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Underscore Theatre Announces UNDERSCORE DEVELOPS - New Virtual Musical Development Initiative

After receiving 70 submission, the inaugural UNDERSCORE DEVELOPS initiative includes Swan Lake, Ripped, and Baked! The Musical.

Underscore Theatre Announces UNDERSCORE DEVELOPS - New Virtual Musical Development Initiative

Underscore Theatre Company, Chicago's home for new musicals, is offering UNDERSCORE DEVELOPS, a new initiative as part of its readings and workshop development series. While in-person productions are not possible, Underscore continues its mission to support writers by offering new musicals in progress the opportunity to explore the development process virtually. Connecting through Zoom, YouTube and other online resources, Underscore has chosen three new musicals to present up to a 60-minute sampling of their show in development to a panel of three industry professionals and facilitators of new musical theatre. The process began in December and will conclude with the panelist feedback sessions in early February. Underscore hopes to feature some of the material from these musicals in a concert-style performance once it's safe to resume live programming.

Comments Underscore Artistic Director Whitney Rhodes, "At the start of the pandemic, our team and board spent a lot of time thinking about how Underscore could use the dark production time, and most importantly the ways we could continue to serve artists. We are in service to new musical development and a writer-forward organization, so building a virtual program that put writers at the center of it felt aligned. I have been so encouraged by the work that has been happening and it makes me even more excited for what will happen on the other side when we can get back to making theater in the same room. It has been especially exciting to be unlimited by geography and tapping into artists from all across the country. Our teams include artists currently based in California, New York, Minneapolis and Chicago."

After receiving 70 submission, the inaugural UNDERSCORE DEVELOPS initiative includes:

Swan Lake*

Book and Lyrics by Dani Shoulman, Music by Erin Hoerchler

Directed by Crissy Nordin, Music Direction by Joey Clark

Featuring Nick Arceo, Nathan Fossbender, Nina Jayashankar, Jennifer Ledesma, Belen Moyano, Enzo Viega and Ginny Weant.

Swan Lake* is a funny, feminist retelling of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet wherein a lonely sorcerer turns a flock of swans into women and takes over their lake. The swans devise a plan to take their lake back, but their sister Odette is more interested in obtaining the attention of Prince Siegfried. Chaos ensues, Siegfried and Odette fall in love, the swans riot, there's two balls, a murder and a song about swan mating. It's the wildest feel-good adaptation of the world's saddest story, with more swans than any other musical (probably). The only thing it's definitely not, is Swan Lake.


Music & Lyrics by Andrew Baumer, Book by Juliet Kapanjie

Directed by Kelli Foster-Warder, Music Direction by Anna Wegener

Featuring Britain Burns, Rachel Carreras, Vanessa Gamble, Emilee Hassanzadeh, Suzie Juul, Alex Lugo and Peter Moeller.

Ripped tells the story of the infamous Canonical Five prostitutes that were allegedly killed by Jack the Ripper in 1888 London, without ever meeting Jack himself. It follows Jane through her lonely existence as she struggles through the hardships of life in the East End. Feeling desperate, she's lured into a community of prostitutes and eventually chooses to embrace their lifestyle, despite her moral integrity. Once Jane finally finds a sense of belonging, she is forced to battle unforeseen dangers, including the mysterious murders of her newfound family and a crazed missionary who vows to destroy sin to avenge her dead sister. Will you remember this fierce sisterhood for the way that they lived, or only for the gory way that they died?

Baked! The Musical

Written by Deepak Kumar and Jordan Liu

Directed by Miranda Cornell, Music Direction by Rose Van Dyne

Featuring: Anna Brockman, Yuchi Chiu, Devon Hayakawa, Murtaza Kapasi, Adit Marciano, Vicky Snyder, Ryan Tang and Janelle Villas.

When she doesn't receive the scholarship that would send her to her dream school, habitual overachiever Jane Huang, with the help of her best friend, joins forces with the class degenerate to build the greatest drug empire ever run by high schoolers - by selling cannabis-infused Chinese bakery pastries. Kept in the dark are Jane's parents, whose inability to cope with their daughter leaving for college while maintaining a profit at their struggling bakery drives them to pry and potentially unravel Jane's web of lies. Baked! The Musical, which features an all-Asian cast, is a reflection on failure and what we owe the people we love.

Panelists to date include:

Masi Asare, composer, lyricist, playwright and assistant professor of Theatre at Northwestern University. Her shows include The Family Resemblance, Rishvor, Monsoon Wedding, among others, and her songs have been heard at venues across NYC from Playwrights Horizons to Lincoln Center.

Joe Barros, Artistic Director New York Theatre Barn.

Michael D'Angora, Producer (Newsical The Musical, Caroline, or Change, Roundabout Revival).

Seth Goldstein, Producer (The Lehman Trilogy, The Prom, Meteor Shower, A Doll's House Part 2, Hello, Dolly!, The Glass Menagerie, The Front Page).

Kim Montelibano Heil, Associate Producer & Casting Director at San Diego Repertory Theatre.

Olivia Lilley, Prop Thtr Artistic Director, Board Member National New Play Network.

Ken-Matt Martin, Associate Producer Goodman Theatre.

Blair Russell, Tony Award-nominated producer (Slave Play), Director of Operations Resounding.

Drew Wutke, music director, vocal coach, orchestrator and accompanist whose work includes the MCC Gala, B Side Productions, Fiasco Theater's Into the Woods, residency at The Duplex and multiple new works.

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