Mayes and Strickland To Star In 'Play It Cool' At NYMF

 TONY AWARD nominee Sally Mayes and TARZAN's Josh Strickland will star in a new jazz musical "PLAY IT COOL" at The New York Musical Theatre Festival from September 22 to October 4 at TBG Theatre, 312 West 36th Street.

Directed by Sharon Rosen, "PLAY IT COOL" is a five person musical centered around Mary's Hideaway, a fictional jazz club, in 1953.  Inspired by the period's film noir, this jazz musical examines laws governing gay and lesbian clubs of the time; when women weren't allowed to bartend and men couldn't dance with other men; when every glance had a double meaning, every word was an innuendo and everything had to be done to strict code.  Set against a sexy Hollywood backdrop, "PLAY IT COOL" looks at the people of the time who had the guts to break the rules...along with the ones who were only to happy to play along with them.  For more info, go to

The musical was conceived by Larry Dean Harris with a book by Martin Casella and Larry Dean Harris.  Lyrics are by Mark Winkler with music by Phillip Swann with additional musical contributions by Jim Andron, Michael Cruz, Marilyn Harris, Robert Kraft, Emilio Palame, Joe Pasquale, Dan Siegel, Larry Steelman.   The Musical Director is Joseph Baker with choreography by Marvin Tunney.

Sally Mayes, who plays Mary, made her Broadway debut in Cy Coleman's WELCOME TO THE CLUB winning a Theatre World Award and Outer Critics Circle nomination.  On Broadway she won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for her starring role in the Roundabout Theatre's revival of SHE LOVES ME.  Her other NY stage appearances include URBAN COWBOY (Drama Desk nomination), STEEL MAGNOLIAS, CLOSER THAN EVER (Outer Critics Circle nomination), DAS BARBECUE, and PETE N'KEELY (Drama Desk nomination).   She also starred as Mae West in the National Tour of DIRTY BLONDE.  Film and television credits include CITY HALL, BYE BYE BIRDIE, LAW AND ORDER CRIMINAL INTENT, SEX AND THE CITY, and THE JOB. In addition to her many cast recordings, Sally has four solo albums, THE DOROTHY FIELDS SONGBOOK and OUR PRIVATE WORLD, THE COMDEN AND GREEN SONGBOOK, THE STORY HOUR, BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME, and VALENTINE.

Josh Strickland, who plays Will, played the title in the Broadway musical TARZAN.  A native of Charleston, SC, he played both Mark & Roger in the National Company of RENT.  A National finalist on "American Idol," Josh has appeared with Shania Twain, with jazz musician Kevin Mahogany at the Spoleto Festival and appeared as 'Spirit of the Child' in the festival's opera "CURLY RIVER."

They will be joined by Michael McGuirk (NY Theatre Workshop) as 'Henry', popular jazz singer Kristen Sergeant as 'Lena' and Javier Munoz ("In The Heights") as 'Eddie'.

Larry Dean Harris (Conceiver/Co-author) has written for the stage, screen, television, as well as several essays. In 2004, he was tapped by CITC Productions to create/script an original series "The Mamas & the Papas". His book Witness to the Bizarre has been published in both print and online literary collections, and he has performed these stories at the Comedy Central Stage in Los Angeles.  His first play, "Inverted Pyramid", premiered in 1993 at Performance Network in Ann Arbor and was named Best Original Play and Best Drama of the Year by the Ann Arbor News and was a winner at the Midwest Playwrights Festival in 1994.  His other plays include "Bible Stories" (which was performed in theatres, churches and even rock clubs and later developed into an independent film) and "Like an Old Song" which was produced at the Hudson Avenue Theatre starring Tony Award winner Sammy Williams (A Chorus Line) and named Best Gay-Themed Play of the Year by Backstage West and Frontiers Newsmagazine in 2000.

Martin Casella (Co-author) wrote several plays including "Scituate", "The Irish Curse", "Grand Junction", "Beautiful Dreamer", "Desert Fire" (w/Roger Holzberg), "Paydirt", "Mates" (L.A. Weekly Award and Drama-Logue Award for Best New Play). His one-act plays include: "George Bush Goes to Hell" and "The Big Enchilada",and he has written several musicals including "Saint Heaven", "Paper Moon" (Paper Mill Playhouse, Goodspeed, Fords Theatre, Walnut Street, two seasons the Bunkamura Theatre, Tokyo), "Happy Holidays" (Pasadena Playhouse), "Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll" and "Doo-Dah!"

