Friday, September 30, 2011

Party at the TBG

NYMF is in full swing, and I am trying to get out there to cover some of the shows that weren't covered in the NYMF 5-question interview series. The first two shows, however, on my NYMF itinerary were mentioned here before: Man of Rock and Crazy, Just Like Me -- both of which are running at the TBG Theater at 312 W 36th St. The shows are, as you can imagine, quite different in music style and content, but both are very charming, funny takes on love.

There's a quote from The SF Bay Guardian that describes Man of Rock as the "thinking man's Rock of Ages," and I totally agree. With great 80s tunes that channel the chart-toppers of the decade, the show captures the spirit of glam, larger-than-life rock without needing to use other people's songs. And while the concept of turning a Restoration Comedy into an 80s musical could have easily stuck to a one-trick gimmick, Man of Mode slipped pretty seamlessly into this retelling, creating a John Hughes-worthy romantic story of a womanizing rocker who fall in love with a Connecticut socialite. The voices on these performers were amazing, and I loved how each person really embodied a different kind of 80s rock star.

Crazy, Just Like Me is a little less rock, but with great contemporary music telling this modern-day love story, it creates a unique plot that I haven't seen on stage yet. Simple in its construct but complicated by its lovable characters, Crazy tells the story of a man who realizes, through therapy, that he is in love with his best friend. The thing I probably loved most about the show, however, is that instead of playing up the soapy drama that could come from this situation, it instead becomes a character study of 3 characters and their attempts to control their impulses: Simon trying to understand his feelings for Mike, Mike trying to deal with his fear of commitment to his girlfriend Lauren, and Lauren trying to stop herself from questioning she and Mike's relationship. It's enough to understand that we're all a little crazy, but that finding someone who understands that is the most important thing to work through it.

So check out either of these shows at the TBG Theater! And if you see anything particularly good at NYMF, feel free to share! Also, check back for some more coverage over the next week; very excited to share more about some of the great shows being featured this year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

5-Question NYMF Interviews:THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE! IN 3D!!!

For the last installment in our NYMF 5-question interview series, we're throwing some camp and B-movie humor into the mix with The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! In 3D!!! Written by Elizabeth Gelman and Tom Sivak, this story of Dr. Dick Cuttingham's obsession with furthering the field of science is sure to entertain. And what exactly does it mean for a musical to be in 3D? You'll have to wait until performances start on October 6th to see for yourself (buy tickets here), but in the meantime, Elizabeth and Tom answer our questions below.

(Kathy Voytko as Hedy in
The Brain That Wouldn't Die! In 3D!!!)

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Elizabeth Gelman and Tom Sivak: A singing head in a baking pan joins forces with a monster in the closet to stop a maniacal doctor from killing a beautiful ingénue – and hilarity ensues.

Me: What inspired The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! In 3D!!!?

Elizabeth and Tom: Tom was watching the movie (The Brain That Wouldn’t Die) on TV and was absolutely riveted. It was the worst movie he’d ever seen and yet – like watching a car accident – he couldn’t look away! And the characters were so compelling: a mad scientist, a head in a baking pan, a one-armed lab assistant, a Monster in the Closet. It was so ludicrous that it really spoke to our twisted sense of humor.

Me: What does it mean for a musical to be in 3D?

Elizabeth and Tom: The story takes place in the early 1960s, a time when 3-D was all the rage at the movies – just like now – and we have a lot of fun playing with that 1960’s 3-D concept. But only the climactic scene in our show is actually performed in 3D. The majority of it is actually performed in “2D” – and you’ll have to come see the show to see how that’s done!

Me: How would you describe The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! In 3D!!! musically?

Elizabeth and Tom: The heart of all the music in the show is 60s pop/rock, but the score is transmogrified by an infusion of B-Movie Horror Film Underscoring which has been transplanted to traditional musical theater conventions.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Elizabeth and Tom: Being a Next Link Project Selection has already had a big impact on the show through our work on the script with our director, Tim Drucker, and our dramaturge, Neal Freeman. We have such a fantastic cast and unbelievable creative team – and the staff at NYMF has been incredibly supportive.

This opportunity is really a dream come true.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5-Question NYMF Interviews: JUST LIKE MAGIC

We're changing things up a little in today's NYMF interview, as our questions for NYMF Special Event Just Like Magic (written by Ryan Mercy, Christopher W. Barnes, and Cameron Cole) are answered here by the show's star, Christopher T. Magician. Featuring a magic show gone wrong, Just Like Magic is sure to be a zany ride with real magic and puppets (including what I can already tell is one of my favorites, Sammy the Safety Donut). If you want a taste of the insanity, check out the show's mini webseries, Operation Sutton, in which Christopher T. Magician tries to convince Sutton Foster to come out to a NYMF performance as his date.

Even if you're not Sutton Foster, you can buy your ticket to one of Just Like Magic's 3 performances here. In the meantime, here's Christopher T. Magician...

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Christopher T. Magician: Hi! Christopher T. Magician here!

How would I describe my show Just Like Magic in one sentence?

