NAMT's 2014 Festival of New Musicals Continues This Weekend

By: Oct. 23, 2014

The National Alliance For Musical Theatre (NAMT) announced today its selections for the 26th Annual Festival of New Musicals. Beautiful Poison, Cubamor, Great Wall, How To Break, Mary Marie, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes, String and Stu For Silverton make up the eight new musicals that will be presented at the 26th Annual Festival of New Musicals today, October 23, 2014 and Friday, October 24, 2014 at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street).

"The Festival gives us the chance to bring together incredibly talented writers exploring an inspiring and provocative range of topics with our members and other industry leaders who need to meet them, see their work and partner with them as they move on to the next steps of show development. NAMT's Annual Festival of New Musicals plays the role of the proverbial stone dropped in the water, creating a ripple effect seen, heard and felt across the country long after the two-day Festival is over," said NAMT's Executive Director Betsy King Militello. "From last year's Festival alone, six shows are already slated for full productions, readings or workshops, in theatres from Vermont to Ohio to Texas to Washington. At NAMT, we're excited to introduce these eight new, great shows at our 26th Annual Festival of New Musicals, and we look forward to being a part of their rewarding, future journeys."

"On behalf of the Festival Committee, we are honored to present such an exciting mix of shows at our 26th Annual Festival of New Musicals and to advance the field through the introduction of these pieces to the Industry. From over 230 submissions, we carefully selected this year's eight shows in celebration of the richness and diversity of the modern American musical. We know that they will join the musical theatre canon, already greatly enriched by the Festival and NAMT over the last quarter century," said NAMT's Festival Committee Co-Chair Kelley Kirkpatrick.

The selections for the 26th Annual Festival of New Musicals are:


Music by Brendan Milburn, Lyrics by Valerie Vigoda

Book by Duane Poole

In this steamy, New Orleans thriller, a singer/songwriter at a personal and professional crossroads meets a beautiful, mysterious woman held captive in a garden of unusual plants where dark secrets are buried and gothic obsession grows. Jazz funerals, Dixieland and voodoo rhythms mix in this contemporary adaptation of Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter."

Beautiful Poison began development at The 5th Avenue in August 2012, when Brendan Milburn, Valerie Vigoda, and Duane Poole were invited to retreat for five days in the beautiful Northwest in order to start their work together on this piece. Following a Writers' Residency and table read of the first act, The 5th Avenue offered the writers a completion commission, the first official commission from the 5th Avenue Theatre. Throughout the 2013-2014 season, Beautiful Poison was further developed through a series of residencies, retreats, and table reads, culminating in a 29-hour reading of the full script and score in June of 2014.

BRENDAN MILBURN (Music). Brendan Milburn writes songs for theatre and film (mostly with wife Valerie Vigoda), produces records, and is a stay-at-home dad when he's not off rewriting the opening number at some regional theatre somewhere. Musicals: Striking 12 (NAMT Fest '04, Off Broadway & regional), Sleeping Beauty Wakes (NAMT Fest '12, CTG, McCarter, La Jolla), Wheelhouse (TheatreWorks), Toy Story: The Musical (Disney), Fantasy Faire (Disneyland), Long Story Short (regional), Midsummer Night (in development), Ernest Shackleton Loves Me (Balagan/Seattle Rep/ACT), WATT?!? (NAMT Fest '11, Trinity Rep, Village Theatre), The Behavior of Broadus (CTG, Sacred Fools). Film: four movies about Tinker Bell (Disney). Proudest production: nine-year old son, Mose.

VALERIE VIGODA (Lyrics). Valerie Vigoda, lyricist-electric violinist-singer-actor, has toured the world with Cyndi Lauper, Joe Jackson and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Musicals: Striking 12 (NAMT Fest '04, Off Broadway & regional), Sleeping Beauty Wakes (NAMT Fest '12, CTG, McCarter, La Jolla), Wheelhouse (TheatreWorks), Toy Story: The Musical (Disney), Fantasy Faire (Disneyland), Long Story Short (regional), Midsummer Night (in development) and Ernest Shackleton Loves Me (Balagan/Seattle Rep/ACT). Film: Four Tinker Bell movies (Disney). Awards: Jonathan Larson (2006 & 2008), LA Ovation Award (2007), ASCAP Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award (2009). Valerie lives in LA with husband/collaborator Brendan and 9-year-old son Mose.

