Caissie Levy, Will Roland, and More Among Initial Casting for Festival of New Musicals

Caissie Levy, Will Roland, and More Among Initial Casting for Festival of New Musicals

National Alliance for Musical Theatre has announced initial casting for the 30th Annual FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS, which takes place on Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018 at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues). Festival events kick off on Monday, October 22 with Thank You, 30!, a gala event to celebrate the 30th Annual Festival.

Registration for industry members is free and now open at www.namt.org/festival. The public can also receive passes to the Festival through a donation to NAMT. There is also a day-of standby line for the general public for free admission (based on availability).

Casting for the 30th Annual FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS includes Colin Anderson (Broadway: Carousel), Jeannette Bayardelle (Broadway: The Color Purple), Mallory Elizabeth Bechtel (Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Allison Blackwell (Broadway: Pretty Woman: The Musical), Sam Cieri (National Tour: Once), Rebecca Covington Webber (Broadway: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Andrew Durand (Broadway: Head Over Heels), Ben Fankhauser (Broadway: Newsies), Greg Hildreth (Broadway: Frozen), J. Quinton Johnson (Broadway: Hamilton),Hailey Kilgore (Broadway: Once on This Island), Janet Krupin (Broadway: If/Then), Jeremy Kushnier (Broadway: Head Over Heels),Liisi LaFontaine (West End: Dream Girls), Jo Lampert(Off Broadway: Hundred Days), Caissie Levy (Broadway: Frozen),Bonnie Milligan (Broadway: Head Over Heels), Jacob Morrell (Broadway: Kinky Boots),Euan Morton (Broadway: Hamilton),Julia Murney (Broadway/National Tour: Wicked), Luca Padovan(Broadway: School of Rock), Solea Pfeiffer(National Tour: Hamilton), Emily Rogers (Broadway: If/Then), Will Roland (NY: Be More Chill; Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Isabella Russo (Broadway: School of Rock- The Musical), Colton Ryan (Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Ryan Shaw (Broadway: Motown The Musical), Kristen Sieh (Broadway: The Band's Visit), Graham Stevens (Off-Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher),Will Swenson (Broadway: Waitress; Film: The Greatest Showman), Miiko Toiviainen (TV: Sunnuntailounas),Josh Tower (Broadway: School of Rock-The Musical), Donald Webber Jr. (Broadway: Hamilton),Marissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway: Hairspray) and Tony Yazbeck (Broadway: On the Town). The casting director for the Festival is Michael Cassara, CSA.

National Alliance for Musical Theatre's FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS attracts theatre producers from around the world for this industry-only event, which features eight new musicals in 45-minute concert presentations 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.

The Festival has introduced musical theatre producers to 252 new musicals and 478 writers from around the world. As a direct result of the FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS, more than 85% of the musicals presented have gone on to subsequent readings, workshops, productions and tours, been licensed and/or recorded on cast albums. Past Festival shows include Benny & Joon, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, Children of Eden, Come From Away, The Drowsy Chaperone, Honk!, It Shoulda Been You, Lempicka, Striking 12, Ordinary Days, Thoroughly Modern Millie and We Live In Cairo among many others.

This year, a committee of 17 theatre professionals selected eight new musicals out of 226 blind submissions. The musicals chosen for the 30th Annual Festival are:

17 Again (book by Marco Pennette, music & lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner), A.D. 16 (book by Bekah Brunstetter, music & lyrics by Cinco Paul), Gun & Powder (book & lyrics by Angelica Chéri, music by Ross Baum), Monstersongs (book, music & lyrics by Rob Rokicki), Row (book by Daniel Goldstein, music & lyrics by Dawn Landes), The River Is Me (book & lyrics by Sukari Jones, music by Troy Anthony), The Wicker Husband (book by Rhys Jennings, music & lyrics by Darren Clark), and XY (book, music & lyrics by Oliver Houser, developed with Hunter Bird).

