between our academic programs and our professional production and development branches.  We wanted a name that would characterize us as a professional organization with ties to the commercial producing world, that also runs a school.  So..."New Musicals Inc."
(We will still be running our academic division under the name "Academy for New Musical Theatre," as a program at NMI.)

This show was born out of your workshop/reading process. Tell us a bit about how NMI helps develop shows. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Work in Progress: NINE WIVES

An interview with John Simpkins, Artistic Director of SharonPlayhouse, about their upcoming production of Nine Wives with music and lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen (Barnstormer, Fest '08; Glimmerglass, Fest '00; The Gig, Fest '94) and book and lyrics by Dan Elish.

Based on the novel Nine Wives by Dan Elish, this new musical tells the story of Henry Mann, a 32-year-old bachelor who discovers that the love of his life has met someone new and is about to get married. What's worse, he's been invited to her wedding! What follows are Henry's frantic attempts to find a woman he can take as his date – a potential future wife – to prove to his ex-fiancée (and the world) that he too is ready to move on.
How did Nine Wives find its way to Sharon Playhouse?
I had seen a reading of the show a few years ago and really enjoyed it. It had always been on my radar – and then Jayson Raitt, one of the producers on the show, approached me and wondered if it might be a nice fit for Sharon. I had worked with Dan Elish before…and I’ve admired Doug Cohen’s work for years. It seemed like a great fit to join their team. They had done quite a bit of really good work on the story since I had seen the reading and we had a terrific meeting about the things they wanted to accomplish with a developmental production in Sharon.
What drew you to this story?
I have a tendency to really fall for stories about the everyman. The protagonist, Henry, is one of those people who rarely shows up in musicals. He is, as he describes himself “a perfectly acceptable athlete, an excellent musician, passably good-looking, and disease free.” He just happens, like many people, to not be able to find someone with whom he clicks enough to have a real relationship. I tend to connect as a human with characters who are in the kind of turmoil that regular people experience in their life.   

Why is the show a good fit for your mission and audience? 

Festival Show Update: THE CIRCUS IN WINTER

This month, we check in with Ben Clark, composer and lyricist of 2012 Festival show The Circus in Winter, as he prepares for its premiere this October at Goodspeed Musicals. 

Meeting an elephant can change a man’s life. The Circus in Winter is a folk/rock musical inspired by the novel by Cathy Day, where legend and lore collide under the big top filled with disheveled hustlers, death-defying acrobats and a dreamer named Wallace Porter searching for redemption and grace. 

A lot has been happening with the show since it was in the Festival. The biggest change is that Hunter Foster (Summer of '42, Fest '99) has joined the team as a bookwriter. Why did you bring on a bookwriter and what drew you and the rest of the team to Hunter? 
Bringing Hunter on is a huge plus for us. We chose Hunter because we feel he can take the feel and spirit of the score, as well as the language of the source material, to give the piece a unified voice. Within the conversations about our first professional run, he agreed with a lot of feelings we had moving forward in regards to creative team, and was able to open some doors to benefit our creative process.

You've also made some changes to the score and story. What changes are you most excited about?

Monday, June 9, 2014

New Work in Progress: PLAY IT BY HEART

An interview with Kevin Moore, Producing Artistic Director of The Human Race Theatre Company, about their upcoming production of Play It By Heart with a book by Brian Yorkey (Making Tracks, NAMT Fest '01), music by David Spangler and Jerry Taylor, and lyrics by Spangler, Taylor and R.T. Robinson.

As a teenager, she became the breakout star of the Jasper Family Singers. Now, Jeannine Jasper is the “Queen of County Music,” but she has hopes of getting off the road and having a life. After a concert, a long lost love appears and they discover the spark is still there. But their “history” could be her undoing. Her record label has been purchased by a Dubai businessman who has his own plans for her career, and her rebel, younger sister is always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Family secrets are revealed to the sweet sounds of old and new country in this quintessential story of a family.
Play It By Heart was originally produced out at The Village Theatre. How did it find its way to Dayton, Ohio?
It actually came to us from one of the writers, David Spangler. After their production at the Village Theatre in 2005, the writers all went off to work on other projects. Brian Yorkey had this little show brewing called Next to Normal. In 2006, we workshopped the musical Nefertiti by David Spangler and Rick Gore. We stayed great friends and in 2009 he told me about Play It By Heart, and that the writers all wanted to get back to it. I read it, listened and was hooked. I offered them a residency – brought them in and gave them a space to live, work and gave them actors to play with. That was Fall, 2009. In the summer of 2010, we did a full workshop. Our audience loved it. Over and over I heard, “I’m usually not a country music fan, but I really liked this music and this show.” 
You presented a reading of the show last year in your Festival and clearly must have gone over very well. What work have the writers put in on the show since then?
Based upon our workshop experience that incorporated new material and plot ideas, the writers and I identified certain story lines that needed to be clarified, songs that needed to be replaced, and development of some of the new ideas that didn't have enough time to fully ferment during our workshop. Brian, David and Jerry have been working on both the book and the score and are working to deliver our starting materials. We have engaged a music director/arranger who will refresh the old score and make it more “actor friendly,” as well as prepare the new material and orchestrations.
Why is the show a good fit for your season and your audience? 