DUANE POOLE (Book). A Christmas Memory (Larry Grossman, Carol Hall); Dorian (James Mellon, Scott DeTurk); Love Makes the World Go 'Round (Bob Merrill); Scrooge in Love! (Larry Grossman, Kellen Blair); Pasadena Playhouse tributes to Sondheim, Schwartz, Jones & Schmidt; a dozen plays; over fifty television movies, series and features, including the final two screen appearances of Kate Hepburn. His film, Shattered Image, was an official selection at the Venice, Montreal and Toronto Film Festivals. He has written for performers as varied as George Clooney, Cheyenne Jackson, Glenn Close, Anthony Quinn, Gwen Verdon, Jack Lemmon, Michael Feinstein, Fred Flintstone and Johnny Depp.


Book and Lyrics by James D. Sasser

Music and Lyrics by Charles Vincent Burwell

Cubamor is the contemporary story of two couples that fall in love across the American-Cuban political, historical and social divide. They are guided and challenged by the spiritual forces of the island, its incredibly diverse music and cultural heritage, and ultimately the power of love.

Cubamor was conceived at the NYU-Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. It had its first developmental reading at New York Live Arts in 2012. It was then a part of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's New Works Festival in 2013. In late 2013, selections were featured as part of Ars Nova's Uncharted Artist concert series in New York.

JAMES D. SASSER (Book & Lyrics). Performance: Broadway and off, touring & operatic stages worldwide. Involved in the development of dozens of new works on both sides of the table with outfits including TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Eugene O'Neill Center, Sundance Theatre Lab, The Vineyard, NYCO VOX, New Dramatists and many others. With his collaborator Vince Burwell: the forthcoming BOTTLE SHOCK, based on the 2008 movie, and the new children's musical Beautiful Game about soccer legend Pele. Currently an Uncharted Artist in residency at Ars Nova. Other shows - Book: Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. Book & lyrics: First Flight:The Story of the Wright Brothers. Book/music/lyrics: Lost City. Buck Scholar, graduate of Manhattan School of Music, certificate from RADA, MFA: NYU-Tisch-GMTWP.

CHARLES VINCENT BURWELL (Music & Lyrics). Organizations Vince has worked with include Lincoln Center Institute, Trenton Educational Dance Institute (TEDI), Urban Bush Women, Festival del Caribe Cuba, Ile Aiye Brazil and Jacob's Pillow. With his collaborator James D. Sasser: the forthcoming BOTTLE SHOCK, based on the 2008 movie; and the new children's musical Beautiful Game about soccer legend Pele. Currently an Uncharted Artist in residence at Ars Nova. Music for the Cairo Opera House Ballet Egypt, NDI for Artistic Director Jacques d'Amboise (Shanghai, China). Musician/teaching artist for NDI, associate musical director for the Trenton Educational Institute. Graduate of FAMU; MFA: NYU-Tisch GMTWP. On faculty at the Alvin Ailey Center for Dance.


Music & Lyrics by Kevin So

Book by Kevin Merritt

Creative Consultant: David Henry Hwang

Forced to reconcile family versus fantasy, American dreams collide when an aspiring musician reawakens his passions in the wake of his father's sudden death.

Great Wall has had readings in the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Festival of New Works, the Village Theatre's Festival of New Musicals and a private reading at Playwrights Horizons. It has also been performed in concert at Joe's Pub and was the recipient of the American Harmony Prize.

KEVIN SO (Muisc & Lyrics). Kevin So has earned the respect of Keb' Mo', Billy Bragg and playwright David Henry Hwang, and has built a loyal fan base around the world for the past 20 years. He has performed more recently at Carnegie Hall and The Ryman in Nashville. Kevin was also recipient of the 2007 NYC Fringe Festival Award (Best Music & Lyrics) for Great Wall. His songs have been recorded by India Arie ("Crush On You"), Keb' Mo' ("Talk") and Shemekia Copeland ("Sounds Like The Devil"). He currently lives in Nashville with his dog Monk.

