The 31st Annual Festival of New Musicals by Robin Gorman Newman

This was my first experience attending the Festival of New Musicals, and both as a theatre producer and musicals enthusiast, it was a thrill to have the opportunity to see new musicals in the works and to hear from creative teams.  It takes a village to bring a show to fruition, and to see talents pursuing their passion and endeavoring to create new works of cultural art was a true treat and inspiration.

A total of 8 shows were represented at the bustling festival that took place on Thursday, October 24 and Friday, October 25, 2019 at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues).  Each presentation featured 45 minutes from the production, and The Songwriters Showcase featured very brief presentations from four stylistically varied musicals, including an opportunity to see the creatives interviewed.  There were also Midday Cabarets and a closing cocktail party.

Casting for the 31st Annual Festival of New Musicals included Alan Ariano (Broadway: The King and I), Jenn Colella (Broadway: Come From Away), Emy Coligado (Broadway: Miss Saigon), Jennifer Damiano (Broadway: American Psycho), Dayna Jarae Dantzler (Broadway: Waitress), Kyle Decker (Broadway: Come From Away), Nicolas Dromard (Broadway: Mary Poppins, NY: Jersey Boys), Jerry Gallagher (Regional: Crazy For You), Deon’te Goodman (Regional: 25th Annual…Spelling Bee), Alan H. Green (Broadway: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Ellen Harvey (Broadway: Present Laughter), David Hughey (Broadway: Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), Jorrel Javier (Broadway: The Lightning Thief), Chiké Johnson (Broadway: A Time to Kill), Liisi LaFontaine (West End: Dreamgirls), Carlos Lopez (Broadway: Man of La Mancha), Julia Murney (Broadway: Lennon, Wicked), Bronson Norris Murphy (National Tour: Love Never Dies), Charlie Oh (National Tour: The King and I), Conor Ryan (Broadway: Cinderella), Diana Oh (NY: Georgia Mertching Is Dead), Veronica Otim (Regional: Hair),CJ Pawlikowski (NY: Jersey Boys), Robert Petkoff (Broadway: All The Way), Celeste Rose (NY: We Are The Tigers), Cody Jamison Strand (Broadway: The Book of Mormon), Alet Taylor (Regional: Freaky Friday), Christian Thompson (Broadway: Ain’t Too Proud), Natalie Toro (Broadway: A Tale of Two Cities), Sonya Venugopal (Regional: Annie), Diamond Essence White (Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Alan Wiggins (Broadway: Pretty Woman), Jason SweetTooth Williams (Broadway: Be More Chill),  Michael Winther (National Tour: Fun Home) and Gianna Yanelli (Broadway: Mean Girls).

This year’s Festival shows were…
HI, MY NAME IS BEN book & lyrics by Scott Gilmour, music by Claire McKenzie
INTERSTATE book, lyrics & music by Melissa Li, book & lyrics by Kit Yan
IRON JOHN: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY music & book by Jacinth Greywoode, lyrics & book by Rebecca Hart (How to Break, Fest ’14)
LAUTREC AT THE ST. JAMES music by Julianne Wick Davis (Southern Comfort, Fest ’12), book & lyrics by John Dietrich
ONE WAY music & book by Ben Bonnema, lyrics & book by Christopher Staskel
SEAWIFE music & lyrics by The Lobbyists, book by Seth Moore, directed & developed by Liz Carlson
SIMON & JORGE PAY THEIR STUDENT LOANS book, music & lyrics by Jesse Gage
TEETH book & music by Anna K. Jacobs, book & lyrics by Michael R. Jackson

An impressive group of celebrated directors took the helm of the musicals: Hunter Bird directing Hi, My Name is Ben; Jesca Prudencio directing Interstate with music direction by Anessa Marie; Jonathan McCrory directing Iron John: An American Ghost StorySarna Lapine directing Lautrec at the St. James with music direction by Charity WicksArpita Mukherjee directing One Way with music direction by Simone AllenLiz Carlson directing SeaWife with music direction by Tommy Crawford; Amy Corcoran directing Simon & Jorge Pay Their Student Loans; and Portia Krieger directing Teeth.

NAMT announced the class of participants for this year’s Festival Observership for Early-Career Directors. The program is dedicated to providing professional development and networking opportunities to early-career directors, while simultaneously expanding diversity in the musical theatre pipeline by providing these opportunities for underrepresented communities. This year’s observers are Britt Berke,


Brittany Coyne, Rachel Dilliplane, Ryan Dobrin, Sarah Hartmann, Kemar Jewel, Dominique Rider and Ricardo Vazquez.

The well-attended annual Festival is free for theatre industry members, on a space availability basis, with options to contribute to NAMT to receive additional benefits including schedule selection, guaranteed seating, priority queuing and more.  With each show, contact information is provided for follow-up purposes, and creatives were on hand to chat with any interested parties including producers, regional theatres, theatrical publishers, and others.



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