A kid’s birthday party magic show gone horribly wrong!

Actually, that’s a sentence fragment. “A kid’s birthday party magic show gone horribly wrong” would be the direct object. Or it could possibly be the subject complement depending on whether the verb preceding it was of the action or linking variety. In any case, a complete sentence would definitely need some type of verb. And while we’re on the subject … a subject. So in conclusion, it’s really funny.

Me: What role does magic play in Just Like Magic?

Christopher T. Magician: Magic is the glue that holds Just Like Magic together. It’s like watching 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray. You’re watching, waiting and hoping for her to finally have her inevitable complete nervous breakdown on camera, but meanwhile, you get to enjoy seeing her cook food!

In Just Like Magic, Christopher T. Magician (that’s me, I often talk about myself in third person) and his puppet entourage have been hired to perform at a child’s birthday party, but the show takes a turn as Christopher suffers a complete mental breakdown in front of his young audience. Think Blue’s Clues meets Hedwig and the Angry Inch! And while you’re watching in anticipation to see the cracks finally explode, you get to enjoy some fun toe-tapping songs and super neato magic tricks!

Me: What is it like writing for puppets?

Christopher T. Magician: Writing for puppets is a lot like writing for yourself. Come to think of it, it’s literally like writing for yourself.

There is one perk for creating puppet dialogue. Puppets don’t complain when you make last minute script changes. They can be divas at times though. I once asked Sammy the Safety Donut to say, “Something seems strange since summer started.” But he insisted it was an insult to his speech impediment (Sammy suffers from a strong sibilant ‘s’ – or a shtrong shibilant ‘esh,’ as he would put it, but don’t tell him I said that).

Jojo the Dodo bird is more carefree. He never complains about the words I choose for him. Then again, he never reads the script. Or memorizes it. Or performs it at all as written.


Jojo’s a real a@%hole.

Me: Where did the idea for Operation Sutton come from, and what has it been like working on those videos?

Christopher T. Magician: Working on the Operation Sutton videos has been a total blast! But how did it all begin?

Allow me to set the scene:

There we were eating Chick-Fil-A at the Paramus Park Mall in Jersey.

Now that I have your attention…

We knew we wanted to make a small YouTube campaign for Just Like Magic, but what? We considered a “Road to NYMF” type documentary. Or a “Day in the Life of Christopher T. Magician” series. Or even an “Important Life Lessons Taught Through Magic” series, in which every lesson ended with Christopher’s eye popping out.

Having seen Anything Goes the previous night, the subject of Sutton Foster arose. The idea actually began as a mock smear campaign, implying that she can sing, dance, and act better than Christopher, so she better never even try doing magic or else.

We abandoned that idea due to our utmost respect and adoration of Ms. Foster (not to mention the possible creepiness of it and likely lawsuit from it).

In truth, my co-writers and I are all gigantic Sutton Foster fans. She is the only star on Broadway that I will go see in a show specifically because she is in it** (And I’m not just writing that on the off chance she might be reading this). She has every right to be a complete diva, but by all accounts she is easy-going, down-to-earth, and enjoyable to work with. Not to mention, she seems to have a wonderful sense of humor.

For all these reasons, we created Operation Sutton, a YouTube video series in which Christopher T. Magician asks Ms. Foster to be his date to the NYMF opening night party in many creative and hilarious ways that reflect the humor in our show Just Like Magic. (YouTube “Operation Sutton” to see for yourself).

Maybe if we can make her laugh hard enough, there might be a chance she will say yes. The jury is still out…

**Not including the cast of Most Likely to Die, our show we wrote that had its world premier at last year’s NYMF. We’d go see those guys in anything.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Christopher T. Magician: We are passionate about musical theatre, and NYC -- and the world for that matter -- is lucky to have NYMF to promote up-and-coming artists in the field to ensure that the art form continues to evolve and new voices are heard.

We are truly honored to be a part of those new voices for the second year in a row.

What we are looking forward to at this year’s NYMF? Making people laugh, putting on a really fun show, and the obvious next step … the Broadway! I’m talking to you, Sir Cameron Mackintosh!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

5-Question NYMF Interviews: GREENWOOD

Even if the end of summer is getting you down, you can relive some of those golden summer camp memories with the musical Greenwood. Telling the story of long lost friends who meet at a performing arts camp and are reunited years later, this heartfelt story was actually modeled after the writers' own experiences at French Woods. Some NYMF shows officially start today, but you can catch Greenwood starting October 6th (purchase tickets here). While you wait, read on to see what writers Adam LeBow and Tor Hyams had to say about the show.

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Adam LeBow and Tor Hyams: Greenwood is about reclaiming your past so you may forge a new future.

Me: What role did your own experiences as a summer performing arts camp play in the writing of Greenwood?

