www.musicalwriters.com• For songwriters, bookwriters, theatre/film buffs

Musical Writerzine #3

Spring 2007

Carol de GiereCarol de Giere, Editor.

This Spring 2007 issue includes news of approaching deadlines, an announcement of a new festival in LA, recent publications, and our Growing Stages column with a profile of MusicalFare Theater. You'll find details at the end of the article on how to submit a new musical to them. Watch for a new issue of Musical Writerzine in the Summer of 2007. (If you have not yet subscribed, see instructions at the end of this issue.)

[Carol de Giere is the website publisher for MusicalWriters.com and author of Defying Gravity, a career biography of Stephen Schwartz filled with musical development stories. William Squier has written numerous musicals and articles for a wide variety of publications.]

On this page:

Workshop News

Stephen Schwarts and Craig Carnelia during an ASCAP Musical Theatre WorkshopNew York ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop 2007

Dates are April 30, May 1, 22, 23, 24, 2007. Anyone involved in creating musicals is invited to be in the audience of this free, educational event. The submission deadline for having your own musical considered is Friday, March 30, 2007. See details on www.musicalschwartz.com/ascap.htm

[Photo: Stephen Schwartz and Craig Carnelia conducting an ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop]

ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO 2007

The Only National Conference 100% Dedicated
to Songwriting and Composing
April 19-21, 2007 Los Angeles, CA
Register Now at http://www.ASCAP.com/EXPO

Festivals

LA Festival 2008

Stephen Schwartz is creative advisor for a festival of new musicals to be held in Los Angeles in May and June 2008. Marcia Seligson and Bob Klein have created the festival as an umbrella organization that will coordinate full productions, staged readings and workshops of musicals, cabaret shows, concerts, master classes and other events over the course of two months. The executive producers intend to partner with more than 30 Los Angeles area performing arts organizations, each of which will produce a new American musical during the festival time period. See http://www.lafestival.org/

2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival 2007 accepting submissions

MARCH 8, 2007 is the deadline for next fall.

The 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), the three-week event that presents a slew of new works by up-n-coming composers, will run from Sept. 17-Oct. 7. Writers are currently invited to submit "production-ready" musicals to the 2007 Next Link Project. Eighteen shows will be chosen by a jury that includes Adam Epstein, Margo Lion and Casey Nicholaw for presentation during the annual festival.

For application info see http://www.nymf.org

Writers-composers chosen this year will have access to professional dramaturgs, who will help them shape and develop their scripts.

Since its inception in 2004, NYMF has produced 913 performances of 256 events. Among the shows that have been part of previous Festivals and have gone on to be produced in other venues are Guttenberg The Musical, Altar Boyz, [title of show], The Great American Trailer Park Musical,and Captain Louie

The NATIONAL ALLIANCE for MUSICAL THEATRE's 2007�New Works Summit will take place on Monday, June 25th at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (113 Second Avenue, NYC) from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm. The event is open to NAMT Members, alumni of the Fall Festival and member's invited guests.

Recent Musical Theatre Publications

Musical History book coverStrike Up the Band: A New History of Musical Theatre

SCOTT MILLER, author of Deconstructing Harold Hill (2000), From Assassins to West Side Story (1996), and other books, offers a new history. According to the description: "Miller offers insight and inside information about the artistic approaches various composers, lyricists, bookwriters, and directors have taken, how those approaches have changed over time, and what social and historical forces continue to shape musical theatre today."

If I Sing: The Songwriters Album This fascinating new album features famous songwriters singing their own. Stephen Schwartz sings "For Good," from Wicked, Lucy Simon sings "How Could I Ever Know?" from the Broadway musical Secret Garden, etc.

The Making of Miss Saigon DVDThe Making of "Miss Saigon" THE MAKING OF MISS SAIGON is the definitive documentary film companion to one of the greatest Broadway hits of all time. Witness the evolution of this monumental production from its inception in the sumptuous hills of Provence to its glamorous London debut on a fascinating insider's voyage into the world of the theater....Acclaimed stage director Nicholas Hytner invites the camera to peer into the depths of the creative process as the orchestra builds, performances soar and the players hurtle toward the opening night that will determine their destinies. DVD Features: Interactive Menus; Scene Selection

Also, don't miss the resources list on this site, complete with book reviews and more. Books, DVDs, etc.

