CMTF: 14 New Works, So Who is the Next HAMILTON?

Nick Graffagna (center) with the cast of in Kokandy Productions' FLIGHT, with book, music and lyrics by Michael Potsic, directed by Allison Hendrix, with music direction by Kevin Reeks, part of Underscore Theatre Company's 3rd annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Michael Courier.

We totally get it. With Chicago soon to be in the midst of a HAMILTON craze to rival New York, there is some desire by many theatergoers to be there to witness the next great American musical much like those lucky few who first caught the hit Founding Father musical in its initial off-Broadway run at New York's The Public Theater.

Well, here's your chance --maybe. Underscore Theatre Company is presenting The Third Annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival featuring 14 new works. Will any of them rise to the level of HAMILTON? Only time and audiences will tell.

While we prefer to plunge head-first into new works, we realize not all theatregoers are so daring. We chatted with each of the companies from the 14 new works to find out which show(s) might be right for you.

DAPHNE'S SUNSET
The details: presented by CPA Theatricals. Previously performed as SPOT ON THE WALL the New York Musical Festival. Book and Lyrics By Kevin Jaeger, Music by Alex Mitchell. Directed by Mark Lococo, Music Direction by Justin LaForte. Featuring Cody Dericks, Colleen DeRosa, Gerald Richardson, Gary Smiley and Jess Thigpen.
Synopsis: Daphne's Sunset tells the story of one family's search for expression and empathy inside a museum. Paul Hunter, a talented photographer, is about to have an exhibition of his work at the museum - but when his artwork focuses on his mother's recent lost battle with cancer, his family finds out how difficult it can be to face your pain and your past. With allusions to Greek mythology and a contemporary score, Daphne's Sunset reminds us to delve into the ugly truth and look for the beauty.
The ideal show for fans of: SPRING AWAKENING.

FLIGHT
The details: presented by Kokandy Productions. Book, Music and Lyrics by Michael Potsic Directed by Allison Hendrix, Music Direction by Kevin Reeks. Choreography by Gloria Mwez. Featuring Nathan Carroll, Nick Graffagna and Lauren Kerbs with Johnny Kyle Cook, Colin Funk, Emily Grayson, Jeff Meyer, Courtney Mize, Johanna Moffitt and Jared Rein.
Synopsis: Based on the Greek myth "The Flight of Icarus," the show follows Daedalus, his wife Aeden and their son Icarus as they learn that to truly live and love comes with great risk.
The ideal show for fans of: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.

GEFILTE FISH CHRONICLES
The details: Previously performed at the New York Musical Festival. Book by Matty Selman and Iris Burnett. Music and Lyrics by Matty Selman. Directed by Emily Maltby, Music Direction by Jermaine Hill. Orchestrations by James Higgins. Featuring Caron Buinis, Jonas Davidow, Andrew Jessop, Neill Kelly, Kayla Kennedy, Katie Ratliff and Ashlyn Seehafer.
Synopsis:
The last of the colorful Dubroff sisters, Goldie, has just passed away and her granddaughter, an aspiring actress, leaves for Hollywood instead of staying home and having the traditional family Passover (songs, stories, prayers and massive amounts of food), with her mother. When the family photographer magically appears after being gone for 50 years, the stage begins to sparkle with a musical that is enchanting, heartwarming and uproariously funny.
The ideal show for fans of: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

JENNA ROXY AND THE CHURCH OF MODERN LOVE
The details: Presented by Bailiwick Chicago in conjunction with With a Machete Productions. Book, Music and Lyrics by Ethan Krupp and Davyd Reddyk. Directed by Jon Martinez, Music Direction by Davyd Reddyk. Featuring Becca Brown, Maxwell J. DeTogne, Gary Fields, Mike Gospel, Brendan Mulhern and Sophia Shrand.
Synopsis:
When the inventor Dole Roxy created the world's most popular cough syrup, he collected a group of people who drink it so regularly that he began a commune, focused on music, love and drinking Roxy's Cough Syrup. When he passes away, his spirit is "transmigrated" into his newborn daughter (Jenna) making her the new leader.
The ideal show for fans of: HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.

