BWW Interview: Roy Alan on Central Florida's first New Musical Festival

BWW Interview: Roy Alan on Central Florida's first New Musical Festival

The first ever New Musical Festival comes to Orlando this week at Winter Park Playhouse. If you've ever wondered where musicals are born, this is how. With the help of arts organizations like Winter Park Playhouse, musical creators can refine their pieces and use it as a stepping stone towards publication. Orlando is quite the creative place and having a new musical festival fits right in. I took a moment to chat with Roy Alan, who serves as the Artistic Director for Winter Park Playhouse about the festival.

BWW: So tell me this is the first ever New Musical Festival in central Florida. I feel like this is a long time coming. Exactly how long has this festival been in the works and where did the idea come from?

ROY: This is, currently, the only New Musical Festival in the entire state and south of Atlanta, hence the title Florida Festival of New Musicals. We've began discussing the need for another platform for authors and composers to present their new works about 5 years ago. Then, once we were invited to join the National Alliance for Musical Theatres and attended their Festival in New York for a couple of years, we decided we could and must to do it!

Why is this new musical festival important?

Many people don't realize that, like Jazz, Musical Theatre is an original American art form. In order for Musical Theatre to survive, there is a great need for new works to be discovered, developed and produced, and hopefully, taken to New York to become the next DEAR EVAN HANSEN or HAMILTON.

What are some challenges with putting a festival together like this?

The sheer logistics alone were daunting! First, we had to get submissions from writers from all over the country, then over a nine month period, we had to select the six finalists and get completed scripts and scores to be presented. Then, we had to hold auditions for all of the actors needed (42 in all) to do the readings of the six new works. And, there was the scheduling of rehearsals and performances. And then, how to get the audiences in and out of each performance during each day of the Festival.

What is the process like for getting a musical selected for this festival? Can anyone submit a musical?

Anyone can submit a musical, but it has to have a completed script and a demo of the music so we get an idea of style and how the music fits into the script. The selection is broKen Down into three stages. The first stage decides on merit of the musicality, readiness for production, is it innovative, fresh, unusual? Musicals are cut from the list after the first stage and remaining authors and composers are encouraged to incorporate the re-writes and updates at this time. During the Second Stage the musicals are again chosen by the improvements and further development of scripts and scores. Again, musicals are cut from the list and the remaining authors and composers submit their finalized work for the third stage. All of this, keeping in mind that during the Festival, only the first Act of each musical is presented in a Stage Reading format. The authors are also given the choice of doing a compilation of the first and second Act, as long as it fits in a one-hour time span. During the third stage the six finalists are chosen.

Tell me about this inaugural year. What musicals did you select and why?

We have a very eclectic mix of styles and subject matter this year and they were chosen for their uniqueness.

The musicals are: The Age of Innocence: An American Romance with music by Ted Kociolek and book & lyrics by Walter Holland and Ted Kociolek; based on the Edith Wharton novel, and set in 1870s New York society with beautifully lyrical music. Gigolo, conceived by Paul Gilger,is a musical revue featuring the music of Cole Porter that is juxtaposed to tell the tale (based on a real-life Gigolo) of a handsome playboy who becomes rich by marrying and divorcing some of the richest women in the world. The Impossible Club with book, music and lyrics by Ned Wilkinson, is a Theatre For Young Audiences musical that deals with bullying. Love On Ice: A Cryogenic Love Story with a book & lyrics by Bill Nabel & William Squier and music by Jeffrey Lodin, is a comic love story set in a cryogenics lab. Propaganda! The Musical with book, lyrics & music by Taylor Ferrera & Matthew Webster, is about a secret government bureau tasked with covering up the gaffes, blunders and occasional light to heavy treason of our trusted politicians leading the nation. Section 60: The Ghosts of Arlington with music by Waldo John Wittenmyer, book by Todd Olson and lyrics by Waldo John Wittenmyer & Todd Olson, in which ghosts of deceased servicemen and women tell their stories before they're buried at Arlington Cemetery.

As you can see, each is very different in content and musical style.

I know you're a choreographer and director. How much involvement do you have in the performances of the new musicals?

I'm actually one of three directors doing two of the musicals for the Festival. The other directors are Michael Edwards and George Colangelo. Because this is a Stage Reading, by Actors' Equity rules, there is no memorization, no blocking, no choreography and no costumes. So, the direction deals with characterization and setting when someone steps up to a music stand to read and sing their part.

As you know, it's often challenging to get audiences in seats for new work. Why should audiences come see these shows?

What we're telling everyone is that this is a rare opportunity to see a musical, literally, in its infant stages. This is how all Broadway shows get started, so they have the potential of seeing the next WICKED before it gets to Broadway!

What do you hope that the creators take away from this experience?

We'll be having a fifteen minute talk-back after each performance where the audience will be able to ask questions of the authors and give feedback. This is a wonderful opportunity for the authors to have their work seen and get valuable insight as to what works and what doesn't work for further development of their musical.

Very cool and a unique experience that I hope Orlandoans take advantage of! I'll be checking out two of the musical on Friday. Thank you so much for your time!

Photo credit: Winter Park Playhouse & Riley James Photography

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From This Author Kimberly Moy

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