KEVIN MERRITT (Book). As the owner of One Foot Productions, Kevin splits time producing live television, theatre, music and animation for shows and networks such as Tony Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, VH1, IFC, Presidential Inaugurations, HBO's Def Poetry and many others. With his business partner Amanda Back, he is developing a new original music series for the Apollo Theatre. He directed season 2 of The CW cartoon "GoGoRiki" and was Associate Director of the tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella starring Eartha Kitt. He serves on the Board of the non-profit Music2Life. Finally as a musician himself he has performed on, arranged and produced numerous indie albums and "played for food" many times!

DAVID HENRY HWANG (Creative Consultant). David Henry Hwang's work includes the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Golden Child, Yellow Face, The Dance and the Railroad and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival) and Disney's Tarzan. He is also America's most-produced living opera librettist. Hwang is a Tony Award-winner and three-time nominee, a three-time OBIE Award winner and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. He won the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award, the 2012 Inge Award and the 2012 Steinberg "Mimi" Award, the world's richest playwriting prize. Hwang is currently the Residency One Playwright at New York's Signature Theatre, which is producing a season of his plays, including the premiere of his most recent work, Kung Fu.


Book by Aaron Jafferis

Lyrics by Aaron Jafferis and Rebecca Hart

Music by Rebecca Hart and Yako 440

Ignited by an electric collision of beats, breaking and lyrical flow, How to Break follows two teenage dancers battling their hospital caregivers - a pediatric hematologist, a folk singer and a nurse with a beatboxing problem - in search of a gut understanding of what it means to be "ill."

Winner of the 2012 Thomas Barbour Playwright's Award; developed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The BIG ROOM's Take Your Time Fall Festival, and New York Theatre Barn; How to Break was produced in New York City in 2012 by the OBIE-winning HERE and the Hip-Hop Theater Festival, in association with Collective Consciousness Theatre. Collective Consciousness, in association with Hi-ARTS, brought How to Break to New Haven in 2013 and to the SPKRBOX Festival at Norway's National Theatre in 2014.

AARON JAFFERIS (Book). Stuck Elevator at ACT (SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award, NEA, Creative Capital, NEFA National Theatre Project, Edgerton New American Play Award); Kingdom at The Old Globe (NAMT Fest '07, Richard Rodgers Award, NYMF Most Promising New Musical); Shakespeare: The Remix (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Capital Rep, Zach Scott). Musicals developed by the Public Theater, Sundance Theatre Lab, Atlantic Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and many others. A former Open Rap Slam champion at the National Poetry Slam Championships, Aaron teaches poetry at a children's hospital in his hometown of New Haven. BA: UC Berkeley. MFA: NYU GMTWP.

REBECCA HART (Lyrics & Music). As an actor: The Great Immensity (Public Theater, NY), How to Break (Spkrbox Festival @National Theatre, Norway), A Devil at Noon (Humana), O Guru Guru Guru (Humana), Uncle Vanya (Target Margin), Son of a Gun (Theatre Row), Young Adult (Paramount), Love Sucks (NYMF), numerous regional productions. As a songwriter: Target Margin's Uriel Acosta (Chocolate Factory), The Civilians' Let Me Ascertain You (Joe's Pub); original solo show Jazz Desert (Culture Project NY & Druid Theatre, Ireland); original rock musical STRUCK (HERE Summer Sublet & New Ohio Ice Factory). BA, Brown University (Theatre). Training: Maggie Flanigan Studio. Civilians Associate Artist. Music & gigs:

YAKO 440 (Music). YAKO 440 is a musician, beat maker, graffiti writer and graphic designer-a true school multi-media Hip Hop artist. His skill set includes human beatbox, turntables, bass, guitar, keys and drums. On 6 continents, this sonic arsenal has been put to use performing both as a duo with MC/beatboxer Baba Israel and with their 7-piece new rare groove band Soul Inscribed, sharing the stage with Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E. Fresh and KRS-1. In theater, Yako has toured and created original music for Baba's shows Boombap Meditations and The Spinning Wheel Keeps Turning and is well traveled with the improvisational Hip Hop theater troupe Playback NYC. He is also a scholar and teaching artist with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College (USA) and experienced leading music and visual art workshops with all age groups since 2000 throughout the NYC area and cities all over the world.


