HARMONY, KANSAS Premieres at Diversionary Theatre Tonight, 6/14


Diversionary Theatre announces the addition of the world premiere musical Harmony, Kansas to their 2012 season. Harmony, Kansas (book & lyrics by Bill Nelson, music by Anna K. Jacobs) is a lively and soulful new musical about community, acceptance and the importance of finding your true and authentic voice. Performances begin tonight, June 14, 2012. Prior to San Diego, Harmony, Kansas will be featured as part of the 7th Annual Goodspeed Musicals Festival of New Artists.

With a lively, soulful score, Harmony, Kansas tells the story of Heath, a gay farmer making his way in a rural community where homogeneity rules. When his city-born partner, Julian, talks him into joining a spirited group of gay guys who meet once a week to sing, Heath discovers a love for making music and a kinship he didn't expect. But his world is turned upside down when the group considers performing in public, threatening everything that matters to him, including the life he’s made with the man he loves.

Bill Nelson conceived and wrote the book for Harmony, Kansas with composer Anna K. Jacobs. A shared love of choral music and the sense of belonging and camaraderie choruses provide brought composer Anna K. Jacobs and book and lyric writer Bill Nelson together to create Harmony, Kansas. Nelson had sung with the Heartland Men's Chorus of Kansas City, Missouri after college and experienced a loving, supportive and creative atmosphere. Many members joined as a way of coming out. Others invited family and friends to concerts to show positive aspects of the Gay community. “Because of that group,” said Nelson, “I now know that a feeling of community—any community—is nourishing and vital. And that's something I wanted to write about.” Using a book of interviews with gay Midwesterners Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest by Will Fellows as source material and a joint road trip across the state of Kansas helpEd Jacobs and Nelson connect with the landscape, small towns and the people. Inspired by folk and country music, the score’s rural flavor is packed with duets, trios, ensemble, chorus numbers and of course gorgeous harmonies. Jacobs describes the musical as “lively, soulful and romantic—like a vast Kansas landscape right at sunset.”

James Vasquez will helm the project at both Goodspeed and Diversionary. Vasquez was drawn to the story of seven unlikely heroes, and the author’s creation of gay characters who are “honest to goodness individuals not different than the rest of the world;” adding, “Bill and Anna have crafted a beautiful universal story. I think audiences, straight or gay, man or woman, young or old will see themselves in these characters and leave feeling inspired.”

A slight shift to the current Diversionary calendar will be necessary to accommodate the addition of Harmony, Kansas to the current season. Geoffrey Nauffts’ Tony-nominated play, Next Fall (also directed by Vasquez) will now begin performances on February 16 and run until March 25, 2012. The Pride remains in the spring, running from April 5 to May 6. Harmony Kansas will wrap up the 2012 season with performances beginning tonight, June 14 through July 22, 2012.

According to Diversionary Executive Director, John E. Alexander, “in the tradition of Yank!, Dear Harvey, and Dooley, Diversionary is thrilled to bring the first full production of a brand new musical to San Diego audiences. This new line-up is part of Diversionary’s increased focus on nurturing artists and new works that tell diverse and important stories about our community.”
Tickets for Harmony, Kansas are currently only available to Diversionary members and subscribers and will go on sale to the general public in late May.

Anna K. Jacobs (Music) wrote the music for POP!, which won three CT Critics Circle Awards including Outstanding Production of a Musical, and Stella and the Moon Man, which won a Helpmann Award for Best Presentation for Children. Currently she is working on a musical adaptation of the cult horror film, Teeth. Her shows have been developed and produced by Yale Repertory Theatre and the Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Pittsburgh City Theatre, The Studio Theatre, Singing On Stage Productions, the Sydney Theatre Company and Theatre of Image, the Penn State New Musical Theatre Festival, and NYU (SCAN). Her music and lyrics have been featured in concert at Lincoln Center, Ars Nova, Joe's Pub, Cutting-Edge Composers, NAMT, and many others. She is a 2010-11 Dramatists Guild Fellow and has been an Artist in Residence at New Dramatists, CAP21, Goodspeed Musicals, Bundanon Trust, and Hotchkiss Summer Portals, where she also teaches annual workshops in musical theater songwriting and performance. Anna is an on-staff Artist at the Metropolitan Opera Guild. M.F.A. Musical Theatre Writing, NYU-Tisch; B.Mus (Honors I) Composition, University of Sydney. Member: Dramatists Guild of America; ASCAP. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she is now based in Brooklyn.

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