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Review: FOR GOOD: THE NEW GENERATION OF MUSICALS at The Musical Theatre Project

Review: FOR GOOD: THE NEW GENERATION OF MUSICALS at The Musical Theatre Project

The musical theatre project is live and going live!

After a two-year COVID hiatus, The Musical Theater Project returns to live performances, "For Good: The New Generation of Musicals." The August 20, 21 and 27 offerings will feature narrators Nancy Maier and Sheri Gross and vocals by Jessica Cope Miller and Eric Fancher.

Long time TMTP followers are used to hearing stories and songs from the Golden Era of the American musical. In contrast, the material in the "For Good," offerings will generally be picked from the scores from contemporary American musicals.

The Golden Age lasted from the early 1940s through the end of that century. The seminal OKLAHOMA, Rogers and Hammerstein's ground breaking musical, set a template for most of the musicals that followed it.

Keynotes of those offerings were a story line, usually developed via a double set of tales, one featuring the major love interests, the second, a comedy relationship. Think Julie and Billie and Carrie and Mr. Snow in CAROUSEL or Annie and Frank and Winnie and Tommy in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.

Identifying parts of the format included two acts, the first ending with a problem, the solution to which would only be revealed if the audience came back for act two. For example, at the end of the initial act in THE KING AND I, the British are coming to Siam to determine the fate the country. The issue: Will Anna be able to aid the King to thwart off the potential take-over?

Another stylistic factor of the Golden Age musical was the "I Want" song in which the lead character tells of their needs and desires. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" from MY FAIR LADY fulfills that requirement.

Among other key stylistic factors were an overture, show stopping production numbers and dance interludes.

The modern/contemporary era of musicals, which is the key to TMTP's FOR GOOD series, was basically ushered in by Jonathan Larson's RENT. It broke most of the formulaic patterns and took on more of a story with music. The songs are part of the dialogue, not a break from it. The shows often contain no dancing. The topics are more serious, for example, mental illness is probed in NEXT TO NORMAL. Race is the keynote in CAROLINE, OR CHANGE, teen angst is the fulcrum of DEAR EVAN HANSEN and lesbian and gay coming out highlight FUN HOME.

In a recent interview with Sheri Gross, who in real life serves as the Director of Arts, Culture, and Creative Programming at Gross Schechter School, is the theatre reviewer for the Cleveland Jewish News, and is serving as both a narrator and script developer for THE NEW GENERATION OF MUSICALS, it was revealed that this was the sixth TMTP show in which she has been involved. She originally sang in productions, then started to write and then narrate.

For this program, shows to be covered were agreed upon, songs selected from each, and the performers rehearsed their songs with music director Nancy Meier.

The format will center on behind the scenes info of the shows and the singing of lyrics. Productions, from which songs have been selected, include MOULIN ROUGE, MR. SATURDAY NIGHT, A STRANGE LOOP, CAROLYN, OR CHANGE, SIX, GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, FLYING OVER SUNSET, FUN HOME, and the revival of FUNNY GIRL.

Gross indicated that, as a performer and director of shows from the Golden Era, much of the material to be presented was new to her. She finds that the present-day musicals show greater risk taking in topic selection, many of the songs have harmonies and musical patterns that are edgier, and that the story-lines reflect the issues in modern society. She thinks much of this is thanks to Stephen Sondheim and this willingness to challenge tradition and be creative and edgy. The program will include a special tribute to Sondheim.

The music from at least one of her favorite scripts, THE MUSIC MAN, will be included in this program. Other favorite shows include FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.

FOR GOOD will be staged at the BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, on Saturday, August 20th (7:30 PM) and 21st (2 PM) and on Saturday, August 27th (7:30) at French Creek Theatre, 4540 French Creek Road, Sheffield). Tickets are $35 and can be ordered online at or by phone 216-860-1518 ext. 710.

From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in... (read more about this author)

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