Mark Winkler (Lyrics) is an award winning singer/lyricist who has had his tunes covered by such artists as Dianne Reeves, Randy Crawford, Liza Minnelli, Kenny Rankin and Nancy Wilson. He is the co-writer of the hit Off-Broadway Musical Review "Naked Boys Singing!"; is the creator and writer of "Too Old for the Chorus" which has played successful engagements in Los Angeles and San Diego, and has written songs for another musical review called "Bark!" which has played in LA and Chicago.  He has won both LA. Weekly and Backstage West Awards for best score for "Naked Boys Singing!"

Phillip Swann (Music) is the composer of the award-winning musical comedy, "The People vs. Friar Laurence, the Man Who Killed Romeo and Juliet". In addition to "PLAY IT COOL", Swann's latest projects are: "Shakespeare's Greatest Hits", a musical-comedy review; "Trombone" a musical celebration of the poetry of James WelDon Johnson; "Moms! The musical", and "deLEARious" a musical comedy based on Shakespeare's King Lear and the creation of the King James Bible.

 Director Sharon Rosen has been a part of the development team of this world premier production of "Play It Cool" since 2005. She will direct the revival of "Oh What A Lovely War" which will be the first all-female production in Broadway history. Sharon co-produced OBIE Award-winning "The Tricky Part" Off-Broadway which also received Drama Desk and Outer Critic's Circle Award nominations. She was one of the original producers of "They Wrote That? The Music of Mann/Weil".  Sharon produced and directed the Los Angeles premiere of "Always…Patsy Cline", starring Sally Struthers, and her American Premiere production of "Slow Love" earned seven Drama-Logue Awards (including Critic's Choice and Best Production).  Her LA premiere of David Budbill's "Judevine" earned her three more Drama-Logue Awards.  In New York she produced and directed the World Premiere of "Drowning in Euphoria" at the McGinn-Cazale Theatre.

Sets for "PLAY IT COOL" will be designed by Lara Fabian with costumes by T. Michael Hall, lights by Deb Sullivan and sound by Peter Fitzgerald and Carl Casella.  Roy Gabay is General Manager with Chris Aniello as Company Manager.

The performance schedule for "PLAY IT COOL" at The TBG Theatre, 312 West 36th Street is:

Monday, Sept 22 @ 8 PM

Wednesday, Sept 24 @ 4:30 PM

Sunday, Sept 28 @ 8 PM

Monday, Sept 29 @ 1 PM

Friday, October 3 @ 8 PM

Saturday, Oct 4 @ 1 PM

The musical, which is making its NY debut, was presented in Los Angeles in 2006 where it was nominated for 2006 GLAAD Media Award/Best LA Theatre; 2005-6 Ovation Award; 2006 LA Weekly Awards and was Critic's Pick of the LA Times, LA Weekly and Backstage.  

Backstage West called "PLAY IT COOL" "A scintillating jazz musical. The amalgam of swinging jazz ditties, comic numbers and torch songs results in a superb score, brought to shimmering life" and Variety said: "A jazz-tinged tuner rich in noir-esque ambiance."

Hailed as "the Sundance of Musical Theatre," The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) exists to revitalize one of America's greatest art forms by discovering, supporting and promoting new musical theater artists, producers, and projects, and by introducing a diverse audience to the vibrancy of contemporary musical theater. Since its inception in 2004, the three-week annual festival has premiered more than 130 new musicals – many of which have gone on to award-winning productions in New York, in regional theaters and on tour in 38 states, and nine countries worldwide.  NYMF 2004 hit Altar Boyz has played well over 1,000 performances off-Broadway and is now in its fourth year at New World Stages; fellow NYMF alum [title of show] recently began performances at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway.

Widely regarded as the essential source for new material and talent discovery, NYMF is the flagship program of The National Music Theater Network, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization, and is presented in association with and, and is supported by amNewYork, Barnes & Noble Booksellers,,, King Displays, Panasonic Astrovision, and TheMENEvent. NYMF is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Single tickets go on sale September 1 for the 2008 NYMF Festival.   $20 tickets for "PLAY IT COOL" will be available at or (212) 352-3101.

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