Goodspeed to Present New Works at the 18th Annual Festival of New Musicals

The Festival kicks off on Friday, Jan. 12, at The Goodspeed with a staged reading of Photosynthesis.

By: Dec. 06, 2023
Goodspeed to Present New Works at the 18th Annual Festival of New Musicals

Come in from the cold and check out what’s hot at the 18th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals. The much-anticipated three-day festival of brand-new works will light up the Goodspeed campus with a weekend filled with insider events, seminars, cabarets and staged readings. The Festival kicks off on Friday, Jan. 12, at The Goodspeed with a staged reading of Photosynthesis. This new blooming and uplifting musical features book, music & lyrics by features book, music & lyrics by Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako. Saturday, Jan. 13, will be highlighted by a staged reading of Letters to the President, a musical featuring actual letters to the President of the United States since the founding of the nation, conceived by Michael Bello & Jessica Kahkoska. The final day of the Festival features The Snow Goose, a soaring tale of unlikely friendship with music by Claire McKenzie, book & lyrics by Scott Gilmour and based on the novel by Paul Gallico. Additional Festival events ― Including seminars, symposium and exclusive cabarets ― will round out this exciting weekend.
Single tickets are $30 for each staged reading, $15 each for students. Goodspeed’s ever-popular Festival Package will offer patrons a weekend full of special events. The $100 package includes admission to all three staged readings, three Festival seminar sessions, the Festival Symposium, a season preview of the 2024 Terris Theatre offerings, and the Meet the Writers Q&A. Package add-ons include Saturday evening pre-show dinner at the Gelston House ($42), and Friday evening and Saturday evening Cabarets ― informal gatherings showcasing new songs by new and established artists ($15 each). Single show tickets and Festival packages are available through the Goodspeed Box Office (860.873.8668) open weekdays at 10:00 a.m. and weekends at 11:00 a.m. Single show tickets can also be purchased online at
“Every year we are amazed by the breadth and depth of the talented writers who join us on the Goodspeed campus to share their work, and we are proud to foster their collaboration with directors, music directors and student performers,” said Donna Lynn Hilton, Goodspeed’s Artistic Director. “This year, for the second year in a row, a project from our GoodWorks commissioning program will be featured in the Festival. The Snow Goose began as a Goodspeed commission, and we invite you to join us for this first public presentation of the full work as it continues its development journey in the Festival,” she added.
“We are thrilled to kick off Goodspeed’s 2024 season with a weekend dedicated to the future of musical theatre,” said David B. Byrd, Goodspeed’s Managing Director. “We invite you to experience several new musical theatre works and to learn from some of the leading forces in our business about what goes on behind the scenes in support of that creation.”
Preparations for the Festival begin on January 2nd when the three teams of writers and composers arrive on the Goodspeed campus and dedicate their time to further writing and composing their musicals in development. They are joined by musical theatre students from The Hartt School and Western Connecticut University who take part in rehearsals and continued development of the material. The intensive retreat culminates with Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals, which showcases staged readings of the new musicals developed during the two-week long program.

The Festival of New Musicals is produced by Goodspeed Musicals’ Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre. Created in 2002, Goodspeed’s Showalter Center inspires and nurtures musical theatre artists and students by providing a unique and comprehensive range of training and educational programs to serve both the national and local academic communities. The Goodspeed Festival program offers new and established artists the rare opportunity to thoroughly work on their projects with the help of Goodspeed’s renowned resources and artistic environment. At the same time, the Festival affords junior and senior students from prominent conservatory programs real-world experience in new musical development and performing new musicals.

This year’s Festival is sponsored in part by Marquee Producing Partners: Michael and Linda Jainchill, Andrew and Linda Groher, Gene Swain and Catherine Sarni; lead sponsor the Burry Fredrik Foundation with support from the Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Jessica Waldman Thompson Endowment in Support of The Festival of New Musicals; Webster Private Bank; Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Lodging and dining information for Festival attendees as well as up-to-date information on the weekend’s events can be found at
Information about the three staged readings and schedule of special events for Festival Package holders:

Friday, Jan. 12

7:00 p.m. The Goodspeed
Book, Music, & Lyrics by Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako
Nika is an extremely talented floral artist and the sole owner and operator of Miss Nika's Awesome Blossoms. As Nika feels pressure to maintain the facade of "thriving" as a Black female business owner and community role model, she increasingly resents that she makes a living delivering joy to other people while she can't seem to hang onto any for herself. When her rickety old Volkswagen Beetle breaks down it sends her into a breakdown of her own. Nika discovers that her own broken parts may need repairing as well.
Festival Cabaret: Nevada Lozano
9:30 p.m. Gelston House
Saturday, Jan. 13