GROWING STAGES

In this issue Bill Squier takes a look at Amherst, New York's MusicalFare Theatre -- originators of the musicals RENEWING WRIGHT and ZOOMA ZOOMA.

“ALL’S FARE” by William Squier

Randall at MusicalFareIf the MusicalFare Theater’s first seventeen years are any reflection of its founding artistic / executive director, Randall Kramer, he is one restless guy! “Early on, we were all over the map,” Randy Kramer freely admits of a production history that runs the gamut from CINDERELLA to URINETOWN. Over the years, he has presented musicals that were plot-driven (SWEENEY TODD), voice-driven (AVENUE X), dance-driven (FAMILIAR STRANGERS) and laugh-driven (RUTHLESS!). There have been tributes to “Old Blue Eyes” (MY WAY), “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” (JOLSEN & CO) and three separate visits from Ginger’s pal Fred (ASTAIRE!, DANCING IN THE DARK, CHANGE PARTNERS). And Kramer has mounted (and even written) a several world premieres. MusicalFare has done just about everything except go the conventional route.

MuscialFare came into being when Randy Kramer decided to move back to his hometown of Buffalo to settle down with his wife and first child. But, instead of “settling,” he found himself shaking up the local arts scene by producing theater that was unlike anything typically seen in the area. “For us to do an old chestnut is just silly,” notes Kramer of the edgy esthetic that has guided MusicalFare’s programming from the start. So, rather than compete with the local touring house’s schedule of juggernauts like SPAMALOT and THE PRODUCERS, Kramer took an entirely different path.

In its first year, the theater – then known as Summerfare – presented a three-show season of music, theater and dance. “We did the area premiere of NUNSENSE, a night of swing music and a dance concert,” Kramer recalls. “I have a masters degree in classical piano, but I got involved in theater. So, I thought this might be a way to combine all of the things I was interested in.” It proved to be a risk worth taking. “We found a very receptive and supportive community for what I wanted to do,” he says. “And the musical theater part of it just took off.”

Within a couple of seasons, Summerfare evolved from a summer stock theater into a year round operation that was redubbed MusicalFare. Audiences were offered such unfamiliar titles as ANIMAL CRACKERS, DIVORCE ME, DARLING (the sequel to THE BOYFRIEND), THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM, SIX WOMEN WITH BRAIN DEATH and SONG OF SINGAPORE. Even the more high profile of MusicalFare’s productions were given a fresh slant.

“We did a GODSPELL that was set entirely in an asylum,” says Kramer. “We did a production of COMPANY with no traditional scenery; the set was made out of metal poles that connected and created different shapes.” And they did it a good nine years before a similarly stripped-down approach was taken to the Sondheim piece on Broadway.

“About our third and fourth year, we performed ten different shows in at least five different venues,” Kramer continues. “Even performing against ourselves by running two shows at the same time! But, because we were everywhere, we were nowhere!” So, in 1995, MusicalFare decided to call Daemon College in the well-to-do Buffalo suburb of Amherst their home. This allowed the theater to offer a subscription season that consisted of five musicals, plus a summer offering, in a single location.

Even then, Randy Kramer wasn’t content to settle down. “The building didn’t reflect the professionalism of the company,” he contends. “So, we took everything right down to the concrete and built it back up.” By 2001, the venue had undergone a three quarter of a million dollar renovation that expanded its capacity from 103 to 130 seats. The stage deck was lowered by a foot to increase the hang space for lighting and sets, and then widened to allow for more wing and storage area. Perhaps the most dramatic change was the addition of a sizable lobby, with a box office, refreshment area and exhibit space.

Having established a permanent home and an identity for his theater, Kramer took the next step. Beginning in the late nineties, MusicalFare peppered each season with a series of revues built around either the music of a specific era (SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL, THAT 70S REVUE), a singer / songwriter (TAPESTY: THE MUSIC OF CAROLE KING, MOON RIVER: JOHNNY MERCER’S AMERICAN SONGBOOK) or a performer (GROUCHO: A LIFE IN REVUE, SOPHIE TUCKER: LAST OF THE RED-HOT MAMA). Some were established properties (IF LOVE WERE ALL, THE TAFFETAS), but often as not they were brand new works that attracted an audience all the same.