Adam: Everything. French Woods is the template for Camp Greenwood; the people we remember from camp became the models for our characters; and who we were when we were there inspired the show's themes. In short, our performing arts summer camp experiences sired the whole idea. That being said, we feel that everyone has a Greenwood inside of him or her. For us, it was a camp; but it could be anything. It's that most special time of youth when you were confident of your place in the world, when you felt connected, when you felt like you belonged. The message of Greenwood (we hope!) is that it is possible to regain the fire of exuberant youth, to recapture that spirit and energy and bring it with us as we move forward in our lives.

Tor: It sired the whole idea. It was the inspiration from which we drew on to create characters (almost everyone in the show is based on someone we knew at camp). Mostly, though, it was the very recollection of those special summers we spent at French Woods that inspired the concept that it is possible to regain the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed feeling of exuberant youth and reclaim that elan as we move forward in our lives.

Me: How would you describe Greenwood musically?

Adam and Tor: It's a mix of rock and pop with a touch of "contemporary musical theater thrown in." The musical influences of our youth show up in our songs—The Beatles, The Who, Queen, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, etc., plus, of course, Sondheim. Always Sondheim!

Me: How did you decide to bring Greenwood to NYMF?

Adam: It was a difficult decision. NYMF tells us that we were very much liked by their adjudicators, but they weren't sure they had a venue for a show of our size. So we were one of the last to be notified! Though we were, naturally, thrilled to be invited, we had to weigh all the pros and cons before we said yes—it meant a ton of work in a very short time. Ultimately, we decided to participate because we felt that we could indeed pull off the right presentation for the festival. Our director, Paul Stancato—along with our amazing cast and the creative, design, tech, and production team—is accomplishing miracles!

Tor: Though we were thrilled to be invited, Adam and I weighed all the pros and cons before we pulled the trigger, especially since it meant a ton of work in a very short time. Ultimately, we decided to participate because we thought we could pull off the right presentation for the festival. It ain't the Broadway version, but it is world's further than it ever has been.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Adam: Seeing Greenwood up on its feet! In Los Angeles—where Greenwood's first two drafts were written—we did two table readings and a concert reading. The NYMF production will be the first time we will be seeing Greenwood played out in a fully realized form... a moment we've been dreaming of for two and a half years! Judging from what we've seen in rehearsals, it will be a dream come true indeed!

Tor: We've had table reads and a concert reading, but I've been dreaming about seeing Greewnood play out in this way. The work our director, Paul Stancato, has done is amazing. Can't wait!

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

5-Question NYMF Interviews: MAN OF ROCK

Are you ready to rock? NYMF performances kick off tomorrow, and one of the show starting their production September 26th is Man of Rock (book and lyrics by Daniel Heath; music by Kenneth Flagg), an 80s-inspired rock comedy that is also based on Restoration comedy The Man of Mode. Featuring a down-and-out protagonist who is a lead singer of 80s rock band Silverwolf determined to get his groove back, you know chaos is sure to ensue with a rival band, love interest, and, of course, music. Buy your tickets here, and read on to see what Daniel Heath had to say about the show.

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Daniel Heath: It's a rock'n'roll musical (based on a Restoration comedy of manners) that is about the quest for true love and true rock in the 1980s.

Me: How did a Restoration comedy inspire a rock musical?

Daniel: How can you tell when someone really loves you? That's a central question in Man of Mode, as the womanizing protagonist churns through three different lovers in the course of a few days. That set of plots and themes transferred directly over to Man of Rock. How is Antoinette supposed to trust that Dorimant really loves her when she's watched him lie to two other women?

Man of Mode had a second parallel theme--how do you know who is truly witty, and who is a fop? In Man of Rock, that parallel way of addressing the broader question of authenticity is mapped onto hair rock--who is the true rock god, and who is just a poser?

That passionate striving for authenticity--and at the same time an obsession with a very stylized surface (e.g., the huge hair in both 1676 and 1986)--connected the two time periods for me. Also, both periods had some interesting gender-bending going on (e.g., male courtiers wore elaborate wigs and make-up during the restoration, while in the 80's hyper-masculine hair-rock singers wore mascara and lip gloss while singing crude songs about banging chicks). In addition, a lot of the action in Man of Mode takes place at the High Mall, and nothing says '80s like a mall.

I tried to take the spirit of the original, with its humor, complex relationships, and witty dialogue, and map it onto a story and characters that would produce a parallel experience for a contemporary audience. That required some plot changes. For one thing, the original is pretty misogynist by contemporary standards, so I had to make some changes to make it fun for me to write, for my actors to act, and for a contemporary audience to watch--but without defanging it completely or losing the things that make the plot work.

Me: Coming from playwriting and songwriting (but not necessarily musical theatre) backgrounds, what was the process like of writing a musical?

Daniel: When I originally started the script, the music was much more secondary; I wasn't even sure there were going to be original songs. I wrote the lyrics to the first song ("Come Down Angel") almost as an exercise. But when my composer Ken Flagg took the lyrics and created this amazing fake 80's song around them, I couldn't stop listening to it--I think I was grinning like an idiot for a week. And as I started to work the songs into the play, I found that I was able to express some emotional and character beats through music more powerfully, and I just love the energetic lift it brings to the show when one of Ken's shredding songs starts up. Now, the songs are completely integral to the show. And even though the songs all take place within the world of the play (that is, characters don't just break into song... all the characters are in bands and during the course of the play those bands play shows), they have major plot/character payoffs like an ordinary musical--and you can really feel the lack of them at a table read.

