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Musical Writerzine #9

Summer 2009

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere: In Musical Writerzine #9, you'll find notes on the latest Broadway cast album releases, the upcoming NYMF festival and NAMT, and a stage design exhibition. In his Growing Stages column, William Squier profiles a new theatre in Sacramento, CA that considers new musicals: the New Helvetia Theatre. He also reports on the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, Florida and their playwright series.

[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.]

Recent Publications and Releases

The New York Times published an article on a recent batch of Broadway show cast albums. Broadway Musicals Sing A Different Tune. Recently released cast albums include:

Festivals

NYMF 2009

This fall's New York Musical Theatre Festival in Manhattan promises to be another exciting opportunity for musical writers to experiene emerging shows, network with fellow creators, and get a better feeling for what works and what doesn't.

This year's roster includes 

DANCE PRODUCTIONS:  NYMF's 2009 Dance Series features outstanding choreographically-driven musicals spanning an array of styles and subjects.

DEVELOPMENT SERIES:  Be one of the first to see some of the latest works in progress from our line-up of talented artists and composers. 

CONCERTS AND SPECIAL EVENTS:  Don't miss our wide range of concerts and special events featuring exciting new composers and some of Broadway's most beloved performers.

NYMF @ NITE:  From NYMF's Next Broadway Sensation (OUR take on the TV casting couch) to an exciting array of hopping parties, we’re sure to please all you party animals out there.

The festival's full production slots have been announced and you can read about them now online. These production opportunties are reserved for participants in festival's "The Next Link Project," a writer service program.  Musical authors may submit their ready-for-development musical for this program in future years.

"Next Link" selections for 2009 festival

NAMT - Two Events

NAMT's New Works Summits will now be held regionally each year so the membership and alumni can experience the new work being created around the country. This August, New Works Summit meets at at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington, at the same time as the New Musicals festival that William Squier profiled in MusicalWriterzine #5 Read about the annual festival at Village Theatre

Read about NAMT's Regional Models of Producing new Musicals

The National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) recently announced the official selections for its 21st Annual Festival of New Musicals. The event will be held Monday, October 19 and Tuesday, October 20, 2009. For an article about the festival, see Broadway World NAMT

Note: Admission to this particular festival of new musicals is by invitation only for the industry, i.e. members of NAMT. The general public can obtain free, stand-by tickets the day of the Festival.

Exhibition

Creating the Modern Stage: Designs for Theater and Opera
May 22 through August 16, 2009

Drawn from the Morgan's collection, the exhibition examines the origins of modern scenic design and chronicles the evolution of stage sets during the highly innovative period of ca. 1900 to 1970.

On view are over fifty drawings, derived entirely from the Morgan's holdings, principally from the collection formed by the celebrated American set designer Donald Oenslager. Enriching these color drawings is related material, including musical scores, rare books, and autograph manuscripts, as well as more than thirty performance photographs documenting the finished set. Morgan Library

GROWING STAGES by William Squier

For this Musical Writerzine #9 column, William Squier interviewed Andrew Kato of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, Florida, about the "Emerging Artist in Musical Theatre" playwrighting series. He also profiles New Helvetia Theatre in Sacramento.

GROWING STAGES

UPDATE 2015: See B Street Theatre instead.

This material is for archive purposes:

AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING: NEW HELVETIA THEATRE

Schmidts, from Harvey to Hedwig, have been very much on the mind of the New Helvetia Theatre's Connor Mickiewicz. That's because, as Artistic Director of the start-up operation, it was his responsibility to choose the theater's first two offerings. He settled on a staged reading of Schmidt and Jones' little-known Celebration and, if all went well, a production of Mitchell and Trask's Off-Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The objective was to test New Helvetia's mission to "unearth forgotten gems" and "explore classics."

The first event was held in late January. "I took staged readings for granted, have seen tons in New York," Mickiewicz says. "In Sacramento it was still kind of a foreign concept. But, we did it at just the right time. We did the whole show script-in-hand with minimal movement at this gorgeous jewel of a theater in downtown Sacramento, The Crest. With Schmidt and Jones there's not a lot of excess going on anyway. People were impressed that you could focus on the words and the lyrics without anything superfluous. They loved it. And we raised enough money to produce a show."

For the run of Hedwig, New Helvetia moved to an 85-seat black box at the Artisan Gallery in Northern Sacramento. In the heart of the city's uptown arts district, the reception to the theater's inaugural production was equally positive. Writing in the Sacramento News and Review, Kel Munger said the production heralded "an auspicious beginning for Sacramento's newest professional musical-theater company" and praised the performances as "razor-sharp."

So, why is any of this of interest musical theater writers? Because the third of the objectives in New Helvetia's mission statement is "to be the birthplace of new musicals and plays." "We actually have a world premiere of a musical planned," Mickiewicz reports. "I can't talk about it, except to say that it had a workshop in New York and they want to try it out in a regional theater." The premiere is to be co-produced with a pair of Chicago-based producers who, for the moment, must also remain anonymous.

In the meantime, Mickiewicz is hoping to produce one of two musicals that fit into the "forgotten" category later this year. He has his sights set on staging either The Nervous Set (Music: Tommy Wolf, Lyrics: Fran Landesman, Book: Jay Landesman) - a satire of Greenwich Village in the 1950's that had a 23-performance New York debut with Larry Hagman in the cast - or The Grass Harp (Music: Claibe Richardson, Book & Lyrics: Kenward Elmslie), which lasted 12 performances despite a cast that included Barbara Cook and Karen Morrow and drawing on a Truman Capote novel as source material.