MATING
The details: Presented by Jeffery Lyle Segal. Book, Music and Lyrics by Jeffery Lyle Segal. Directed by Jeffery Lyle Segal, Music Direction by Michael Goldman. Featuring Edward J. MacLennan, Bradley Halverson, Natalie Rae and Amanda Hartley Urteaga.
Synopsis: The tragicomedy of modern romance is celebrated with laughter and tears in this smart new musical revue. In the first act, the performers sing mostly comedic complaints about the difficulty of finding "the one." In the second act, the couples join and find happiness. But those love songs are followed by songs of breaking up, with their accompanying emotional pain. In the end, the couples reunite, and celebrate in love and unity.
The ideal show for fans of: STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW

MY LIFE IS A COUNTRY SONG
The details: Presented by New American Folk Theatre. Book, Music and Lyrics by Anthony Whitaker. Directed by JamAl Howard, Music Direction by Anthony Whitaker. Music Arrangements by Derek Fawcett. Featuring SuzAnne Bracken, Derek Fawcett, Jenna Fawcett, Charlie Irving and Kirk Jackson.
Synopsis: The story of Donna, a woman starting life over after leaving a long-term abusive relationship. She has rented the mill house and is trying to begin a new life while trying to understand the years of mental and physical violence she endured. It becomes of a story of forgiveness; forgiving herself for allowing herself to be victimized, her family for turning their heads and even her ex-husband.
The ideal show for fans of: PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES.

NUMBERS NERDS
The details: Book by Laura Stratford, Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser, Music by David Kornfeld. Directed by Amber Mak, Music Direction by John Cockerill. Featuring Danielle Davila, Britain Gebhardt, Madison Kauffman, Jhardon Milton, Hanah Rose Nardon and Maisie Rose.
Synopsis:
Against a backdrop of drama-queens-turned-janitors, loose ferrets and college pressure, a diverse (almost) all-girls high school Math Team must band (and sing!) together to raise the money to go to the National competition, surmount their differences to win and figure out if unicorns are extinct.
The ideal show for fans of: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE or PITCH PERFECT.

PEN
The details: Music and Lyrics by Leo Schwartz, Book and Lyrics by DC Cathro. Directed by Michael Driscoll, Music Direction by Aaron Benham. Featuring Michael Owen Achenbach, Shaun Baer, Randolph Johnson, Lauren Paris, Jenna Schoppe and Paul Michael Thomson.
Synopsis: Still reeling from a recent breakup and looking for a distraction, Paul starts corresponding with Rod, a pen pal in another state. Meanwhile, Paul's co-worker, Lee, is in the planning stages of her wedding. Soon, what began as an innocent flirtation evolves into an emotional attachment that neither of them expected. The problem? Paul's ex, Grayson, returns to try to win him back. The bigger issue? Paul's pen pal is a prisoner, incarcerated for 13 more years.
The ideal show for fans of:
LOCK-UP: THE MUSICAL

PLANTED
The details: Presented by Rogue Elephant Productions. Co-conceived by Christopher Pazdernik and Jeff Bouthiette. Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bouthiette, with additional lyrics by Rebekah Walendzak. Directed by Christopher Pazdernik, Music Direction by Jeff Bouthiette. Featuring Vasily Deris, Maxwell J. DeTogne, Cisco Lopez, Conor McGarry, Jerome Riley and Korey White.
Synopsis: In today's media, the depiction of LGBT life in America has evolved enormously: television shows such as Transparent and Modern Family, as well as book musicals such as Kinky Boots and Fun Home have not shied away from telling the bold and complicated stories of queer individuals. One popular theatrical medium, however, has lagged behind: the song cycle. Enter Planted. In the tradition of classic hetero-centric works such as Closer Than Ever and Songs for a New World, Planted is a contemporary song-cycle exploring relationships of modern-day queer men. Five men navigate through the minefields of dating, marriage, separation and independence. Through a multitude of characters and songs, audiences are introduced to stories both heart-breaking and hilarious during this one-act musical collage.
The ideal show for fans of: FUN HOME