A case in point is ZOOMA ZOOMA, an evening that centered on the songs made famous by Louis Prima, that was written by local musician Jim Runfola and director/choreographer Michael J. Walline. “It did incredible business,” Kramer reports. “It was like a giant party. We sold every seat. We extended it. We sold every seat again. A year later, we ran it at about the worst possible time: in the summer against graduations and dance recitals. And we did over a hundred thousand dollars in ticket sales in a short three week run. Every night there were two standing ovations – in the middle of Act Two and at the end of the show.”

Despite the popularity of that type of “jukebox” programming – or perhaps because of it – Kramer’s next move was to challenge his audiences with shows that were entirely homegrown: book, music and lyrics. As a result, STORIES OF LIFE, which dramatized the remembrances of the area’s senior citizens, IT’S A MATTER OF CHARACTER, which addressed issues of concern to local students, and RENEWING WRIGHT, a look at the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and his patron industrialist Darwin D. Martin, were developed and presented on the main stage. Again, the reception was encouraging, confirming Kramer’s belief that “if you’re doing something compelling that has wide appeal, people will come.”

MusicalFare’s goal at present is to produce one to two world premieres per season. “We’re committed to that because it’s part of how we grow as a company,” Kramer emphasizes. The theater launched a yearlong fundraising campaign in 2005 to step up its efforts to develop and promote original productions. It was an attempt to which Buffalo-born actress Christine Baranski was willing to lend her name as Honorary Chairperson. “I can attest to the enormous popularity and importance of musical theater,” Baranski was quoted as saying at the start of the campaign. “MusicalFare is undeniably on track to contribute with unique and notable works for the regional and national stage.”

“World premieres have become a whole process,” says Kramer, reflecting on his theater’s experience with new works. “Once we decide to do a new musical, we’ll put it through a couple of readings / workshops, where we’ll spend considerable time and resources, before we actually even go into rehearsal for the main stage.”

An example of MusicalFare’s level of commitment can be found in the development of STORIES OF LIFE. Kramer and a company actors spent weeks interviewing the residents of a local continuing care facility, editing transcripts of the conversations, adapting some of the resulting stories into songs and then presenting it all as a staged reading. The process was repeated several more times over a period of two years until Kramer was satisfied that they had assembled an evening worthy of a full production.

The dream of developing new works that will live beyond their run in upstate New York has already begun to come true. In 2006, MusicalFare mounted SAMMY & ME, which starred Eric Jordan Young, an actor whose Broadway credits include RAGTIME, SEUSSICAL and the current cast of CHICAGO. At Kramer’s encouragement, Young brought what was essentially a cabaret act up to Amherst, where he expanded it with the help of director / co-author Wendy Dann, It was then co-produced by MuscialFare and The Hanger Theater in Ithaca, NY, before returning to New York where it has attracted considerable industry attention.

“If that’s able to move on, I see it as an opportunity to introduce other shows to potential producers,” says Kramer. “Everyone out there is looking for product.”

Kramer’s taste in new works is as varied as his theater’s programming. “As long as the reason for things happening in a musical are grounded in the drama of the moment, then I’m interested,” he states. “I love song and I love dance. I think musical theater should be all about moments that are so dramatic that they transcend the spoken word. That can manifest itself in multiple ways!”

Musical theatre writers interested in having their work considered for future production at the MusicalFare Theater should submit a synopsis of the show, no more than ten continuous pages of dialogue and a cd demo recording containing no more than three or four songs from the score. Musicals with fewer than ten cast members will more likely to be produced, though Kramer is quick to say that he would never refuse to read a script because it had a large cast. “But, I would dismiss it if it didn’t grab me fairly quickly,” he says. Submission packages should be sent via “snail mail” to:

MusicalFare Theatre
c/o Daemen College
4380 Main Street
Suite 810
Amherst, NY 14226

For more details about the theatre or their current season, visit their website: www.musicalfare.com

About Growing Stages

In this column, William Squier offers a glimpse behind the scenes at up and coming theaters and other venues that specialize in developing and producing new musicals.

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