Book & Lyrics by Chana Wise, Music by Carl Johnson

It's 1921, and despite the shocked whispers, Mary Marie is surprisingly philosophical about her parents' divorce. In fact, she can't wait to observe, first hand, their inevitable new romances. But after months of being shuttled between them, what she observes is that Mother is different. Could Father, who has always been as distant as the stars he studies, be changing too?

Created as part of the musical theater program of Los Angeles-based New Musicals, Inc. (formerly The Academy for New Musical Theatre), Mary Marie has been presented in concert for several public readings. It was chosen to be included in the 2011 STAGES Festival in North Hollywood, The Academy for New Musical Theatre (ANMT) summer concert reading series at the NoHo Arts Center in 2012, and it was included in the Rubicon Theatre's "Plays in Progress" series in Ventura, CA., in the summer of 2013.

CHANA WISE (Book & Lyrics). Chana Wise is a playwright/lyricist living in Southern California. A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, Chana has written both book and lyrics for Tinseltown Christmas (UC Irvine 2012), The Coffee Quintet (a short musical film) and is currently writing Bagels!, all with music by Carl Johnson. Chana also wrote lyrics for Earthbound, an electronica musical, (SkyPilot Theatre, North Hollywood, CA, 2012), The Island, (SkyPilot Theatre, North Hollywood, CA, 2013), and most recently, The Max Factor Factor (NMI, Celebration Theatre, North Hollywood, summer 2014).

CARL JOHNSON (Music). Multi-Emmy Award-winning composer Carl Johnson lives and works in Southern California. A graduate of the University of Kansas and USC, he has worked in the film and television industry as a composer, orchestrator and conductor for over 20 years. His feature film credits include Piglet's Big Movie, Hunchback of Notre Dame II and The Return of Jafar. Among his TV credits are Gargoyles, Animaniacs and Toonsylvania. As an orchestrator/arranger he has worked on Skyfall, The Amazing Spider-Man and Wall*E. His other musical theater works include At Home in Mitford, A Tinseltown Christmas and Bagels!


Music by Michael Kooman, Book & Lyrics by Christopher Dimond

Howard Barnes is a perfectly average man, until he discovers that his life has become a musical. Equal parts satire, romantic comedy, and love letter to the American musical, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is a musical for people who love musical theater, and their spouses who hate it.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes has been developed through readings at the O'Neill National Music Theater Conference, the Human Race Theatre, and the Village Theatre, where it will receive a workshop production as part of their 2014 Festival of New Musicals. Additionally, the writers have developed the show during residencies at The 5th Avenue Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals and The Rhinebeck Writers Retreat. Private developmental readings have been presented at the New York Theatre Workshop and Trinity Repertory Theatre.

MICHAEL KOOMAN & CHRISTOPHER DIMOND (Music, Book & Lyrics). Michael Kooman (music) and Christopher Dimond (book & lyrics) received the 2013 Fred Ebb Award, a 2010 Jonathan Larson Grant and are the first recipients of the Lorenz Hart Award. Between them, they have received the Burton Lane Award, the Harold Adamson Award, the KC/ACTF Musical Theatre Award, a NYFA Fellowship, and numerous ASCAP Plus awards. Their musicals include Dani Girl (NAMT Festival '12, licensed by Samuel French), Judge Jackie Justice (Pittsburgh CLO), Orphie & the Book of Heroes (The Kennedy Center), Golden Gate (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Homemade Fusion (London's Ambassadors Theater, Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and Junior Claus (licensed by Dramatic Publishing).They are currently working on several new projects, including a commission from the Canadian Musical Theatre Project. Michael and Chris are members of the Dramatists Guild and ASCAP, and are proud alumni of Carnegie Mellon University. They were Dramatists Guild Fellows, received a fellowship at the O'Neill National Music Theater Conference, and attended the Johnny Mercer Songwriting workshop. In addition, they are the founders of The ASCAP Musical Theatre Songwriting Workshop, a program dedicated to training young songwriters.