A self-described "fifth-generation Sacramentan," Mickiewicz moved back to his hometown to open New Helvetia after attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and working in the theater both regionally and in New York City. His interest in obscure and lesser-produced musicals can be traced back to Manhattan and the gift of a collection of cast albums. "I acquired eighty-five of them from a patron of the bar where I used to work," Mickiewicz recalls. "I grabbed everything that I didn't know, as a way to educate myself." His education continued as he began to hunt down the librettos for the musicals with scores that intrigued him and discovered the problems that caused many of them to flop. "But, sometimes it happened because there were sixty other shows running at the same time," he points out.

Musical theater writers that are interested in keeping up to date on the activities of the New Helvetia Theater and visit them online at www.newhelvetia.org or communicate with Connor Mickiewicz at:

New Helvetia Theatre
P.O. Box 19409
Sacramento, CA 95819

“NOT DOING ANYTHING SMALL: THE MALTZ JUPITER THEATRE”
THE EMERGING ARTIST IN MUSICAL THEATRE PLAYWRIGHTING SERIES

UPDATE 2014 - The Maltz Jupiter Theatre

is no longer accepting new musical submissions

This article is being kept for archival purposes.

 

"I have a little problem," admits Andrew Kato of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, Florida. "It's called not doing anything small." Kato knew, however, that when he became the theater's Artistic Director he'd have to wait before jumping into musical theater development.

Andrew Kato of Maltz Jupiter Theater"It's my passion," says Kato. "But, there's a right time to do something. Four years ago was not that time. We have a 554-seat theater. To keep 109 performances going and the doors open was enough of a challenge."

Fortunately, Maltz Jupiter had hired the right person. Kato was, by then, an old-hand at commercial producing, having worked with Margo Lyon on the Broadway mountings of Angels in America and Jelly's Last Jam. And on his own he'd shepherded a musical revue about subway performers, titled Street Songs, from a $3 thousand workshop at the Public Theater to the $6 million Las Vegas extravaganza, retitled Madhattan.

"I wanted to gain the skills of an old school producer by developing both my creative side and business side," Kato explains of his time spent in the for-profit world. "Broadway was my master's degree."

Yet, Kato's association with not-for-profit Maltz Jupiter began well before his stint on Broadway. It even predated the theater! Before reopening in 2004 as a LORT house, the building was the location of the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater. "I lived in Jupiter as a kid and was a waiter here to put myself through college," Kato reveals. "Every show was a master class. And great artists like Charles Nelson Reilly were teaching at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theater Training."

Kato even wrote his first musical (with John Mercurio) while still in Jupiter and the Institute staged a series of readings and a full production in 1987. "My reason fom coming back was, in many ways, because the community took an interest in making my musical possible," he says.

Kato programmed most of Maltz Jupiter's first few seasons with the tried-and-true, like Guys & Dolls, Man of La Mancha and Evita. He experimented in 2006, however with a property that one of his board members, Rodger Hess, was hoping to bring to Broadway: Tin Pan Alley Rag, a play with music about an imagined meeting of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin. Tin Pan Alley Rag was so well received that Hess and his co-producer, the Roundabout Theater, began planning a New York production (which began performances in June).

More importantly, the success of the production got Kato thinking that his audiences might be open to seeing more new works. "It turned the tide for us," he says. So when the theater's Managing Director, Trish Trimble, asked what kinds of programs Kato would like to see sponsored with outside funding, he immediately suggested the development of new works of musical theater.

In the spring of 2008, the Maltz Jupiter Theater got word that they had received a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fund for the development of new musicals. It was awhile, however, before anyone knew about. "The envelope sat in my box for three days before I opened it, thinking it was our rejection letter," Kato says. "I thought that when you win a grant that it comes in a large packet, not one letter! Then, I opened it and couldn't believe it!"

A nationwide search was organized and by late summer submissions began to arrive. After sifting through the more than 50 musicals they received, the theater settled on Academy, with book, music and lyrics by Kato's collaborator John Mercurio, and Dani Girl, with book and lyrics by Christopher Dimond and music by Michael Kooman. The grant also required Kato to teach a 32-week class in musical theater playwriting at their conservatory of performing arts. The end result was a third musical: Wonderland, an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" with nine original songs written with the help of the music director and performed by the students involved. "It was a pretty ambitious project," says Kato. "Kind of a rock musical with puppetry. The Cheshire Cat was puzzle pieces that came together."

True to form, Kato turned each of readings in his inaugural series into an event. Since Academy takes place in boy's prep school, he populated the show with youth choir and a youth orchestra. "What better way to tell the story and keep it really honest than to have young people up there performing?" Kato asks. The grant money was used to have the score fully orchestrated.

For Dani Girl, Maltz Jupiter flew in a cast of Broadway professionals. Martin Charnin (Annie) was on hand to introduce the evening and impress upon the audience how important it is to support new work - especially a boundary-pushing musical like Dani Girl, which centers on a child dying of cancer. "I had one woman who called the next day because she was upset about the subject matter," Kato reports. "I love hearing that it made her a little uncomfortable. That's when theater is wonderful: when you get a reaction - hopefully, a positive one - when it touches them. When it shows you something about yourself."

Thanks to a gift from the Admiral's Cove Cares Charitable Foundation, one of the musicals presented in the series will move on to a full production. "I've got my eye on Academy," says Kato. "It's about boys and their fathers and had a very accessible, pop Broadway score." He's also been told by his Managing Director that, like it or not, the Emerging Artist series will return in the fall. "Trish said, 'I'm sorry, Andrew, we're doing another one," Kato laughs.....

Recommeded Resources

Don't miss William Squier's article about How To books on writing musicals MusicalWriters.com - How to Write a Musical books

Read more about NYU's Tisch and other academic programs for musicals at Musicalwriters.com - Academic

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