The Full NAMT FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS Line Up:

17 Again book by Marco Pennette, music & lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner

Director: Gary Griffin (Broadway: Honeymoon in Vegas, The Apple Tree, The Color Purple)

Music Director: Ben Cohn (Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen)

Cast includes Mallory Elizabeth Bechtel (Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Janet Krupin (Broadway: If/Then), Caissie Levy (Broadway: Frozen), Will Roland (NY: Be More Chill; Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Colton Ryan (Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen), Will Swenson (Broadway: Waitress; Film: The Greatest Showman), Josh Tower (Broadway: School of Rock-The Musical), andMarissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway: Hairspray)

Life doesn't always work out the way we want, or expect it to. What would happen if you could turn back the clock to a younger version of yourself and start over? 17 Again-a new musical based on the hit 2009 film starring Zac Efron and Matthew Perry-tells the story of a married 35-year-old man who fears his best days have passed him by...until he mysteriously wakes up as a seventeen-year-old high school basketball star with the chance to rewrite the future he believes he was meant to have.

While a student at NYU, Marco Pennette interned for Harold Prince and sold his first script to the sitcom Kate & Allie. Pennette soon relocated to Los Angeles where he created the NBC comedy Caroline in the City. He was also a show runner for series such as Ugly Betty (Emmy nominee) and Desperate Housewives. He currently writes for the CBS comedy Mom. His theater credits include the Off Broadway play Motherhood: Out Loud and the revised book for the 2015 Broadway revival of On the 20th Century. He is currently writing stage adaptations of Return of The Living Dead and the Universal film Death Becomes Her.

Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner wrote songs for Broadway's First Date, which ran at the Longacre Theatre after a sold-out run at Seattle's 5th Avenue/ACT Theatres. The show can now be seen in productions across the U.S. and around the world. Recently, Zachary and Weiner penned songs for the acclaimed musical episode of Once Upon a Time on ABC. The team wrote the score for a musical adaptation of the film Secondhand Lions (book by Rupert Holmes) which premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Upcoming musical projects include: 17 Again directed by Adam Shankman and 13 Going on 30 directed by Andy Fickman. For Universal Studios, the duo wrote songs with J.K. Rowling for Celestina Warbeck & the Banshees playing at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Currently, Zachary and Weiner are developing a TV series with Universal Television starring Kristin Chenoweth and have created shows for ABC, FOX, Disney Channel, Disney Animation and Disney Parks around the globe. Zachary and Weiner are recipients of the ASCAP Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award. www.zacharyandweiner.com

A.D. 16, book by Bekah Brunstetter, music & lyrics by Cinco Paul

Director: Stephen Brackett (Upcoming Broadway: Be More Chill. NY/ National Tour: The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical),

Musical Director: Julie McBride (Broadway: SpongeBob SquarePants,The Broadway Musical)

Cast includes Ben Fankhauser (Broadway: Newsies), Greg Hildreth (Broadway: Frozen), Hailey Kilgore (Broadway: Once on This Island), Bonnie Milligan (Broadway: Head Over Heels), andGraham Stevens (Off-Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher)

A.D. 16 tells the story of what happens when teenage Mary Magdalene moves from Magdala to Nazareth with her father and falls in love with the boy next door: teenage Jesus. Featuring an R&B score that evokes the best of TLC, En Vogue, Prince and more, this comedic coming-of-age story asks the question: what if your first crush really WAS perfect?

Bekah Brunstetter's plays include The Cake (The Echo), Going to a Place Where You Already Are (South Coast Repertory), The Oregon Trail (Portland Center Stage Fall 2016, O'Neill Playwrights Conference; Flying V), Be A Good Little Widow (Ars Nova, Collaboraction, The Old Globe) and Oohrah! (The Atlantic Theater). She is currently a member of the Echo Theater's Playwright's group. She has previously written for MTV (Underemployed; I Just Want My Pants Back), ABC Family's Switched at Birth and Starz' American Gods. She is currently a Producer on NBC's This is Us. MFA, The New School for Drama.