Festival Show Update: ELMER GANTRY

This month, we check in on Elmer Gantry from our 1993 Festival of New Musicals as it prepares for its upcoming revised production at Virginia's Signature Theatre. Composer Mel Marvin has been hard at work preparing the show for this next step.  

Elmer Gantry is a musical with a country-pop-gospel score, set in the Depression-era Midwest. The title character is a down-on-his-luck former minister whose life as a traveling salesman takes an unexpected turn when he walks into the tent of Sister Sharon Falconer, a beautiful and charismatic woman evangelist. Joining her troupe, he's soon preaching again and using his entrepreneurial instincts to make the troupe so successful, it's invited to play Zenith, the biggest city in the Midwest. He also becomes Sharon's lover. Their success in Zenith leads to opportunity, intrigue, tragedy and reaffirmation of Americans' ability to deal with their circumstances and get on with their lives. The musical is adapted from the novel by Nobel Prize-winner Sinclair Lewis.

The original version of the show appeared in our 1993 Festival, having been originally commissioned by Ford’s Theatre and presented there in 1988. What was your Festival experience like back in 1993 and what kind of response did you get from your presentation of your show?  
There was a second production of the show in 1991, before we did it at NAMT, at La Jolla Theatre, directed by Des McAnuff. In 1993, we had a wonderful time at NAMT, and we felt the presentation was very successful. Several theaters showed interest. Frankie Hewitt, the producer of the show at Ford’s Theater in 1988, decided to revive the show at Ford’s in 1995 in a production directed by Michael Maggio. After that production, there was a New York City workshop in 1997, directed by James Lapine, and an outstanding production in 1998 at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theater in Chicago, directed by Eric Schaeffer.
It is rare for a show to be rediscovered so many years after it was first presented. Where did the idea for a new production come from? 
Eric Schaeffer, who has been a friend and promoter of Elmer Gantry since he directed it in 1998, always wanted to do another production of the show, and he called us to say he would like to make it part of the 25th Anniversary Season at the Signature Theatre in Arlington.

How much rewriting/reworking will there be of the script? 
Part of the renewed interest in Elmer Gantry is that there IS a rewrite. There are a substantial number of changes in Act 2, both in the book and in the songs. We believe this is the best version we've ever done, and we can’t wait to see it onstage. Several numbers have been reworked, and there are two entirely new songs. It has now been 15 years since the last production, and the new version has been waiting in the wings. Work is still going on and will be, from now through the rehearsal period. What could be better?
What are your hopes for this new production?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Work In Progress: DOG AND PONY

An interview with Barry Edelstein, Artistic Director of The Old Globe, about their upcoming premiere of Dog and Pony with a book by Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Michael Patrick Walker.

Mags and Andy are a screenwriting team with a track record of hits and a professional relationship that’s firing on all cylinders. But when Andy’s marriage hits the rocks, forever single Mags finds she wants something more. Will romance ruin their perfect relationship? A witty and irreverent look at what women want and whether men fit the bill...or don’t. 
How did Dog and Pony find its way to The Old Globe? 
The first thing I did when I was appointed Artistic Director was call a bunch of talented people I’m fortunate to count as friends. I asked them what they had cooking that might be in need of a home. One of the wonderful artists I called was the great Rick Elice. He told me about this musical he was writing with Michael Patrick Walker, a funny, witty and urbane piece about two screenwriters whose professional relationship is buffeted when romance enters the picture. I read it and listened to the score and was just beguiled by it. Another person I called was Roger Rees. I asked him what he had up his sleeve to direct, and he said, “Rick’s musical!” So the piece’s charms, plus the considerable charms of Rick and Roger, made me say, “I’m in!”
What about the show did you see as a good fit for The Old Globe and your audiences? 
I was looking for a small-scale musical for our Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, a 250-seat theatre in the round. San Diego has an incredible musical theatre audience, of course because of the reputations of the Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse for premiering these works, but also because the small theatre scene in town is rich in musical theatre talent. So Dog and Pony had it all: the right size and scope we were seeking, a winning tone, really terrific score and a group of artists who are top flight.
This is the first production for the show. What are some of the challenges for the team as they prepare to bring this show from the page to the stage?

Festival Show Update: ANALOG AND VINYL

Festival 2013 show Analog and Vinyl is jumping up to Vermont's Weston Playhouse this summer for its world premiere. This month we check in with the show's writer Paul Gordon about preparing for the musical's first production.  

Harrison is obsessed with LPs from the sixties and the superior quality of analog. Rodeo Girl, a quirky Silver Lake hipster, is obsessed with Harrison but he barely notices. With his vintage record store about to go under, Harrison and Rodeo Girl are visited by a mysterious customer who makes them a devilish offer they can't refuse.

What did you learn about Analog and Vinyl while preparing it for the Festival? 
Preparing for the Festival wasn't as much a learning experience as it was an "inspiring" experience. Once you know your show is going to be seen by an industry audience, it does strange things to the creative process. You start looking at the material with more fluid eyes. You start questioning and examining the material (all while trying to create a 45-minute presentation), and suddenly you begin asking yourself the serious dramaturgical questions of theme and character (that you had previously avoided) that are vital to the developmental process. One of the great gifts that came out of my preparation for the Festival was that I felt incentivized to write a new song for the lead character that helped to transform the show.

Your show only had readings leading up to the Festival and now is preparing for a world premiere this summer at Weston Playhouse. What has it been like to jump from reading to production without a workshop in between?  

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?