10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Gelston House and other locations
Seminar titles to be announced.
*2024 Terris Theatre Season Announcement
3:30 p.m. The Goodspeed
*This event is free and open to the public.
*Symposium:  Getting to Know Maggie
4:30 p.m. The Goodspeed  
*This event is free and open to the public.
Festival Dinner
5:30 p.m. Gelston House
Enjoy a three-course meal with fellow festival goers.
Letters to the President
7:30 p.m. The Goodspeed
Conceived by Michael Bello & Jessica Kahkoska

Featuring Songs by Ari Afsar & Candace Quarrels, Preston Max Allen, Simone Allen, Dr. Dawn Avery, Nick Blaemire, Emily Gardner Xu Hall, Elliah Heifetz, Anna K. Jacobs, Naomi Matlow & Teresa Lotz, Madeline Myers, Ronvé O’Daniel & Jevares Myrick, Rona Siddiqui, Mark Sonnenblick, Will Van Dyke & Jeff Talbott, Ben Wexler, & Zack Zadek
Since George Washington took office in 1783, writing letters to the President has provided citizens of all ages, races, political parties, and backgrounds an outlet to express their most personal concerns, hopes, and dreams for America. Letters to the President reimagines this historic canon of letters as a multi-composer musical event, with each song inspired by an individual letter from the archive. This presentation features brand-new material that has been written, created, and developed after the powerful cabaret at last year’s Festival.
Festival Cabaret: Nikki Lynette
9:30 p.m. Gelston House

Sunday, Jan. 14

The Snow Goose
1:00 p.m. The Goodspeed
Music by Claire McKenzie
Book & Lyrics by Scott Gilmour
Based on the novel by Paul Gallico
The Snow Goose tells the story of the unlikely friendship that forms between Rhayader, an outsider who has retreated from the world, and a young girl, Fritha, when they rehabilitate an injured snow goose. As they nurse the bird back to flight, their friendship grows as the threat and horror of an impending world war looms. Though the pair come from very different experiences, their paths seem destined to join in the face of a changing world. The Snow Goose is a commission of Goodspeed Musicals’ GoodWorks commissioning program.
Meet the Writers Q&A
3:30 p.m. The Goodspeed
Gain insight into the inspirations and processes of the writers during this lively festival wrap-up discussion.


CLAUDINE MBOLIGIKPELANI NAKO (Book, Music, & Lyrics) is a Seattle-based writer, composer, and performer. Nako earned the 2021-2022 NWxNW grant through 5th Avenue Theatre & Village Theatre to create the musical Photosynthesis, and continued development during a residency with the 2023 Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals. She is overjoyed to return to Goodspeed for the Festival of New Musicals. Directing credits include: Hairspray, Songs for a New World, Mamma Mia (Village); STEW, Sweat, History of Theatre: Part Zero (ACT). Performance credits include: The Crucible, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, A Christmas Carol, Dracula (ACT); As You Like It, A Raisin in the Sun (The Rep); Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Corduroy (SCT); My Heart is the Drum, Big River (Village); A Bright Room Called Day (The Williams Project); A Christmas Carol, Dracula (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Film/TV credits include Raising Dion, Outside In, Everything Sucks! (Netflix); Three Busy Debras (HBO); Grimm (NBC). Many thanks to her wonderful husband Nick for his love and support in all things!
Letters to the President
Michael Bello & Jessica Kahkoska (Conceived by)

Michael Bello is a Cuban-American director of musical theater based in New York. He is currently the Associate Director on the upcoming Broadway revival of The Who’s Tommy, which recently completed a record-breaking, sold-out run at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. His work on new musicals has led him to directing various world premieres, including We Are The Tigers Off-Broadway (cast album available on Broadway Records). Additionally, his work has been recognized by LA’s Ovation Awards, Boston’s IRNE Awards, and the NY Innovative Theater Awards. Alongside Mr. McAnuff, he has also served as Associate Director for Jersey Boys, (setting and maintaining the UK / US tours, Off-Broadway, and upcoming live capture starring Nick Jonas) and The Donna Summer Musical (Broadway, La Jolla Playhouse, national tour, and currently aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines).

Jessica Kahkoska is a writer and researcher/dramaturg for theatre and TV. Theatre projects include The Death of Desert Rose (Goodspeed Musicals, Johnny Mercer Writers Grove residency), Wild Fire (World Premiere: Denver Center for the Performing Arts), Agent 355 (with Preston Max Allen, New York Stage and Film, Johnny Mercer Writers Grove residency), In Her Bones (Denver Center for the Performing Arts), and Baba (with Elliah Heifetz, Iowa State University Guest-Artist-in-Residence). She is currently under commission by Broadway Licensing, The Alley Theatre, and Northern Stage Theatre. In TV, she has worked as an Associate Producer/Researcher for series and films at CNN, Discovery, and Discovery+. Selected Awards: National Archives Foundation’s Cokie Roberts Women’s History Fellowship, Marion International Fellowship in the Performing Arts, Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellowship. BA: Northwestern,
The Snow Goose
Claire McKenzie (Music)
Scott Gilmour (Book & Lyrics)