CINCO PAUL, with Ken Daurio, has written the movies Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, Despicable Me 3, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, The Secret Life Of Pets, The Santa Clause 2 and Bubble Boy. He also wrote the lyrics for the six songs in The Lorax, and is the recipient of the ASCAP Sammy Cahn Award for lyric writing and the Harold Arlen Award for the score of Bubble Boy the Musical, the original cast recording of which was recently released on Ghostlight Records. BA in English, Yale University. MFA in Screenwriting, USC.

Gun & Powder, book & lyrics by Angelica Chéri, music by Ross Baum

Director: Warren Adams (Broadway: Motown The Musical, choreographer)

Musical Director:Steven Jamail (Upcoming Broadway: Born For This:The BeBe Winans Story)

Cast includes Colin Anderson (Broadway: Carousel), Allison Blackwell (Broadway: Pretty Woman: The Musical), Rebecca Covington Webber(Broadway: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Liisi LaFontaine (West End: Dream Girls), Solea Pfeiffer (National Tour: Hamilton), Emily Rogers(Broadway: If/Then), Ryan Shaw (Broadway: Motown The Musical), Donald Webber Jr. (Broadway: Hamilton) and Tony Yazbeck (Broadway: On the Town).

Gun & Powder is inspired by the true story of Mary and Martha Clarke: African American twin sisters who passed for White and were outlaws. Set in Post-Emancipation Texas, the musical follows our heroines' journey of defying racial boundaries and seizing what rightfully belongs to them. They are successful, until a little romance shakes everything up.

Ross Baum is a composer, performer and music arranger. His musical scores include: Gun & Powder (2018 Richard Rodgers Award, Signature Theatre's SigWorks Musical Theater Lab), Crowndation: I Will Not Lie To David (National Black Theatre), Anne Frank: My Secret Life and A Letter to Auntie Rosa (Diverging Elements Theatre Company). He was selected as winner of NY City Center's Sondheim Remix contest and Disney/NMI's 2018 New Voices Project. As founder and music director of RANGE a cappella, he has provided vocal arrangements for Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, Billboard, Playbill, the E! Network and a YouTube channel totaling 30 million views. Education: MFA in Musical Theatre Writing, NYU; BFA, Syracuse; BMI Workshop. www.rossbaum.net

ANGELICA CHÉRI is a playwright, bookwriter/lyricist and screenwriter. Her play Berta, Berta premiered at the 2018 Contemporary American Theater Festival. Plays from her trilogy The Prophet's Cycle include: The Seeds of Abraham (workshop, Pershing Square Signature Center, 2013, mentored by Lynn Nottage; production, Billie Holiday Theatre, 2014), The Sting of White Roses (production, North Carolina Black Repertory Company, 2016) and Crowndation: I Will Not Lie to David (2018 workshop, National Black Theatre, I Am Soul Residence). She and Ross Baum received the prestigious Richard Rodgers Award for Gun & Powder. Angelica holds a BA in Theater from UCLA, an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU.

Monstersongs, book, music & lyrics by Rob Rokicki

Director: Jenn Thompson (Off Broadway: The Gravedigger's Lullaby)

Musical Director: Emily Marshall (Upcoming Broadway: Be More Chill)

Cast includes Sam Cieri (National Tour: Once), J. Quinton Johnson (Broadway: Hamilton), Euan Morton (Broadway: Hamilton), Julia Murney (Broadway: Wicked) andLuca Padovan(Broadway: School of Rock).

Monstersongs is a unique theatrical event that immerses audiences in a synthesized world of graphic novels, rock musicals, live performance and new technology. A portal into the psyches of often misunderstood creatures, Monstersongs flips the switch on the monster narrative, inviting audiences to explore the humanity that binds us all.