Me: What has the process been like bringing the show to New York?

Daniel: A crazy, beautiful theatrical tornado. We were able to bring a couple of our amazing original cast from our San Francisco production out with us (Danielle Levin and Lance Gardner), and we filled in the rest of the cast with an outrageously talented team of NY actors (Nick Cordero, Lisa Birnbaum, J. Michael Zygo, and Vanessa Reseland). We've assembled a local production/design team that includes some NYMF veterans (Samantha Saltzman our assistant director and Chris Studley our lighting designer) and some NY-based folks whose work we've seen in San Francisco (set designer Drew Boyce) and other folks who we just recruited for this project (like our music director Karen Dyer and stage manager Heather Arnson).

Theater is always collaborative, and you're always reliant on a large number of other people doing their jobs extremely well. A cross-country production just makes that doubly true--we've been relying very heavily on our local team to know what they're doing, and people have done great work.

For me, it's also just a blast to have a chance to spend five weeks living and working in your city.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Daniel: You're a playwright, too, so I don't have to tell you how much fun it is (and how much you learn) watching a talented cast rehearse and then eventually perform your piece. I hope the show is great, I hope people love it, I very much hope it goes on to further life after this. But I think what I am looking forward to (and already enjoying) most about NYMF is the practice of making theater. I'm a playwright b/c I ****ing love the being involved in the process of making theater and I love the results--and it's great to get the chance to do it here.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: OUTLAWS

Outlaws is a rock musical about one of the most legendary outlaws of all -- Billy the Kid. Going beyond the Hollywood portrayal of cowboys on the range, this musical explores themes of violence and masculinity through the eyes of teenage bandits. The show kicks off on Monday, Sept 26th, and you can get your tickets here. In the meantime, writers Alastair William King and Perry Liu, who originally conceived the show (the book was also written with Joe Calarco), take the time to answer questions about their show.

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Alastair William King: An edgy rock musical that spins a tale of youth and friendship, fame and violence in America.

Perry Liu: It’s a rock musical that uses the iconic legend of Billy the Kid to address issues that teenage boys are still dealing with today.

Me: What was it like tackling such an iconic character and legend like Billy the Kid?

Alastair: Initially very challenging as so much has been written and said about him. We wanted to reveal the Billy behind the myth.

Perry: The history of Billy the Kid is fascinating. But one of our first revelations while researching was discovering how the “Wild West” was not the honorable showdown or the obvious good against bad that was portrayed in so many Hollywood movies. The ‘West’ was a brutal deadly and dog eat dog existence. That was when we decided we wanted to play with many reveals. The boy behind the myth, the reasons we raise our boys to be tough and keep their feelings inside, why are we obsessed with violence and guns and so on. Billy the Kid is still a popular legend because, sadly, these are issues that we are still dealing with today. So we thought we’d thought we’d deconstruct the “West” and our Billy the Kid.

Me: How did you decide on a rock musical?

Alastair: As we know the west at that time was wild and lawless and so rock music was an allegory for this.

Perry: Rock music is the epitome of lawlessness but it also captures the youth of Billy and his gang.

And we wanted this kind of allegory to be woven through out the show. So the dialogue has a contemporary feel, as do the costumes and the sets. We tried to create our own 1880s west from the mind of teenager so we tried to find the elements that existed in both times that could live together. The story told from their perspective so we wanted to use elements that reflected how they see the world.

We tried a more musical theatre sound early on but we were more successful with rock. I think it’s because that’s what we grew up on.

Me: What has the development process been like leading up to this NYMF production?

Alastair: It has been very exciting to be working with such talented people and to be given such help and guidance along the way.

Perry: Yes, all of the shows in the festival have been given Dramaturgs and it’s really great having a third set of eyes with a playwriting background to help hone your work.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Alastair: Just being part of a festival which has gained such acclaim and to know that our show made it there.

Perry: I’m just grateful to see our work staged and on it’s feet! That’s why we write, right? You can’t predict whether it’s going to be successful or become a hit but you do want to see it staged, see it come to life. I’m going to feel as if I went full circle, I had an idea, wrote it down, got it staged. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: DATE OF A LIFETIME

I first had the pleasure of learning about Date of a Liftetime (books and lyrics by Carl Kissin, music by Rob Baumgartner Jr.) when I saw a reading for the show at Davenport Theatricals about a year ago. A wild and funny romp that explores all the possibilities of the first date, this musical is a charming and fun look at relationships -- even ones that haven't happened yet. I have mentioned Rob's awesome music on the blog before, and Carl's book and lyrics are full of great comic moments and interesting characters. Buy your tickets here, and read on to hear what Carl and Rob have to say about the show.

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Rob Baumgarter Jr.: Date of a Lifetime is about spinning a fantasy future with a new love interest.

