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BWW Exclusive: How THE NICE LIST is Spreading Christmas Spirit Virtually

We're checking in with the musical's creators to find out how they came together to create through Zoom!

Niceness makes the world-go-round and The Nice List is keeping the world going this holiday season.

"The Nice List" is an original 45-minute holiday family musical with 6 original songs conceived for the Zoom Era, now available in time for the holidays. Featuring a diverse cast while telling a heartwarming tale of understanding and inclusion through the ubiquitous platforms of our current reality connecting through Zoom, FaceTime etc.

"The Nice List" is directed by Alan Muraoka (Sesame Street, Avenue Q), with the book and lyrics by Phoebe Kreutz (The Pizza Underground, Awesomer and Awesomer), 6 original songs by Gary Adler (Drama Desk nominated for Altar Boyz,), choreography by the incomparable Michael Mindlin (Hamilton, Aladdin), toys, gadgets and props by the propstar herself Kathy Fabian (A Christmas Carol, Pretty Woman) with costumes by Sesame Street's designer himself Brian Hemesath and all under the watchful eye and guidance of the general manager Joey Monda who is a partner in Sing Out Louise! Productions (Hadestown).

Heading up the cast as Santa Claus "the main man of the North Pole" is James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin, Hamilton, Kimmy Schmidt). He is joined by a talented team of elves starting with the head elf of the workshop "Chestnut" played by Telly Leung (Aladdin, Allegiance). Santa announces that he will be "out-of-town" for a little longer than a flurry so roles and responsibilities will have to be shuffled this year finding "Crumpet" and "Raisin" in charge of the Naughty and Nice List. Checking it not once but twice is Julia Mattison (Godspell) as the "questionably" positive Crumpet while Ann Harada (Avenue Q, Seussical) as Raisin leans more toward the naughty side. As the elves near the big day inventory backups, pressure and tensions run high we find "Toot Toot" Cookie, portrayed by Jennifer Barnhart (Avenue Q, Sesame Street), Nick Kohn dolling around as Fruitcake (Avenue Q, The Buddy Holly Story) and Gumdrop stuffing his way through the mayhem played by Don Darryl Rivera (Iago in Broadway's Aladdin) running low on Christmas spirit.

How will all the Christmas chaos come to a celebratory conclusion? Rest assured upon Santa's return lessons are learned and "The Nice List" will be saved leaving us all with the feeling that we should live our lives like it's "Always a Holiday" every day.

"This project had to come together fairly quickly because we started creating it in July and we knew we had a quick turn around and timeline in order to get it ready for a December release date," said director Alan Muraoka. "It was decided that everyone would self tape to speed up this process. So we had a couple of rehearsals to talk about the tone and the overall approach for the musical, and then the actors went off and worked their magic. We had a couple of reshoots if something didn't match, but overall we were very lucky that we had such a talented group of artists because it all came together pretty nicely."

Creator Phoebe Kreutz could also speak to the difficulties of creating a musical in these trying times. "Writing the songs is way less fun when you can't be in a room together," she said. "In the past, Gary and I have just goofed off around a piano until a song appeared. It's much harder to goof off online. Not impossible. But harder."

Composer Gary Adler agreed: "Since I also served as the musical director, the trickiest part was working with and recording the singers, and hoping that they would sound like a unified ensemble. In a room together, actors generally can feel each other and learn how to sing as a group. Since we didn't have that luxury, I had to take extra care with cutoffs, articulation, dynamics... all that fun stuff!"

"My favorite part of working on The Nice List was reviewing all of the 'takes' from the actors after they submitted them for our review. It was exciting to work with the team on figuring out which ones were going to work best in the final product," said choreographer Michael Mindlin. "Upon watching the movie, I really hope that viewers appreciate the light hearted (and outside-the-box) message. I also think viewers will step away humming some of the music and reciting some of the lyrics because they are both so clever!"

Producer Elliott Masie hopes the musical delivers one gift in particular to viewers: "Empathy. Our audience, in homes around the world, are experiencing one of the most difficult holiday season in this Pandemic. The Elves and Santa learn how to be more empathic with each other - with acceptance, love, humor and of course, great songs! Empathy is the gift of The Nice List."

"I hope that it brings a smile to anyone that watches it, and allows them to find the holiday spirit during this challenging time," added Muraoka. "We wanted to create a family friendly musical that adults could watch with their children and both could enjoy equally. And I wanted to create an homage to all of the Rankin andBass holiday musicals that I adored growing up, as well as The Charlie Brown Christmas Special and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. This is our Christmas gift to everyone, and that's why we wanted to make sure anyone could see it for free. Happy Holidays to one and all.

WATCH THE NICE LIST


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