Rob Rokicki is a songwriter, performer, music director and educator. He is the composer/lyricist of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (book by Joe Tracz) which was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards, an Off Broadway Alliance Award and a Lortel Award. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Actor's Equity, and is an alum of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. Other projects: Love, NY, Strange Tails, Relativity (with Michael Ruby) and the graphic novel rock album, Monstersongs (art by David O'Neill). Albums are available on Broadway Records and Great White Wax. BFA, BA University of Michigan. www.robertrokicki.com

The River Is Me, book & lyrics by Sukari Jones, music by Troy Anthony

Director: Schele Williams (Broadway AD: Motown The Musical)

Cast includes Jeremy Kushnier (Broadway: Head Over Heels).

The River Is Me is a coming-of-age musical theatre adventure, about a little boy who dreams of becoming an underwater superhero to save his mother from the grown-up world of violence. Bo-a funny kid with a big imagination-travels from Chicago to Mississippi in 1955 to win friends with his hijinks. But when he whistles at a white woman, he's kidnapped, killed and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Rather than be destroyed in death however, Bo transforms into the water-powered superhero he dreamed of as a living boy, returning to walk the earth to change it forever to save his Ma.

Troy Anthony is a composer, actor and director based in New York City. He and his writing partner Sukari Joneshave presented work at Joe's Pub, Feinstein's/54 Below, Prospect Theater Company and the Musical Theatre Factory. Commissions include Atlantic Theater Company, The Civilians and Princeton University. Troy has been seen in The Public Theater's Twelfth Night and As You Like It, as well as Prospect Theater Company's Tamar of the River. He leads The Public Theater's Public Works Community Choir and focuses on the intersection between art and social justice at the DreamYard Art Center. He's a graduate of Otterbein University.

SUKARI JONES is a playwright, screenwriter and lyricist whose work explores the intersection of race and power in the United States, with a particular focus on the Black experience in America and complicated mother-daughter relationships. She received her BA from Vassar College, and her MFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Memberships: Advanced BMI Musical Theatre Workshop; The Public Theater Emerging Writers Group. Sukari's work has been commissioned/produced at Goodspeed Musicals, Lincoln Center Theater, The Lark Play Development Center, Village Theatre, Barrington Stage Company, Atlantic Theater Company, Joe's Pub and The Public Theater. Fellowships: W.K. Rose (Vassar College), MacDowell Colony.

Row, book by Daniel Goldstein, music & lyrics by Dawn Landes

Adapted from the book A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure

Director: Anne Kauffman (Broadway: Marvin's Room)

Musical Director: Wiley Deweese (NY: The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical)

Cast includes Jeannette Bayardelle (Broadway: The Color Purple), Andrew Durand (Broadway: Head Over Heels), Jo Lampert (Off Broadway: Hundred Days) and Kristen Sieh (Broadway: The Band's Visit).

In 1998, Tori Murden set out in her homemade rowboat attempting to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo. She unknowingly rowed into the heart of Hurricane Danielle. Row tells a heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting story of finding your heart in the middle of the ocean.

Daniel Goldstein is a writer and director based in Brooklyn. He is the winner of the 2016 Kleban Prize for most promising musical theatre librettist. His musical Unknown Soldier, written with the late Michael Friedman, had its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He is currently under commission by Roundabout Theatre Company for a play about Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, called Orange Crush. He is developing a new musical based on the David Lynch film The Straight Story. His work as a director has been seen on and off Broadway and around the world.

Dawn Landes is a singer-songwriter whose thoughtful music you might have heard if you watch Bored to Death, House, Gossip Girl or The Good Wife. Along with releasing six albums since 2005 (and an EP inspired by yé-yé, '60s French pop music), she's a frequent collaborator with contemporaries such as Sufjan Stevens, Norah Jones and composer Nico Muhly. She has appeared with the NYC Ballet, TED and Lincoln Center's prestigious American Songbook Series. Her newest album Meet Me at the River was produced by Country Music Hall of Fame legend Fred Foster and was released in August 2018 on Yep Roc Records.

