Farah Alvin, Tituss Burgess and More Star in New Musical A WIND IN THE WILLOWS CHRISTMAS at Two River Theater, 12/8-30

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Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, announces the full cast and community events for A Wind in the Willows Christmas, a new musical inspired by Kenneth Grahame's children's classic, written by composer Mike Reid, lyricist Sarah Schlesinger, and bookwriter Mindi Dickstein. The world-premiere production is directed by Amanda Dehnert, with music direction by James Sampliner.

Performances will begin in Two River's Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, December 8 and continue through Sunday, December 30. There will be a special performance for families affected by Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, December 11 at 7pm (please see below for more information). The first press performance is Friday, December 14 at 7pm. This production is sponsored by Investors Bank.

Commissioned and developed by Two River Theater, this new musical follows the adventures of the story's beloved characters-Mole, the Water Rat, Dr. Badger, and Mr. Toad-as they discover that home is where your friends are. A Wind in the Willows Christmas is recommended for ages 5 and up. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or www.trtc.org. Tickets are $25 for patrons under age 18; ticket prices for adults are $50-$55. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

The company of A Wind in the Willows Christmas includes Farah Alvin (The Marvelous Wonderettes, Nine) as Mrs. Otter; Tituss Burgess (The Little Mermaid, 30 Rock) as Mr. Toad; Nick Choksi (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 at Ars Nova) as Rat; Kathy Connolly (A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey) as Weasel/Rabbit; Tom Deckman (Monty Python's Spamalot) as Mole; John Garry (Bunnicula for Theatreworks/USA) as Weasel/Rabbit; John Jellison (Memphis and Sunday in the Park with George) as Dr. Badger; and Dana Steingold (national tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Little Portly.

"Two River's annual holiday production for families is one of the theater's beloved traditions," says Artistic Director John Dias. "This year, we commissioned a new musical that we hope will become part of the canon of great work for younger audiences-and a great experience for adult audiences, too. The story is given a fresh comic perspective by Mindi Dickstein, and has a buoyant, heartfelt score by Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger. Amanda Dehnert has brought together a wildly talented cast and design team to realize the whimsical, imaginative world of this beloved tale."

Composer Mike Reid and lyricist Sarah Schlesinger most recently wrote In This House, which premiered at Two River last season. Reid is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter with more than 30 Top-Ten pop and country hits recorded by many artists including Bonnie Raitt ("I Can't Make You Love Me") and Kenny Chesney ("Always Gonna Be You"). He received his Grammy for "Stranger in My House," recorded by Ronnie Milsap. Schlesinger is the Chair of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

Mindi Dickstein wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musical Little Women. She has written several musicals for Theatreworks USA including Black Beauty and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Recent work includes the book for Toy Story - The Musical, with songs by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda (GrooveLily), for Disney Creative Entertainment.

Music Director James Sampliner made his Two River debut with In This House. His Broadway credits include The Wedding Singer and Legally Blonde.

Director Amanda Dehnert is a director, composer, and adapter. Her recent projects include Richard III for The Public's Mobile Shakespeare Unit; Julius Caesar at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and Peter Pan (A Play), which she wrote and directed for Lookingglass Theatre Company. She has directed many productions for Trinity Repertory Company including Annie and My Fair Lady.

The creative team includes scenic and costume designer Philip Witcomb, lighting designer Tyler Micoleau, and sound designer Zachary Williamson. The orchestrations are by Danny Larsen, the casting is by Cindy Tolan and Adam Caldwell, and the stage manager is Samantha Greene.

Two River Theater is hosting a special December 11 performance of A Wind in the Willows Christmas for local families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Donors may contribute to a Family Sponsorship that will provide free tickets to approximately 100 families in need; donors of $500 and $1,000 will receive benefits and recognition as part of the theater's Backstage Pass program. Families will be selected through a ticket drawing on December 3. Families are invited to nominate themselves; anyone may make a nomination. To contribute to this fund and/or to nominate a family in need, please contact Ellen Hahn, Institutional Development Associate, at 732.345.1400 ext. 1830 or ehahn@trtc.org by December 2.

In a continuing tradition for Two River's annual family show, A Wind in the Willows Christmas will be the centerpiece of region-wide community events that introduce young people to theater and promote reading and conversation. The community programs are sponsored by OceanFirst Foundation.

Pre-show Activities: Interactive activities including a free photo station, coloring tables, and boutique with merchandise for purchase will be available in the lobby prior to every performance.

Post-play Discussions with the Cast: Every performance will include a post-show opportunity for children in the audience to ask questions of the cast.

One Book, One Community: Now in its third year, this town-wide celebration of The Wind in the Willows includes partnerships with more than a dozen local libraries and businesses. Free events include readings, discussions, arts and crafts, movie screenings, and other programs, as well as discounts at area retailers. For a complete schedule of events, supporters, and community partners, visit TRTC.org.

Día de la Familia, Sunday, December 9 at 4pm: Each season, Two River offers a performance with live Spanish-language translation (available through audio-description headsets). Día de la Familia brings Spanish-speaking and bilingual children and their families to the theater-many of them for their first experience of seeing a play. This free performance also includes refreshments and theater games beginning at 3pm.

Scout Days, Thursday, December 27 at 12pm, and Friday, December 28 at 12pm: Two River offers two performances for local Boy and Girl Scouts. In addition to the performance, the scouts take part in theater games and workshops, and enjoy a guided tour of the theater and refreshments. Participants receive a Two River Theater Company Scout Day special-interest patch. The price per scout is $30; tickets can be reserved through Brian Holland, Director of Audience Services, at 732.345.1400 ext. 1813 or bholland@trtc.org.

STUDENT MATINEES AND FULL PERFORMANCE CALENDAR

Student Matinees: Two River Theater will offer 10am Student Matinee performances on Wednesday, December 12; Thursday, December 13; and Wednesday, December 19. The price per student is $15; tickets can be reserved through Brian Holland, Director of Audience Services, at 732.345.1400 ext. 1813 or bholland@trtc.org.

Saturday, December 8 at 12pm
Sunday, December 9 at 12pm and 4pm (Día de la Familia)
Tuesday, December 11 at 7pm (Special Performance for Families Affected by Hurricane Sandy)
Wednesday, December 12 at 10am
Thursday, December 13 at 10am
Friday, December 14 at 7pm (First Press Night)
Saturday, December 15 at 12pm and 7 pm
Sunday, December 16 at 12pm and 4pm
Wednesday, December 19 at 10am and 7pm (American Sign Language Interpreted)
Thursday, December 20 at 7pm
Friday, December 21 at 7pm
Saturday, December 22 at 12pm and 7 pm
Sunday, December 23 at 12pm and 4pm
Wednesday, December 26 at 12pm
Thursday, December 27 at 12pm (Scout Day)
Friday, December 28 at 12pm (Scout Day) and 7pm
Saturday, December 29 at 12pm and 7pm
Sunday, December 30 at 12pm and 4pm

TWO RIVER THEATER COMPANY, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, is dedicated to producing great classics from the American and world stage, creating new plays and musicals for the American theater, and serving its diverse and multigenerational community through unique partnerships and education programs. Founded in 1994 by Joan and Dr. Robert M. Rechnitz, the theater supports the most exceptional and adventurous artists in the American theater and provides opportunities for its audiences to be part of the creative process. Two River Theater is a member of the League of Resident Theaters (LORT), Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, and ArtPride New Jersey, and has been designated a "Major Arts Institution" by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Visit TRTC.org.

Photo Credit: Linda Lenzi

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