Jason Graae and David Turner Will Lead MAX AND WILLY'S LAST LAUGH Reading at Mosaic Theater's Catalyst New Play Festival

The Catalyst New Play Festival will be held January 19-22, 2023.

By: Jan. 18, 2023
Jason Graae and David Turner Will Lead MAX AND WILLY'S LAST LAUGH Reading at Mosaic Theater's Catalyst New Play Festival

Mosaic Theater's inaugural Catalyst New Play Festival will be held January 19-22, 2023, ushering in a new chapter of Mosaic Theater's commitment to connecting DC-area audiences with thought provoking new work at all stages of development. The festival commences with the highly-anticipated reading of Max & Willy's Last Laugh on January 19 and 20, 2023. Tickets and a full list of festival events are available at Click Here.

Co-authored by Conor Duffy and Jake Broder, Max & Willy's Last Laugh is based on the true story of entertainers Max Ehrlich and Willy Rosen, who for 18 months performed the funniest cabaret in Europe to ensure their safety at the Westerbork Transit Camp during World War II. Tony Award nominee Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall; Mothers and Sons) will direct the workshop presentation, with music direction from Emmy and Grammy winner John McDaniel.

Broadway stars Jason Graae (A Grand Night For Singing; Falsettos; Stardust) and David Turner (Into the Woods; Sunday in the Park with George) will star as central characters Max and Willy, supported by a six-member band that includes accordion, violin, banjo, and more.

Performances will take place at the Edlavitch DC Jewish Cultural Center. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will participate in post-show conversations, signs of Mosaic's deep commitment to creating community partnerships that bolster the artistic work.

"New plays have been the core of my artistic life and the foundation of Mosaic Theater since our inception," said Mosaic Theater Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas. "This inaugural weekend of events celebrates that shared commitment by welcoming local and national talent to Mosaic to collaborate in the creation of exciting new work that is diverse in form, full of curiosity, and wonderfully still in the development process."

The Catalyst New Play Festival is generously underwritten by David & Julie Zalkind. Max and Willy's Last Laugh is generously underwritten by Myrna Sislen & Bill Rice.


When German cabaret stars Max Ehrlich and Willy Rosen arrived at the Westerbork Transit Camp in 1942, the star-struck commandant said, "A train leaves here for Auschwitz every Tuesday morning. If you do a cabaret performance on Monday nights, it will lift morale. And if you're funny, you won't have to get on the train!" So they were funny. For 18 months, they performed the funniest cabaret in Europe. This true story comes to life in Max & Willy's Last Laugh, a new musical play based upon the actual comedy sketches, songs, and jokes that have been forgotten for over 70 years-until now.

ABOUT Jake Broder

Jake Broder is currently an Atlantic Fellow at the Global Brain Health Institute (University of California San Francisco and Trinity College, Dublin), who commissioned his play UnRavelled. His play Our American Hamlet premiered at the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and was nominated for best new play by the IRNE Awards (Independent Reviewers of New England). His musical, Miravel, won the LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Award for best musical score. He co-wrote and originated the role of Louis in Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, winning Ovation, LADCC, Garland, and LA Weekly awards for Best Actor and Best Musical. The production ran at The Geffen Playhouse, directed by Oscar winner Taylor Hackford. His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley played Off-West End (Soho Theatre), Off-Broadway (59e59), and in LA. Jake's TV writing includes Typewriter Days (Revolution Studios) and Black Hole Sun (Echo Lake). He was also a fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center under artistic director John McDaniel. As an actor, Jake recently shot The Patient with Steve Carrell, was on The Morning Show on Apple TV+, and had a recurring role on HBO's Silicon Valley. Broadway/West End credits include Mozart in Amadeus directed by Sir Peter Hall (Old Vic, Music Box, Ahmanson), When Harry Met Sally with Alyson Hannigan and Luke Perry (Theatre Royal Haymarket), and Ophelia and Juliet in the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete Works of Shakespeare (Criterion) in London. He played Ira Gershwin in Words By: Ira Gershwin (Colony Theatre) and Einstein in Einstein Comes Through (North Coast Rep), both directed by David Ellenstein. He received his BA from Tufts University and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Jakebroder.com.


