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Ben Fankhauser & Phoenix Best to Star in World Premiere of A.D. 16 at Olney Theatre Center


Both inspiring and delightfully witty, the musical comedy follows Mary Magdalene’s quest to impress the boy next door, Jesus.

Ben Fankhauser & Phoenix Best to Star in World Premiere of A.D. 16 at Olney Theatre Center

Olney Theatre Center will launch the world premiere of A.D. 16 (February 4 - March 6, 2022), a new musical from writers Cinco Paul (co-creator of Despicable Me and Schmigadoon!) and Bekah Brunstetter (producer and writer on This Is Us). Both heartwarming and hilarious, A.D. 16 follows the story of a teenaged Mary Magdalene as she falls in love with the carpenter's son next door... who happens to be a kid named Jesus. The show features an original score inspired by 90s R&B, hip hop, and pop, and is directed by award-winning Broadway veteran Stephen Brackett, who staged the first productions of Be More Chill, The Lightning Thief and next heads to NYC for the Broadway production of A Strange Loop. Phoenix Best, whose past roles include Alana Beck in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway and Eponine in the Les Miserables National Tour, will star as the lovestruck Mary Magdalene. Best known for his role as Davey in Disney's Newsies, Ben Fankhauser will star opposite Best as the young and idealistic Jesus. Three-time Tony Award-winner Doug Besterman provides the orchestrations. The show was workshopped at Olney Theatre Center in 2019, and is now mounted in association with Sloane Productions, LLC which has provided enhancement funds with an eye towards a possible New York production.

Tickets are available from $42 - $85 and can be purchased at or 301-924-3400.

"Once in a very great while, a new musical comes along that promises to heal a fractured world," said Artistic Director Jason Loewith. "I felt that four years ago, when I attended a showcase of musicals-in-process and heard excerpts from the show. Four years later, after all we've been through, I believe it even more, in my bones. We are all in need of joy, and we are all in need of healing. And no matter your religious background, no matter your experience of musical theater, this show will delight the most intellectual brain and melt the most cynical heart as it calls each and every one of us to be our best selves, for the good of our community."

Loewith continued, "As his hilarious AppleTV+ hit Schmigadoon proved, there's no funnier songwriter than Cinco Paul, who is best known for the mega-hit franchise Despicable Me. And Bekah Brunstetter is that ever-rarer breed of playwright with real credibility as a person of faith and a top-tier writer. And at the helm we're lucky to have director Stephen Brackett, whose track record mounting joyous new musicals is unparallelled. This is the team and this is the musical we've been waiting for." "

A.D. 16 asks the question, what if your crush really was perfect? Both inspiring and delightfully witty, the musical comedy follows Mary Magdalene's quest to impress the boy next door, Jesus. In the process, she fends off a trio of 1st-Century Mean Girls and a bunch of Beastie Boys-inspired wiseguys from the Sanhedrin. She learns that getting Jesus to love you back is both easier - and harder - than she ever imagined. With a lush R&B score and a riotous cast of characters, A.D. 16 achieves the rare feat of being both funny and sincere. A winner of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, A.D. 16 is a thrilling and fun musical for people of all faiths, or no faith at all.

The world premiere of A.D. 16 will also feature Kelli Blackwell as Diana, Alan H. Green as Jacob, Jade Jones as Jessica, Jared Loftin as Nicholas, Calvin McCullough as Matthias, Adelina Mitchell as Ruth, Christian Montgomery as Bartimaeus, Da'Von Moody as Simeon, and Chani Wereley as Esther. The ensemble includes Alex De Bard, Sylvern Groomes, RJ Pavel, John Sygar, and Kanysha Williams; with Tiffany Lyn Royster and Chris Urquiaga as swings. The production showcases orchestrations and music supervision by Doug Besterman, music direction by Christopher Youstra, choreography by Katie Spelman, scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Emilio Sosa, sound design by Matt Rowe, lighting design by Colin K. Bills and Wig Design by Anne Nesmith. Karen Currie serves as Production Stage Manager.

A.D. 16 was developed, in part, at SPACE on Ryder Farm, and at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.


Masks and proof of COVID vaccination are required to attend for all patrons. Exemptions may be made for those who are not vaccinated, such as children under 5, people with certain medical conditions preventing vaccination, or those with closely held religious beliefs. These patrons must provide proof of a timely negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours or a rapid antigen test taken within six hours of showtime.Visit for more information.


A.D. 16

Book by Bekah Brunstetter

Music & Lyrics by Cinco Paul

Story by Cinco Paul

Directed by Stephen Brackett

Orchestrations/Music Supervision by Doug Besterman

Music Direction by Christopher Youstra

Choreography by Katie Spelman

February 4 - March 6, 2022

Tickets: $42-$85 available at and 301-924-3400

Behind-the-Scenes Events

Cinco Paul And Bekah Brunstetter

In Conversation With Jason Loewith

Thursday, February 10th - 5:00 - 6:00 PM


Free For Members/$10 General Public

Prior to opening night Jason sits down with creators A.D.16., Cinco Paul (Lyrics and Music) and Bekah Brunstetter (Book) to talk about the process of creating their new musical.

Who Were the Women of the Gospels?

Saturday, February 19 at 5:00 pm

Free with RSVP

In addition to being the teenaged heroine of A.D. 16, Mary Magdalene is prominent among the few women mentioned in the Christian canonical Gospels and perhaps the most complex. She was present at the Crucifixion, and sent by Jesus to announce his resurrection to the Apostles. Her story provides vital clues about Jesus' nameless female disciples, and the status of women two thousand years ago. Behind the Scenes brings together a powerhouse panel of Biblical scholars to discuss the intersection of gender, culture and faith through the portrayal of women in the Hebrew and Christian Bible.

Speakers: Reverend Diane Dixon-Proctor (Sharp Street United Methodist Church), Dr. Annalisa Buttici (Georgetown University), and Cantor Stepahnie Weishaar (Kol Nefresh).

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