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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 20, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 34
Energetic 2010 Festival of New Musicals brings theater to life
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Energetic 2010 Festival of New Musicals brings theater to life

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

From August 12 through 15, Village Theatre held its 10th Annual Festival of New Musicals, which brought musicals and their composing teams together from all over the U.S. to workshop their musicals and find out what audiences think. Village Theatre has built up the festival to be a place where an excited and sharply critical (in a good way) audience feels like they really have an opportunity to influence how a musical is shaped. Those people who become members of the Village Originals program get to hear some of the most talented Seattle musical theater performers sing, concert-style, these up-and-coming musicals. This year's six musicals were chosen from well over a hundred submissions. (Does that indicate that musical theater is in healthy shape?)

Up first was It Shoulda Been You, with book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi. This musical comedy of manners escalates a typical wedding into an uproarious free-for-all. Hargrove has been an actor and found success in television helping create such shows as Titus and Wanda at Large. Anselmi has worked as a musical director for many musicals. Music direction seems to lend itself to composing as a "gateway profession."

Buddy's Tavern is based on a movie by Raymond De Felitta called Two Family House. De Felitta wrote the book, Kim Oler wrote the music, and Alison Hubbard wrote the lyrics. Oler and Hubbard were the composing team for Village Theatre's Little Women in 2008, and Buddy's Tavern has won the 2010 Richard Rodgers Award. This story musical tells of Buddy, struggling to build his own business and be his own boss, but beset by bad business deals and his wife's doubts in 1956. As he constructs his next dream - a tavern where he can sing to customers - he meets a young woman with a mixed-race child. The musical reflects the racism of the time and a struggle to believe in oneself and overcome.

Plane Crazy is subtitled "The Classic '60s Musical Comedy" and was written entirely by Suzy Conn, current resident of Mercer Island. Writing all three pieces of a musical - book, lyrics, and music - is a tremendous effort. This tongue-in-cheek confection brings attention to the trials of stewardesses and the objectification of women as the nascent women's liberation movement began. Three young women exemplify different aspects of women's desires: to be married, to be as sexually free as men, and to be taken seriously in the workplace. Conn has written a number of musicals and has written chart-topping country and pop songs.

In Your Eyes teams book and lyricist writer Brian Yorkey with composer Tom Kitt in an unusual development project. The musical, about teens caught in a high school lockdown trying to cope with their fears and personality clashes, was originally developed with young people in Village's Kidstage program, and the stories and characters are based on what those kids offered in writing exercises and improvs. After working on it in the early decade, Yorkey (who spent many years at the Village as an associate) and Kitt took time off, and have since reinvested in the work. Yorkey and Kitt just won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for their Broadway musical (developed through Village's FNM process) Next to Normal. Next to Normal will tour here in 2011.

Cloaked was created by Michelle Elliott (book and lyrics) and Danny Larson (music) who are the creators of The Yellow Wood, which was very recently mounted by Contemporary Classics, a young musical theater company focused on new musicals. This modern musical focuses on the internet and the opportunity it creates to develop fantasy lives different from who you are every day. The score includes computerized music and breaks out of the typical melodic song mold.

Last up was Lincoln In Love by writing team Peter Kellogg (book and lyrics) and David Friedman (music), who offered a historically accurate depiction of Abraham Lincoln in his early years of politicking in Springfield, Illinois. His courtship of Mary Todd, including bumbling missteps, is at the center of this engaging creation. Kellogg and Friedman had a great 2009 at Village, where two of their prior submissions to the FNM were given mainstage productions in the same year: Stunt Girl and Chasing Nicolette.

All participants in the festival were given comment sheets to fill out, which the composing teams read with great anticipation. These creators have come to respect the opinions of the Village Original members and know that these audiences care a great deal and support the process of bringing new musicals to life.

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