Their debut album, OUT OF OUR HEADS, featuring an all-star lineup of Broadway performers, is now available on iTunes. Learn more at


Music & Lyrics by Adam Gwon, Book by Sarah Hammond

A workaholic Greek goddess gets tangled up with a security guard in the basement of the tallest building in the world. One mistake leads to another-a lost pair of scissors, a kiss, a stolen string-and soon Atropos is breaking her own rules to offer forever to an ordinary man. Can the fabric of the universe stand a flaw? An original musical about the three Fates in the modern city.

String was the 2014 recipient of the Weston Playhouse New Musical Award and has been developed at The O'Neill Music Theater Conference, Millikin University and New Dramatists, where it was the recipient of the Frederick Loewe Award.

ADAM GWON (Music & Lyrics). Musicals include Ordinary Days (NAMT Fest '08, Roundabout, London's West End, and more), Cloudlands (South Coast Repertory), The Boy Detective Fails (Signature Theatre) and Bernice Bobs Her Hair (NAMT Fest '11). His songs have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and more, by such luminaries as Audra McDonald and Kelli O'Hara. Honors include the Kleban, Ebb, and Loewe Awards, Second Stage Theatre's Rosen Award, ASCAP's Harold Adamson Award, the MAC John Wallowitch Award, and commissions from Roundabout, Playwrights Horizons, SCR, Signature, and Broadway Across America. Adam is proud to be making his third appearance in the NAMT Festival.

SARAH HAMMOND (Book). An alum of New Dramatists, Sarah's honors include Actors Theatre of Louisville's Heidemann Award, commissions from South Coast Rep and Broadway Across America, and a residency at the Royal National Theatre in London. Her play Green Girl was produced at the Summer Play Festival at the Public. She recently completed an MFA at NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, where she wrote book and lyrics for the full-length Barefoot Persephone; Cloud & Goat, a puppet musical; and Jack & Jill, a short musical that was seen at Barrington Stage in the summer of 2013.


Book by Peter Duchan, Music & Lyrics by Breedlove

Based on the story of Stu Rasmussen and the town of Silverton, Oregon

Based on the true story of America's first transgender mayor and the town that elected him, Stu for Silverton celebrates a new American folk hero from Silverton, Oregon. This heartwarming, all-American new musical blends Our Town and The Rocky Horror Show, testing the boundaries of tolerance as a small community adjusts to big changes.

Intiman Theatre commissioned Stu for Silverton and staged the show in 2013 as part of their new works development program, Start Up Stagings. The production was attended by approximately 5,000 people and called "genially groundbreaking," "vivaciously clever," "warmly humorous," "very moving," and even "downright wholesome" by The Seattle Times, which declared Stu for Silverton one of the best new musicals of the year.

BREEDLOVE (Music & Lyrics) is one of the most distinctive singer-songwriters in New York's downtown performance scene; he has toured several times with Semi Precious Weapons and his collaborators include Bootsy Collins, Lady Starlight, Darian Darling and Lady Gaga (with whom he recently toured, serving as Chief Ambassador of her Born This Way Foundation). Currently in the studio recording his first album with mega-producer Chew Fu (Gaga, Rihanna), his first singles "I Never Had," "I Love New York" and "New York City Rooftop" are currently available on iTunes. Born and raised in San Francisco, he is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College.