NOISEMAKER is the award-winning writing partnership of bookwriter/lyricist Scott Gilmour and composer Claire McKenzie. Originally from Scotland, Noisemaker have written, developed and produced over twenty new works as a partnership. Using music, song, humour and heart, they strive to tell stories that bring people together to connect, and sometimes, challenge, our sense of humanity.
The pair have worked with a wide variety of companies including: National Theatre of Scotland; Goodspeed Musicals; New York Musical Festival; National Youth Music Theatre; the American Musical Theatre Project; Royal Lyceum; Sheffield Crucible; Dundee Rep; Irish Rep, Citizens’ Theatre; A Play, Pie and a Pint; and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Previous productions include: Hi, My Name is Ben (Goodspeed/ NAMT); A Christmas Carol, Oor Wullie, The Snow Queen (Dundee Rep); My Left/Right Foot The Musical (National Theatre of Scotland - Winner Best Music & Sound, Critics Awards); Atlantic: A Scottish Story (AMTP, Northwestern University and now an award-winning podcast series); The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (Unigram/ Faena Theater Miami); Little Red and the Wolf (Dundee Rep - Nominated for Best Production for Young People, UK Theatre Awards); The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Royal Lyceum Edinburgh).
Upcoming projects in-development include Ceilidh, produced by Barbara Whitman and Beth Williams; The Snow Goose, commissioned by Goodspeed Musicals; Hi, My Name is Ben for Robert Ahrens Productions; and a new piece based on NASA’s space exploration programme HI-SEAS, called Habitat.
Festival Cabaret
NEVADA LOZANO is a musical theater composer and lyricist, as well as a professional music director, arranger, orchestrator, and pianist. He has served as music assistant for several Broadway productions, including: Oklahoma!, The Sound Inside, and Sea Wall/A Life. Most recently, he served as music assistant for Bard SummerScapes’s production of The Most Happy Fella and as assistant sound effects designer for Suffs at The Public Theater.
His musical, The Carol of the Bells is also an animated Christmas musical — one with the heart of holiday classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, but the irreverent humor of contemporary musicals like Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon.
Nevada is a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop (Advanced) and received their Jerry Harrington Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement. He was a finalist for the Jonathan Larson Grant and has participated in residencies at Goodspeed Musicals, Yaddo, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program.
Festival Cabaret
NIKKI LYNETTE is a social impact artist who fuses mental health activism into her performances, filmmaking, and visual art. She is the writer and creator of Get Out Alive, an autobiographical afrogoth musical which raises mental health awareness through the lens of an underground concert. Featuring music that is equal parts punk, hip hop, alternative rock, and pop, Nikki’s true story shows that when life leads us to a bad place, we can always make it out alive.
With Get Out Alive, she made history as the first black female playwright to be produced by American Music Theatre Project and the first AMTP work to debut at Steppenwolf in addition to being featured in the NAMT Festival of New Musicals in 2022.
In addition to selections from Get Out Alive, Nikki will be debuting songs from her new documusical Happy Songs About Unhappy Things, which just finished filming and she is currently adapting into a live theatrical experience.
Nikki is a proud ambassador for the National alliance on Mental Illness, and gained notoriety for her TEDx Talk, hosted by Princeton University where she shared how her punk culture roots aided her suicide recover.


Goodspeed Musicals has achieved international acclaim and is the first theatre in the nation to receive two Tony Awards for outstanding achievement in musical theatre. Under the leadership of Donna Lynn Hilton, Artistic Director and David B. Byrd, Managing Director, Goodspeed Musicals is dedicated to the celebration, development and advancement of musical theatre. Goodspeed creates powerful, world-class productions of enlightening new and established works to delight, inspire and challenge audiences on its two stages – The Goodspeed in East Haddam, Conn., and The Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn. From Goodspeed, 21 musicals have gone to Broadway (including Man of La Mancha, Annie, Shenandoah and Holiday Inn) and 85 new musicals have been launched. Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals, GoodWorks commissioning program and the Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Grove at Goodspeed are distinguished cornerstones of the organization that highlight its commitment to nurture creators and the creative process. Goodspeed also maintains The Scherer Library of Musical Theatre and The Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre. The organization is supported in part by the Burry Fredrik Foundation; Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts; CT Humanities; The Hoffman Auto Group; Masonicare; The Richard P. Garmany Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; The Shubert Foundation; and WSHU Public Radio. Additional support is provided by Sennheiser, the official audio sponsor; and United Airlines, the official airline of Goodspeed Musicals. For more information, visit