Carl Kissin: 1 Date. 8 Minutes. 2 Lifetimes. (Okay, that’s actually three sentence fragments, but they’re very short….)

Me: What changes can we expect since the Davenport Theatricals reading?

Rob: The Davenport Theatricals reading was extremely helpful in providing very organized feedback. The crew at Davenport organized the comments in an Excel-style spreadsheet which showed where most of the audience was on board and (more importantly) the places in the show that needed changes or clarification. This made it very easy to focus our rewrites. The biggest change is giving Katie (the female love interest) more of an overt voice in Marvin’s fantasy (Act I of the show).

Carl: We spent some time developing the third act, hashing out what actually happens when the characters interact in real time. It wasn’t until we started developing Date of a Lifetime for a reading with Davenport Theatrical that we started to realize that this show could be as touching as it was funny. Sometimes, truly touching moments can be funny, and vice-versa. Ultimately, Date of a Lifetime is about love. And, let’s face it - in practice, love is about as hilarious/crazy/ridiculous as it gets. It’s also heart-wrenching and sometimes scary. We want to celebrate all of that with our audience.

Me: Date of a Lifetime has extended fantasy sequences. How are they being staged/interpreted for this production?

Carl: We can’t divulge too much. We do know that the environment we’re creating, both through set design and staging, will be full of surprises, and will enable to actors to explore both reality and fantasy worlds with lots of creativity.

Rob: The conceit of the show is that is each character projects a future onto the relationship, both actors play scenes from this ‘future.’ The specific fantasy sequences are being staged in as many ways as creativity will allow, but always grounded in the idea that they are a projection of one of the characters, and not necessarily reality.

Me: I loved the role music played in conversation with the two characters in the show. What role would you say the music plays in Date of a Lifetime?

Rob: One of my favorite things about Date of a Lifetime is how unassuming and self-effacing the characters are. For me, the songs add an extra layer of heart and honesty to the self-consciousness these characters sometimes feel. I think there is something beautifully innocent and fundamentally brave about two people on a first date. I tried to capture that mix of fear, hope and bravery in the music.

Carl: These characters are very creative and visionary, and we like to think that the music elevates the fantasy sequences to a more heightened dramatic level, while also allowing the audience connect to it with greater understanding and appreciation. (Also, our performers are insanely talented singers, so we like that our music allows them to show off their chops.)

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Rob: Sitting in your apartment or at the coffee shop working on a show can be a very isolating experience. But the big, amazing pay-off is how many people you get to interact with when you are lucky enough to take a show to the next level. I’m excited to be working with a bunch of new people, and I’m excited to hear people laugh!

Carl: I love seeing a great director and actors take my writing and make it funnier, sexier, and more poignant. I think Jeremy Dobrish, Farah Alvin, and Jamie LaVerdiere are brilliant. They surprise and delight me at every turn. I also look forward to misting up like a big wussy in front of my producer Liz Ulmer on opening night, when I tell her how much I appreciate her tireless dedication to this project. Without her, there is no show, just a crazy writer sitting at his computer, not knowing what to do next. Lastly, but not leastly, I look forward to having my collaborator Rob Baumgartner's beautiful music floating around my head for the rest of my life.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


One of the most anticipated shows at NYMF this year has got to be Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, A Musical (by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs) -- after all, get Mr. Darcy involved and you have an instant following. Tackling the classic story of Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters, this adaptation also explores Jane Austen’s journey to create her famous novel in the first place. You can sample some of the music on their website and buy tickets here (beware, pretty much all performances are sold out), but you can also get your Austen fix below, where Lindsay and Amanda answer their 5 questions about the show.

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs: If you are asking for a synopsis in one sentence, we would say...

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, A Musical is a story about "First Impressions" and second chances.

If you are asking a more thematic question, our answer is ...

We would describe our show as full of love and joy!

Me: Pride and Prejudice is a pretty iconic novel (with a pretty hardcore fanbase -- some of my friends are Austenites and it’s amazing). What was your approach to adapting such a well-known story?

Lindsay and Amanda: It was important to us to remain true to the spirit of Jane Austen. Her novels are not only romantic, but also incredibly smart and witty. We've tried to capture all of those traits in the musical and to stay as true to her characters as possible. We also took advantage of organizations like the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) which are full of knowledgeable "Janeites". JASNA has been a wonderful resource for researching and learning more about the novel and the life and times of Jane Austen herself. It was also a member of JASNA who encouraged us to visit England. And we are so glad we took that advice! After a three week research trip in 2003, we were able to complete the first draft of the show, and it was there that we were inspired to make Jane Austen an actual character in the musical.

Me: To what extent does Jane Austen herself play a role in the show?

Lindsay and Amanda: She never leaves the stage. Because Jane Austen is reviewing and revising her work (into the story we now know as Pride and Prejudice), the story doesn't exist without her. So she is as much a part of the story occurring onstage as the "First Impressions" characters are.

Me: What has it been like working on the show here in New York?