PETER DUCHAN (Book) wrote the book of the musical Dogfight, which premiered at Second Stage (director, Joe Mantello). Dogfight won the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and was nominated for five Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Off Broadway Musical and Book of a Musical, and two Drama League Awards, including Broadway or Off Broadway Musical. Dogfight received the 2011 Richard Rodgers Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Peter co-wrote the screenplays for Breaking Upwards (IFC Films) and the short Unlocked (official selection, Tribeca Film Festival). His play Lavender Scare was presented in Geva Theatre's 2011 Plays-in-Progress series. Dramatists Guild Fellowship, 2011-2012. Graduate, Northwestern University.

STU RASMUSSEN (Based On The Story Of). The November 2008 US election made history-Americans chose their first Black President-and the voters in Silverton, Oregon elected the nation's first openly transgendered Mayor. Although it was 'no big deal' to the voters in Silverton, Stu's election sparked a protest by the infamous Westboro Baptists, musically chronicled in Stu for Silverton. Since 2008 Stu has been re-elected twice as Silverton Mayor and is running for re-election again this year. In real life, Stu is a firmware engineer and is a co-owner of the Palace Theatre in Downtown Silverton. Stu spends his/her free time clothes shopping at thrift stores, collecting mechanical and electrical oddities and puttering in the workshop.

The Festival of New Musicals attracts theatre producers from around the world for this industry-only event to discover eight new musicals presented in 45-minute reading presentation over two days. All production costs are underwritten by NAMT, at no cost to the writing teams. As a non-profit organization, NAMT funds the Festival entirely through donations, sponsorships and contributions.

For the eleventh consecutive year, NAMT's Festival of New Musicals will be presented at the premiere Off Broadway facility New World Stages, located at 340 West 50th Street. A limited number of free seats will be available to the public on a standby basis. The public can also receive passes to the Festival through a donation to NAMT. Registration for Industry members is free and now open at

The Festival Committee is co-chaired by Kelley Kirkpatrick, Associate Artistic Director of Center Theatre Group (CA), and Mara Isaacs, Founder and Director of Octopus Theatricals (NJ). Committee members include: Bob Alwine, Goodspeed Musicals (CT); Victoria Bussert, Baldwin Wallace University (OH); Amy Corcoran, Dallas Summer Musicals (TX); Stephanie Cowan, Playing Pretend Productions (NY); Christine Denniston, Mercury Musical Developments (UK); Elise Dewsberry, New Musicals, Inc. (CA); Dana Harrel, formerly of La Jolla Playhouse (CA); Robert Lee, NYU Tisch School of the Arts - Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program and NAMT Festival Alumnus Writer; Søren Møller, Fredericia Theatre (DK); Paige Price, Theatre Aspen (CO); Greg Schaffert, Greg Schaffert Productions (NY); John Simpkins, Sharon Playhouse (CT) and NYU-Steinhardt (NY); and chair emeritus Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director of Dallas Theater Center (TX).

The 26th Annual Festival of New Musicals is overseen by NAMT New Works Director and Festival Producing Director Branden Huldeen and Festival General Manager Lisa Dozier King.

ABOUT NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR MUSICAL THEATRE: The National Alliance for Musical Theatre, founded in 1985, is a national service organization dedicated exclusively to musical theatre. Our mission is to advance musical theatre by nurturing the creation, development, production and presentation of new musicals, and to provide a forum for musical theatre professionals to share resources and exchange information. Our 200 members, located throughout 34 states and abroad, are some of the leading producers of musical theatre in the world and include theatres, presenting organizations, higher education programs and individual producers. Among the 220 musicals launched by NAMT's annual Festival of New Musicals are Thoroughly Modern Millie, Children of Eden, Honk!, The Drowsy Chaperone, Songs for a New World, I Love You Because, Striking 12, Vanities, Ordinary Days and many others, representing 420 writers.

ABOUT NAMT'S ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS: NAMT's Festival of New Musicals is the cornerstone of NAMT's mission to nurture the creation, development and production of new musicals. We present eight musicals in 45-minute presentations before an audience of over 600 industry professionals. In the short run, the Festival's goal is to connect producers with writers, so that their shows can continue their development trajectory. The long-term goal is to expand the musical theatre repertoire, bringing new musical theatre to thousands of audience members around the world.

For more information, visit WWW.NAMT.ORG.