Conor Duffy has been working as a professional actor, writer, and producer for the last 18 years. He has performed at theaters including the Northwest Asian American Theater, The Pasadena Playhouse, and the Broadwater Complex. Along with Jake Broder, he won the LA Weekly Award for Best Ensemble In A Play for The Pasadena Playhouse production of Stoneface: The Rise And Fall And Rise Of Buster Keaton. Recent television credits include Superstore (NBC), The Mick (FOX), and Good Girls (NBC). He was also seen playing opposite John Savage in the film From A Place Of Darkness. Recent writing/producing credits include both comedy and drama projects with TNT, Warner Brothers, and John Wells Productions.

ABOUT Sheryl Kaller

Sheryl Kaller was nominated for a 2010 Tony Award as best director for Geoffrey Nauffts' award-winning play, Next Fall. She has directed at many theaters, including The New Group, Primary Stages, Williamstown Theatre Festival, ACT Theatre, New York Stage and Film, The Geffen Playhouse, Philadelphia Theatre Company, American Music Theatre Project, York Theatre Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Rubicon Theatre Company, National Theater of the Deaf, and Naked Angels. She co-founded Two Island Productions (Artistic Director), a New York and Bermuda-based theater company devoted to developing and producing original plays, playwright retreats/workshops, screenplays, concerts, and youth arts and education programs. She has directed and developed a plethora of new plays and musicals with writers including Christopher Durang, Geoffrey Nauffts, Daniel Beaty, Regina Taylor, Dick Beebe, Nick Blaemire, and Alan Menken.

ABOUT John McDaniel

Conductor, composer, orchestrator, record producer, Grammy, and two-time Emmy Award-winner John McDaniel was seen leading the band daily on The Rosie O'Donnell Show for its entire six-year run. He wrote the theme song and received five Emmy nominations for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition. He first worked with Rosie 1994 when he conducted the Broadway revival of Grease, in which Rosie played Rizzo. He made his debut as a producer on Broadway with Brooklyn, the Musical in 2004. Most recently, John created new arrangements and orchestrations for a new production of Pirates which played at the Goodspeed Opera House and the Paper Mill Playhouse. He was the supervising Music Director of the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Bernadette Peters (and subsequently Reba McEntire), which won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical and for which he received the Grammy Award as producer for Best Musical Show Album. He also was the supervising Music Director for Boy George's Taboo on Broadway in 2003, and produced the cast album. He conducted the smash hit Chicago on Broadway, the 1993 reunion of the original Broadway cast of Company in concert at Lincoln Center, the US tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express, and Off-Broadway's Blame It On the Movies. He also arranged the show Patti LuPone on Broadway.

He arranged music for the Tony Awards on CBS in 1997, 1998, and 2000. His most recent arranging and conducting credits for television specials include A Rosie Christmas for ABC, starring Celine Dion and Marc Anthony, and the Friar's Roasts of Jerry Stiller, Rob Reiner, Hugh Hefner, and Chevy Chase, all for Comedy Central.

John produced and conducted The Maury Yeston Songbook for PS Classics, featuring Tony Award winners Betty Buckley, Sutton Foster, and Christine Ebersole, and has recorded three solo albums.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. McDaniel first studied piano with his mother Jane, and earned a BFA degree in Drama from Carnegie Mellon.


Mosaic Theater Company of DC produces bold, culturally diverse theater that illuminates critical issues, elevates fresh voices, and sparks connection among communities throughout our region and beyond. Under the leadership of the newly appointed Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas and Managing Director Serge Seiden, Mosaic produces plays that spark conversation and connections amongst the DC Metro area's diverse communities and sees itself as a neighbor and partner with those communities. By sharing stories that both entertain and enlighten, Mosaic uses art to build empathy amongst diverse people united by the magic of theater and hopes to build community by reflecting the people and the many cultures that call DC home.

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