Lindsay and Amanda: It's been an absolute joy! We have a FANTASTIC creative team, an experienced production team and the cast is absolutely wonderful! We could not have asked for a better experience, and we are both grinning from ear to ear. Our goal is to live every moment fully, and at the same time, we can't wait to get to rehearsal each day.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Lindsay and Amanda: To see (and hear!) the show come alive, and to have the opportunity for New York audiences and the industry to take a look at what P&P has to offer the world of musical theater.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: THE KID WHO WOULD BE POPE

The Kid Who Would Be Pope (by Tom Megan and Jack Megan) is the story of a young boy who attempts to become Pope to win the affection of his favorite nun. With a cast featuring some incredibly talented young actors (seriously, their bios make me feel inadequate), this is sure to be a charming hit. The show was recently featured on the website for Y Teen Magazine, and tickets to the NYMF run can be purchased here (Act soon, though! They're going fast!). Want to know more? Book writer/composer/lyricist Tom Megan answers our questions:

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Tom Megan: The Kid Who Would Be Pope is a new musical about an eleven year old boy who attempts to become Pope so that he can change the rules of the church and marry his favorite nun.

Me: Musically, how did you approach the story for The Kid Who Would Be Pope?

Tom: We have created an eclectic, accessible score that is of course dramatically integral to the story we are telling.

Me: What is it like writing for and working with young actors?

Tom: Having once in fact been a child, I was able to draw on that rich experience. But seriously, writing for younger actors is no different nor less demanding than writing for older actors. One tries to find the true voice of each character and then listen in rehearsals for mis-steps.

Me: What has the development process been like for the show (especially since the Creative Arts at Park production)?

Tom: We had a terrific opportunity to write a relatively fast first draft for Creative Arts at Park in Brookline, Massachusetts and to actually see it on its feet. The response was so positive and cross-generational that we began to think of the show as having a wider potential. We did a staged reading with adults and children in Boston which was again received well. But then the Church scandal broke and we put the show away. It was no longer fun or appropriate to be working on such an innocent story in this new painful context. But then as years passed, the piece seemed to acquire a new relevance and interest. At NYMF we have been working closely with our brilliant director Gabriel Barre and dramaturg Michael Cohen to explore the story more deeply. Our musical director Jeffrey Lodin has also been instrumental, if you'll pardon the pun. The result is we have done significant new writing and re-writing, composing.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Tom: I'm most looking forward to seeing the wonderful performances that are now evolving in rehearsals. Our cast startles me every day with their invention, precision and enormous heart.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: THIS ONE GIRL'S STORY

As the first performances of NYMF quickly approach, up next in the 5-question interview series comes This One Girl’s Story (by Dionne McClain-Freeney and Bil Wright), a musical based on the true story of Sakia Gunn who was a victim of a hate crime in 2003. Beginning as a fun story of four women out on the town, this powerful musical also confronts themes of identity and sex when an incident changes the course of these women’s night. The show starts performances on September 27th, and you can buy tickets here. In the meantime, here are 5 questions about This One Girl’s Story answered by book writer Bil Wright:

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Bil Wright: This One Girl’s Story is a celebration of everyone who has ever been “the other” and didn’t completely understand that they were deserving of being loved.

Me: Where did the inspiration to write This One Girl’s Story come from?

Bil: The story is inspired by a young woman named Sakia Gunn who was the victim of a hate crime in 2003. Reading about what a brave, vibrant young woman she was inspired me to loosely base This One Girl’s Story story on her. It’s not biographical as much as it is written out of love and admiration for her spirit and others like her such as Matthew Shepherd and Brandon Teena.

Me: This story is based on true events. What was it like adapting this story to the stage?

Bil: It was truly exhilarating because I didn’t try to tell the story of someone I didn’t know, but allowed her story to continue to inspire me to create characters that are also brave and funny and vulnerable. There are four women at the center of This One Girl’s Story who are all people you want to spend time with and I must say I love them all!

(Book Writer Bil Wright)

Me: What has the development process been like for this show?

Bil: We’ve had several readings and a short workshop that was really well received. I invited Aaron Glick to one of the readings and he fell in love with the show and the characters and has been a real guiding force for the show since then. He was the person who suggested that This One Girl’s Story would be perfect for NYMF.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Bil: Our cast for NYMF is brilliant and our director, Jeremy Dobrish and choreographer Tanisha Scott are so supportive and smart, the rehearsal room feels like we’re all preparing for a really important moment. I can’t wait for that energy to hit an audience! Dionne McClain Freeney’s music combined with the voices we have singing it will blow the roof off and I can’t wait to be there and be a part of it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: GHOSTLIGHT

If you’re looking for a show that will take you back to the Golden Age of Broadway, look no further than Ghostlight, a musical by Tim Realbuto and Matthew Martin that follows the story of Olive Thomas. Exploring famous theatre legends, this haunting musical pays tribute to stars from days gone by. You can buy tickets here, and read on to find out what writer/director Tim Realbuto has to say about the show.

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Tim Realbuto: A fantasy based on truth.

Me: What has the process been like co-directing the show for NYMF?

