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Keenan-Bolger, Foster, D'Abruzzo and Others Star in NAMT Musicals

The National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and Executive Director Kathy Evans today announced casting for the eight official selections in the 17th Annual Festival of New Musicals, to be held at Dodger Stages (340 West 50th St., between 8th & 9th Avenues, NYC) on Sunday, September 25 and Monday, September 26, 2005.

Among the theatre talents represented in the batch are actor Fyvush Finkel; composer Andrew Lippa; Tony Award-winner Michael Rupert, and Tony Award-nominees Hunter Foster, Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Celia Keenan-Bolger.

"Since 1989," according to press notes, "NAMTs Festival of New Musicals has introduced theatre producers to more than 170 musicals and 300 writers from around the world. More than three-fourths of these shows have found subsequent productions, tours and licensing agreements. Past festival highlights have included the Tony Award winner Thoroughly Modern Millie, Princesses, Honk!, Songs for a New World, Summer of '42 and The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin."

As a direct result of last years 16th Annual Festival of New Musicals, held in October 2004, five of the festivals eight shows secured productions: the Broadway-bound The Drowsy Chaperone (Ahmanson Theatre, November 2005), The Flight of the Lawnchair Man (Goodspeed Musicals, May 2005), The Girl in the Frame (Goodspeed Musicals, November 2005), Striking 12 (TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, December 2004; NY commercial run, December 2005) and Winesburg, Ohio (The Arden Theatre Company, October 2005).

Culled from a pool of more than 100 applicants, the eight selected musicals and their respective casts and directors for the 2005 festival include the following:

Ace, with book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker and music by Oberacker, will feature Christiane Noll (Jekyll & Hyde), Adam Monley (national tour of Big River). The show will be directed by Steven Minning. Set in 1952, the show tells how
a 10 year-old boy receives a model airplance and with it "embarks on a series of heroic and haunting World War I and World War II adventures, revealing his own true identity, the secrets of his past, and the key to his future,"

Celia Keenan-Bolger (Little Fish, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Andrew Lippa (John and Jen, The Wild Party) will headline Caraboo, Princess of Javasu. Directed by Omnium Gatherum's Will Frears, it will feature a book by Marsha Norman, lyrics by Beth Blatt and music by Jenny Giering. The show
tells the tale of Mary Baker, an Englishwoman who transforms herself into an exotic princess--she "manages to fool the scientists who are sent to examine her, and convince the nobles who gather to celebrate her."

Billy Porter (Ghetto Superstar) and Marva Hicks (Broadway Inspirational Voices) will star in The Funkentine Rapture, which features music and lyrics by Lee Summers and a book by Summers and Ben Blake. Summers also directs the show, which is set in the 70s. "When an aspiring funkmaster reaches for the stars, he's caught in an uproarious battle between good and evil, funk and disco, Kentucky fried and Harlem's catfish surprise."

I Love You Because, with book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham and music by Joshua Salzman, will have Stephanie D'Abruzzo (Avenue Q) as its star, while Daniel Kutner directs. The show
is a musical about the perils of the dating world--"a comedy that explores the rules and nuances of dating because sometimes love is learning how to love someone, not in spite of their differences, but because of them."

Will Chase (Lennon) and Julia Murney (The Wild Party, Lennon) will headline A Little Princess. With music by Lippa and a book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, it will be helmed by Susan H. Schulman (Little Women). Based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, the musical is the story of young Sara Crewe's relegation from rich girl to servant and how she "counters all headmistress Miss Minchin's best efforts to degrade her with the grace and virtue of a little princess."
 
Meet John Doe, which features a book by Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman, lyrics by Sugarman and music by Gale and an additional story by Matt August, will be directed by Joe Calarco (Shakespeare's R&J). It will star Donna Lynne Champlin (Hollywood Arms, Sweeney Todd) and Michael Rupert (Sweet Charity, Falsettos). The show
is based on the classic Frank Capra film in which a reporter causes a scandal by publishing a phony letter from a "John Doe" who plans to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the nation's ills.

Fyvush Finkel (Emmy Award-winner, CBS's "Picket Fences," 12 years as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof touring company), Hunter Foster (The Producers, Little Shop of Horrors, Urinetown) and Terrence Mann (Lennon, The Scarlet Pimpernel) will be featured in Party Come Here. The musical is directed by Lonny Price (A Class Act) and features a book by Daniel Goldfarb as well as music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum. The show
features "a nervous groom, a statue of Christ, and a 500-year-old Jewish caveman (who) converge to make miracles happen during a tropical storm on one magical night in Rio."

River's End features book and lyrics by Cheri Coons, music by Chuck Larkin and is directed by Lee Sankowich. The show will star Matt Farnsworth (Summer of '42) and Jodie Langel (Les Miserables).
It's based on the true story of "a daredevil couple who vanished on their honeymoon to the Grand Canyon in 1928, while attempting to run the entire length of the Colorado River in a boat they built themselves. River's End weaves together two completely different scenarios of what might have happened to the couple, with two pairs of actors playing Glen and Bessie Hyde."

The Festival of New Musicals is funded by contributions to NAMT, a not-for-profit organization, and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, and by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.

Admission to the Festival of New Musicals is by invitation only and closed to the general public. For more information, visit www.namt.net.

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