The Wicker Husband, book by Rhys Jennings, music & lyrics by Darren Clark

Based on the original short story by Ursula Wills-Jones

Director: Charlotte Westenra (Donmar: Kiss of the Spider Woman)

Musical Director: Eli Zoller (Off Broadway: F#%cking Up Everything)


Woven from a blend of folk music, storytelling and puppetry, The Wicker Husband is a magical story of love, redemption and revenge. It tells the timeless tale of the outsider, of the battle for self-acceptance in a society that constantly reminds us what it means to be "Ugly."

Rhys Jennings trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The Wicker Husband, which won the MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award in 2016, is Rhys' first professional credit as a bookwriter. Visiting the US in 2005, he wrote and created a large scale community theatre show called The Color Goblins for the town of Burgaw, North Carolina. As an actor, Rhys has worked extensively on stage and radio, and in 2009 he won the BBC Carleton Hobbs Award. His next collaboration with Darren Clark will be Turing, a biographical piece about WWII codebreaker Alan Turing.

Darren Clark's musical and lyrical commissions have included: Day of the Living (RSC); Fantastic Mr. Fox (lyrics only for Nuffield Theatre, UK Tour 2016); The Scarecrows' Wedding (Edinburgh Festival, UK Tour, West End for Scamp Theatre 2016); These Trees Are Made of Blood (Arcola Theatre, Southwark Playhouse). Darren is an associate artist with The Children's Theatre company Paper Balloon, writing music and lyrics for all their shows. His collaborations with Rhys Jennings include: The Wicker Husband, which won the Inaugural MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award in 2016, and Turing, a musical exploring the life of codebreaker Alan Turing.

XY, book, music & lyrics by Oliver Houser, developed with Hunter Bird

Director: Hunter Bird (NY: The Laodamiad. Broadway AD: Our Mother's Brief Affair)
Music Director: Jennifer Lin (Regional: Priscilla Queen of the Desert)

Cast includes Jacob Morrell (Broadway: Kinky Boots), Isabella Russo (Broadway: School of Rock- The Musical), and Miiko Toiviainen (TV: Sunnuntailounas).

Chris can't shake Christine. She's with him everywhere he goes, staring back when Chris looks in the mirror. But when Chris falls in love, the divide between then and now begins to blur. XY is a musical drama about accepting the past and coming home to the most unfamiliar of places: ourselves.

Oliver Houser is a NY-based actor and musical theatre artist. His work has been performed at The Other Palace Theatre in London, The Kennedy Center, The NY Musical Festival, the NY Fringe Festival, The SoHo Playhouse, the Kaufman Center, Feinstein's/54 Below and other venues across the United States. He has developed work at Goodspeed Musicals, the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, the ASCAP and BMI Musical Theatre Workshops and the Ucross Foundation. Oliver is a 2017 Dramatists Guild Fellow and winner of the ASCAP Foundation Sammy Cahn Award for songwriting. He is a proud member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild. www.oliverhouser.com

HUNTER BIRD is Brooklyn-based maker of new plays and musicals. He has directed and developed new work at Ars Nova, Roundabout Theatre Company, The McKittrick Hotel, Signature Theatre with Columbia University, The Getty Villa, 59E59, Lincoln Center Education, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Musical Theatre Factory and Feinstein's/54 Below. He is currently developing new work with Nikko Benson, Andrea Daly, Kate Douglas, Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich, Oliver Houser, Chas LiBretto, Madeline Myers, Angela Sclafani and Zack Zadek. Artistic Producer of The Chase Brock Experience; Line Producer of ANT Fest 2018 at Ars Nova; Colony Coordinator of the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals from 2014-2016. www.hunter-bird.com

The National Alliance for Musical Theatre, founded in 1985, is a national service organization dedicated exclusively to musical theatre. Their 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. Their 209 members, located throughout 29 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.

NAMT's FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS is the cornerstone of NAMT's mission to nurture the creation, development and production of new musicals. The Festival presents 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.

The 30th ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS is overseen by NAMT New Works Director Ciera Iveson and Festival General Manager Lisa Dozier Productions and Associate General Manager Dailey-Monda Management.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos

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