Tim: It’s actually been great. We’ve been really close friends for over twenty years, so we have a pretty good shorthand with each other. We created this piece together. We know these characters inside and out, so it’s been absolutely thrilling seeing our vision come to life. We’re usually on the same page with things, but if one of us has a completely different opinion on something, we’ve been good about explaining our reason for it and trying to come up with a healthy compromise that works for both of us.

Me: Ghostlight is your first musical. What has the development process been like leading up to this production?

Tim: Ghostlight was just an idea several years ago. The original concept was not to focus solely on our main character Olive Thomas, but to also incorporate many other theatrical legends said to haunt New York City theatres. After going back and forth for quite some time, we finally realized that Olive’s story was one that needed to be told. Our new concept was trying to discover what makes a person’s story here on earth unfinished. Why does Olive Thomas still haunt the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway? After much research and visits to her grave, we knew this piece would be somewhere between a biography of Olive’s life and a celebration of the Golden Age of Broadway. That concept turned into a song or two, which turned into an outline for a story. From there, we really sat down and worked on the script, discovering each character and each song moment by moment. Well, when we added up all of those moments and did our first reading of the show, it ran approximately 4 ½ hours. Obviously, cutting had to be done. Characters and songs were cut and/or replaced. By the time we did our second reading, we felt like it had a clearer structure, but it still ran about 3 ½ hours. After more research and development (and cutting), we finally felt ready to do our first professional Equity staged reading. The reading took place at the beginning of this year at Center Stage New York. The runtime was still slightly longer than it is now, but we felt like it was a very good representation of the vision we always had. Then, we got a call from NYMF inviting us into this year’s festival and naturally we jumped at the amazing opportunity.

Me: While a lot of new musicals are trying to go more modern, Ghostlight seems very much about the Golden Age of Broadway. What attracted you to writing this kind of show?

Tim: We believe that all kinds of shows deserve a place in theatre. We absolutely love rock shows, jukebox musicals and film adaptations! But as you said, a lot of new musicals are going modern. We were very intrigued with writing a piece that pays homage to the great artists who’ve paved the way for us, while still connecting to a modern audience. We really like the idea of being the odd man out in a sea of pop/rock scores. That being said, we think younger people will enjoy the sound of our show since it’s still modern, but in a classic way.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Tim: First and foremost, we’re just really excited to see our vision come to life and to present our work to New York audiences. We think that a lot of people will be able to relate to the story and we hope that it moves many people. We’re also incredibly excited to showcase our extraordinary cast. Every member of the company has been an indelible part of the process. It’s humbling to watch people we’ve admired for so long respond so strongly to our material. Rachel York and Michael Hayden are two of Broadway’s most impeccable and seamless actors, who have lifted this show to a whole new level beyond anything we could have dreamed. Daisy Eagan makes her long-awaited return to the New York stage with a performance that is intricately beautiful and heartbreaking. Kimberly Faye Greenberg and Matt Leisy are absolutely perfect in roles that seem built just for them. And Rachael Fogle, in the central role of Olive Thomas, is giving one of the most star-making performances New York has seen in years.

But most of all, we just want to tell Olive’s story because it deserves to be told. Her time on earth was cut so short and we want her to have her moment in the spotlight. We hope she would be proud of this show. If even one person leaves the theatre affected by the piece or moved by her story, then we’ve done our job.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: JACK PERRY IS ALIVE (AND DATING)

Jack Perry is Alive (and Dating!) is a romantic story of a man and New York, exploring the sights, sounds, and neuroses of dating in the city. Performances start October 4th at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, and tickets can be purchased here. To tell you more about the show, composer (and former fellow Crazytown blogger) Julia Meinwald answers 5 questions about the show (on behalf of Team Jack Perry that includes book and lyric writers Harrison David Rivers and Daniella Shoshan):

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Julia Meinwald: A romp. I would call Jack Perry is Alive (and Dating!) an hour-long, rose-colored romp through Manhattan with one jaded New Yorker who might not be as cynical about love as he thought he was.

Me: Protagonist Jack Perry is a Manhattanite. What role does New York play in the show?

Julia: You can really see NYC in the set design--we've got these cool tubes of light that evoke subway lines, the band may or may not be set up as buskers....Thematically, New York looms large for Jack because he's seen so many images, films, etc about Finding Love In New York. His reality pales in comparison, and he starts to feel a bit bitter about it.

Me: Jack Perry is Alive (and Dating!) is described as a “day-in-the-life” musical. How does time function over the course of the show?

Julia: The show takes place over the course of a single night, during which Jack tracks down all of his major exes in search of the source of a mysterious, flirtatious text message. So, he revisits many points in his romantic history within a few hours.

Me: How would you describe Jack Perry is Alive (and Dating!) musically?

Julia: Oh, you know....contemporary musical theatre...the score's got some pop influences, and a lot of the songs are short and sweet, which goes along with the general fast-paced feel of the show.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Julia: It's always thrilling to have a show actually produced. You learn so much from workshops and readings, but actual blocking, sets, etc are gonna be pretty sweet. Also excited to see the other shows in our venue!