STALKER: THE MUSICAL
The details: Previously performed at the New York International Fringe Festival 2015. Presented by RPG Productions . Concept by David Russell, Book and Lyrics by David Russell and Alex Giles. Music by Andy Peterson. Directed by Nich Radcliffe, Music Direction by Andy Peterson. Featuring Tamara Bodnar Sydney Alex Dycus, Jessica Fisher, Michael Kingston, Molly LeCaptain, Lukas Nowakowski, Josh Pritchett Elizabeth Stenholt, Ethan Warren, Nik Whitcomb and Christopher Zeglin.
Synopsis: In a dystopian world, where love is completely outlawed, "stalking'" has emerged as a replacement for relationships, and people adhere to the concept of "Look, but don't touch." When a stranger from another world arrives, society is thrown into chaos, not least because this stranger introduces a novel concept: that of love.
The ideal show for fans of: URINETOWN, CAROUSEL or ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING (The "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" musical episode).

THAT LOVIN' FEELIN'
The details: Previously performed at St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre. Presented by Off Broadway Dinner Theatres, Inc. Book by James A. Zimmerman, Musical Arrangements by J. Michael Roy. Direction and Music Direction by James A. Zimmerman. Choreography by Lydia Keith. Featuring Peter Alexander, David Wesley Frank, Philip Frieler, Yvonne Freese, Joe Keith, Greg Lund, Leon Hammer, Brittany Oberstadt, Lydia Olson and Wayne Peterson.
Synopsis: This musical biography of The Righteous Brothers chronicles the story and songs of the duo that defined "Blue-Eyed Soul" for a generation. Follow two young dreamers from Orange County as they break into R&B, find enormous success and later enjoy a lifetime collaboration and friendship. This energetic tribute to the unique genius of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield features more than 20 hits including "Little Latin Lupe Lu," "Justine," "Unchained Melody," and of course, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."
The ideal show for fans of: JERSEY BOYS

THE TRANSCIVILTY OF ALBERT CASHIER
The details: Presented by Permovio Productions and Keaton Wooden. Created by Jay Paul Deratany. Book by Jay Paul Deratany, Music and Lyrics by Joe Stevens. Directed by Keaton Wooden, Music Direction by Joe Stevens. Featuring Sydney Germaine, Rosalind Hurwitz, Warren Levon, Delia Kropp, Aubrey McGrath and Avi Roque.
Synopsis: An exploration of the life and story of Albert Cashier, a Civil War soldier with a secret that resonates with issues in the public eye 150 years later. From the author of VERONICA (Greenhouse Theater) and HAREM, IRAN (London).
The ideal show for fans of: ONCE and SPRING AWAKENING.

TRIBULATION: THE MUSICAL!
The details: Previously performed at iO Mission Theater, Chicago. Presented by Higgin's Beach Productions. Book and Lyrics by Molly Miller, Music by Brad Kemp. Directed by Tyler Samples, Music Direction by Jennifer Mitchell. Featuring Lexi Alioto, Chris Blake, Lisa Burton, Sarah Dell'Amico, Rosie Moan, Erin Rein, Bobby Richards, Niq Schwartz, Nick Shine and Seth Wanta.
Synopsis: It's the end of the world... and you still need a job. Tribulation: The Musical follows Genevieve, a would-be poet who ends up at a crappy desk job after she realizes that being left behind in the rapture doesn't mean rent isn't due. Prophets, whores, middle managers, grad students and delivery guys alike all struggle to find their own pat and prevent the Apocalypse in this hilarious take on the Bible's Book of Revelation.
The ideal show for fans of: THE BOOK OF MORMON

WILL THE CIRCLE
The details: Book by L.C. Bernadine; Music and Lyrics by Kevin Welch. Directed by Vi Tran, Music Direction by T.J. Anderson. Featuring Gianna Clark, Jon Patrick Penick, Justin Pierce, Willa Sachs and Aaron Sarka.
Synopsis: Four people at a block party - apartment-dwellers in a world of homeowners - are drawn to each other because of their status as invisible renters, their mutual penchant for a kind of loopy conversational improv and their desire for anything that resembles security at a time when the threat of violence simmers at The Edge of every day and every horizon.
The ideal show for fans of: ONCE

So there you have it. Get out there and support these new works! A vibrant theater scene and American culture are depending on you.

Underscore Theatre Company Presents The Third Annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival through Aug. 28 at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln. Tickets, $20 per show or $200 for an all-festival pass. www.cmtf.org.



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From This Author Misha Davenport