Christian Duhamel Wins Kleban Prize for Merrimack Repertory Theatre Premiere Musical

By: Jan. 09, 2018

Christian Duhamel Wins Kleban Prize for Merrimack Repertory Theatre Premiere Musical Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is pleased to share the news that The Kleban Foundation's 28th Annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre for the most promising musical theatre librettist has been awarded to Christian Duhamel for his work on My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, a musical that received its world premiere at MRT in Lowell in April 2017.

While the Kleban Prize typically goes to one lyricist and one librettist each year, this year there are three winners, each of whom will receive $100,000, payable over two years. Alan Schmuckler and Amanda Yesnowitz were given the lyricist prize, while Christian Duhamel is the recipient of this year's librettist award.

"We couldn't be prouder to have an artist, and the work they premiered at MRT, win one of theatre's most prestigious national awards," said MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels. "I have no doubt this is only the beginning of Christian's long and robust career. Also, it's gratifying to see that the people of Lowell and MRT's subscribers and donors get to see these new works before anyone else in the country-and that work is going on to be recognized as the best nationally."

Under Artistic Director Sean Daniels, MRT has presented 11 world premieres in his first three years. Year one under Daniels' direction featured the award-winning musical The Lion, year two featured the award-winning musical My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, and the upcoming musical Little Orphan Danny written by and starring Dan Finnerty premieres in March 2018.

Christian Duhamel added, "It's such a tremendous honor to receive this award from the Kleban Foundation. I'm grateful to my collaborators, Ed Bell and Charissa Bertels, for always pushing me to write beyond my best. And I feel so lucky to have developed My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend under the watchful eyes of producer Peilin Chou and the vision of director Sean Daniels when we premiered the show at Merrimack Repertory Theatre." ABOUT THE KLEBAN PRIZE The 2018 prizes will be presented on Monday, February 5, 2018, in a private ceremony hosted by The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and BMI at ASCAP. Since its inception, Kleban Prize winners have been selected by judging panels comprised of the theatre's most respected artists and administrators.

The judges making the final determination this year were Tony-nominated actress Marin Mazzie (The King & I, Kiss Me Kate, Ragtime, Passion), Tony-nominated composer and lyricist Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), and author and professor Laurence Maslon (American Musicals; Broadway: The American Musical, Associate Chair/Arts Professor, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts).

The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. For 28 years, The Kleban Prize, which has recognized and honored some of the American musical theatre's brightest developing talents, is unique in that it is bestowed not just for an artist's previous achievements, but for the promise of creativity to come.

Over the past 28 years, the annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has awarded approximately $5,000,000 to 63 artists who collectively have garnered four Tony Awards (with nearly 30 Tony nominations), 59 Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, 10 Drama Desk Awards, nine Outer Critic Circle Awards, four Obie Awards, two Olivier Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. The list of previous Kleban Prize winners includes Lisa Kron (Fun Home), Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), and Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid). For more information about The Kleban Prize, visit:

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) presented the World Premiere of the musical My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend from April 26 to May 21, 2017. Written by Christian Duhamel and Edward Bell, conceived and performed by Charissa Bertels; and directed by Sean Daniels. In this delightful new musical, Charissa, a quirky, twenty-something actress, meets Milton, a quick-witted, eighty-something millionaire who loves Schubert, Shakespeare, and Dallas BBQ. From a chance encounter to the unlikeliest of friendships, Charissa discovers there's much she can learn from her surprising new companion. Based on the true story of performer Charissa Bertels, My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend reveals the thrill of chasing a dream, the power of living in the now, and all that can happen when we let ourselves say "yes." For more information on the musical, visit:

Christian Duhamel (2018 Kleban Prize winner, most promising musical theatre librettist) is a playwright, composer, actor and educator. In 2017, he served as a Songwriting Artist in Residence with Oriental DreamWorks. His newest musical, My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, written with composer/lyricist Ed Bell, directed by Sean Daniels, and starring Charissa Bertels, received its world premiere at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, produced by Peilin Chou. His other works include The Girl Who Turned Into a Feather (Something Marvelous Festival); Miss Mayor (Puzzle Theatre Festival; B-Side Productions' New American Musical Award finalist); Reinventing Romance (Kennedy Center ACTF awards for music, lyrics, playwriting and direction; David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award finalist); Worlds Apart (Music Theatre Ventures' Young Creators Award); X-Mas: A Merry Mutant Holiday Spectacular; Reeling; and Mary Walker Wears What She Wants. He has presented concert works at The Duplex, 54 Below, The Neon, Martin's Off Madison, New Voices, and The Battersea Barge, and has received commissions from theaters across the country, such as Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company/Wooden-O, and The Human Race Theatre Company. As an actor, he has been seen onstage at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Village Theatre, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, among others. A native of Kellogg, Idaho who grew up in the Seattle suburbs, Christian is alumnus of DePaul University and Wright State University. He currently resides in New York City where he is an active member of the Dramatists Guild of America, the Off-Broadway Alliance, Actors' Equity Association, and the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has been Merrimack Valley's professional theatre company since 1979 and is an integral part of Lowell's identity as the cultural heart of the region. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, MRT's mission is to share theatrical stories of human understanding that reflect and engage our community. A seven-show season runs from September through May in the intimate 279-seat Nancy L. Donahue Theatre. The company is known as a leader in producing new plays, especially world and regional premieres. MRT is one of 72 theatres nationwide (one of three in Massachusetts) with membership in LORT (the League of Resident Theatres).

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