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: LES ENFANTS DE PARIS

The synopsis for Les Enfants de Paris jumped out at me almost immediately with its story of a young French man's love for a Muslim refugee. Based on Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris, this re-imagining adds new layers to an old classic. Performances start on October 3rd, and you can get tickets here. Until then, songwriter David Levinson and book writer Stacey Weingarten answer questions about their show:

(A.J. Shively singing "I Dance With You")

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Stacey Weingarten: As West Side Story is to Romeo and Juliet, or Rent is to La Bohéme, Les Enfants de Paris is to Notre Dame de Paris, resetting the tale in 1950s Paris replete with its romance, disenfranchised youth, and xenophobia towards Muslim-Algerian refugees from the Algerian War.

Me: What was the process like re-imagining Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame De Paris in 1958 France?

David Levinson: The key to everything in the beginning was who do the ‘gypsies’ become? Or more specifically, who are our ‘oppressed people’ in this version? We didn’t want to do an update for the sake of doing an update. The backdrop of the Algerian War with the threat of terrorism and the extreme Islamophobia in France at the time gives the story a new relevance.

Stacey: It’s a reason for the update, which also allows us to not hit the audience over the head with how the themes relate to today. It wouldn’t have the same impact if it were, say, updated to modern times.

David: Something else we had noticed about the book (that many adaptations shy away from) is that the story is mostly very insular. There are a few scenes that require large crowds but other than that it’s a very small story. We definitely wanted to go the small route with this piece rather than the huge gothic adaptation it often becomes. We started with listing every character in book and go “which ones do we need and which ones do we get rid of?”. Eventually we narrowed it to seven. We also kept the Esmeralda character the protagonist and Quasimodo a more secondary character, unlike most adaptation. One of the most interesting things was that as we went through the process, some drafts were closer to the book, and some drafts were further away.

Me: I was very intrigued by the “chanson- and Arab-influenced” score. How did you approach the show musically?

David: One of my favorite things to do is be a stylistic chameleon. I thought it would be a travesty to have a show set in the 1950’s in Paris and not utilize the extremely well known and beloved romance of 1950’s La Chanson Française. I also felt the Arab world has such incredibly moving music that hasn’t been utilized in the world of musical theater as major musical vocabulary ever. I really wanted to capture the cultural tension within the score in the utilization of both styles.

I started by listening to a lot of music in the style that I wanted to write. I did this before I even wrote a note. I just listened to a lot of Piaf, Brel, Aznavour, Mathieu, etc. for the French stuff, and then people like Cherifa, Hanifa, and some more modern Arab singers like Fayrouz and Souad Massi for the Arab stuff. I just listened and tried to dissect what makes the music stylistically sound like what it sounds like?

After I felt like I was sufficiently immersed in the style, I started writing. The first reading draft of the show was a little musically off the mark. I didn’t entirely ‘go there’. I kept trying to meld a musical theater sound with those two styles. After that reading I just went whole hog and wrote entirely in the style of French Chanson and Arab music and trusted that my voice as a writer would shine through regardless.

Stacey: And it does! If you heard any of his other music, you’d recognize it. It’s the same way you can hear Sondheim a mile away. While we’re at it, if you want to hear a clip, here’s a video of Megan Reinking singing ‘Encore’:

Me: I think your show was the only one I saw that comes with a mature theme disclaimer. What can an audience expect thematically from Les Enfants de Paris?

Stacey: We like to say the two biggest themes are disenfranchisement of youth and xenophobia in France-- two themes that very much parallel America today, and more specifically our generation which has come of age in a 9/12 world. Though it’s unfortunate, we’re big believers this piece would not have existed in pre-9/11 America. It certainly wouldn’t be as relevant.

David: Islamophobia is definitely a big theme. We kind of take the nostalgia that Americans have for 1950’s Paris and we lull them into a false sense of security in the first act with lush romanticism.

Stacey: What most people don’t know about the era is that France was entrenched in an unpopular war on Algerian soil, desperately clinging to keep control. There were also attacks by Algerian Nationalists on French soil. There was a dichotomy in the perceived reality of the era and what was actually going on. Our piece walks that line.

David: As for as the mature content warning, there is fairly graphic drug abuse in the show, as well as sexual situations and nudity.

Stacey: David, our collaborator Donna, and myself are oddly in tune with our dark sides despite beig relatively light, happy people.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

David: We are looking forward to actually getting to see the piece on its feet. This is a very cinematic script in a lot of ways. There has been a lot that we have had to imagine in our readings that we are looking forward to getting to see fleshed out. We are also thrilled about the incredible platform that NYMF gives us as a show and as writers.

Stacey: Yes. As a new writer (recently graduated, unknown), it’s perhaps the best platform for new musicals there is. I’ve bought memberships to the festival every year since moving to the city as a freshman five years ago…

David: And I’m looking forward to having an Accordion!

David & Stacey: Last but not least, thanks for having us on your blog!!

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