MOLLY SWEENEY, Songwriter Showcase & More Set for The Human Race Theatre Company's Festival of New Musicals
The Human Race Theatre Company's mission to further the development of new works takes center stage with its summer Festival of New Musicals. For the seventh annual event, Producing Artistic Director Kevin Moore has selected Molly Sweeney: A Musical, an adaptation of Brian Friel's 1994 play by the same name, and created The Songwriter Showcase, a new concert production featuring a collection of songs from musicals in development by Festival alumni and writers new to Human Race audiences. "By combining our workshop with a concert, we can introduce at least 10 new musicals to our audience," says Moore. "This provides an excellent snapshot of the great work going on across the country in musical theatre." The staged readings perform in The Loft Theatre over the course of the two-day festival, the culmination of a two-week-long workshop process in which writers get the chance to further hone their musicals with the help of professional actors, then see the shows performed before getting feedback from an audience.
Would you give up the beauty you know for the beauty that others can see? That is the dilemma for the title character of composer/lyricist Caleb Damschroder and book writer Eric Ulloa's Molly Sweeney: A Musical.
"We are the first writing team being granted full permission by Brian Friel to musically adapt one of his plays," says Ulloa, "and we could not be more honored or grateful for that."
Blind since early childhood, Molly is happy and independent, living a life of contentment in a world of her own creation. Now her new husband, Frank, a restless soul seeking to save those in need, wants to save Molly by restoring her sight and enlists the aid of a once-great surgeon battling his own demons. When the bandages are removed, they discover that success is in the eye of the beholder and learning to see comes with unexpected consequences. Directed by Igor Goldin, the production features Human Race Resident Artists Jamie Cordes, Joe Deer, Katie Pees, Marya Spring and Scott Stoney, and Claire Marie Northcut, Jeff Sams, Sherri L. Sutter, Cooper Taggard, Nick Verina and Lindsie VanWinkle as "Molly Sweeney."
The Human Race has waited decades for a project like Molly Sweeney: A Musical. "In 1994, we produced Brian Friel's Tony Award-winning Dancing at Lughnasa, which featured Marsha Hanna in one of her rare on stage appearances," says Moore. "So, we have been fans of his work for many years and are thrilled to work with this talented new team."
Eric Ulloa, last seen in The Race's productions of Shenandoah and Man of La Mancha, and Caleb Damschroder, taking a leave from his regular job as a performer in Broadway's current production of Cabaret, are equally pleased to be working with the theatre company.
"Having this all happen at The Human Race Theatre is a great honor and a tremendous benefit," raves Ulloa. "There is not only amazing talent there, but they have a reputation of challenging their audiences and bringing them first rate theatre that will not only entertain, but leave them with powerful stories of the human experience. What better a place for Molly's story to blossom?"
Performances of Molly Sweeney: A Musical are Friday, August 1 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 2 at 2:00 p.m.
In a first for the annual festival, Kevin Moore has created The Songwriter Showcase, a concert performance of a collection of new songs from musicals in development by a number of Musical Theatre Workshops alumni as well as some songwriters making their Human Race debut. Hosted by Broadway veteran and Dayton native Susan Blackwell ([title of show], Now. Here. This.), the 2014 concert lineup includes works by Janet Vogt and Mark Friedman, Adam Gwon, Rob Hartmann, Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond, Sean Michael Flowers, Joseph Thalken, Doug Cohen and Dan Elish, and Edwin Wilson and Doug Katsaros, with performances by Human Race Resident Artists and friends. Moore explains the inspiration for The Songwriter Showcase, "After the success of our Broadway Pops experience with the Dayton Philharmonic last spring, I thought our audiences would be equally excited to hear our Resident Artists performing songs from a handful of new musicals." He is delighted that Blackwell agreed to be a part of the experience. "No one is better suited to be our host than the 'Belle of Broadway' herself, Dayton's own Susan Blackwell. It's great to have her back on our Loft stage!"
The performance of The Songwriter Showcase is Saturday, August 2 at 8:00 p.m.
The 2014 Festival of New Musicals is sponsored by the Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation Fund for the Development of New Works and The Producers' Circle.
All performances are at the Metropolitan Art Center's Loft Theatre, located at 126 North Main Street in downtown Dayton, Ohio. General admission tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door for each production and are on sale at www.humanracetheatre.org or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630, and in person at the Schuster Center box office.