4th Annual Festival of New American Musicals – 2011

4th Annual Festival of New American Musicals – 2011



The 2011 Festival of New American Musicals, a five-month musical theatre festival, will be held April 1 through August 28, 2011, throughout Southern California.

Report by Pauline Adamek

Marcia Seligson, Bob Klein, and Linda Shusett are the Executive Producers of the annual festival, now in its fourth year. This year”™s Festival includes 16 world premieres, and an additional 10 west coast premieres.

This five-month festival includes more than 30 offerings.

Highlights include:

·       Gala Benefit Concert of “1776” at Sony Pictures Plaza

·       American Premiere of Stephen Schwartz”™s“My Fairy Tale” at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts

·       Eric Whitacre: “Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings” at Walt Disney Concert Hall

·       “Lonesome Traveler” at Rubicon Theatre

·       “The Boy in the Bathroom” at The Chance Theatre

·       Composer Adam Gwon events

·       “Lemonade” at Skylight Theatre

·       a hi-tech update of “Alice in Wonderland” at Norris Theatre, August 5 to 14;

·    PUC Education Complex “Tempest Toss”™d” performs at John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills before traveling to New York Musical Theatre Festival in October

The Festival of New American Musicals is home to full productions, staged readings, workshops of musicals in progress, cabaret events, concerts, and programs that reach elementary, middle, secondary and college students.  The organizers are working in partnership with over twenty Southern California performing arts organizations; each producing a new American musical during the Festival time period.

The Festival has also expanded its efforts in educational outreach to help provide increased opportunities for students whose theater programs are being dramatically curtailed.

Other world premieres include “Summer of Love” at Musical Theatre West, April 1-17; and the first reading of composer Adam Gwon”™s “Cloudlands” May 1 at South Coast Repertory”™s 14th Annual Pacific Playwrights Festival, and a concert of Gwon”™s work that same week on May 4th at the Show at the Barre in Hollywood.

Festival Organizer Linda Shusett said, “As we begin our fourth festival, we”™ve been involved with 93 shows, concerts and events at 76 different venues from Santa Barbara to San Diego.  There have been more than 1,000 performances that have been events of the festival, reaching audiences of more than 250,000. At a time when new musical theater creations are exploding in our American popular culture, we can no longer contain what began as a 2-month Festival and now covers 5 months.”

Seligson, Klein and Shusett are also working closely with the Festival”™s two primary creative advisors, celebrated Broadway composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, composer-lyricist of “Wicked,” “Pippin,” and “Godspell,” and Michael Kerker, Director of Musical Theatre of ASCAP, the major organization which represents American theater composers.

ASCAP participates in the Festival with a developmental staged reading of a new musical, part of an annual series presented by the festival in partnership with ASCAP, which provides funding through its foundation.  Festival organizer Marcia Seligson and Michael Kerker, director of ASCAP”™s musical theater division, will select the show, give it a three-day rehearsal process, and present the reading to the public, furthering development of the new work.  Last year”™s ASCAP/FNAM reading was of the edgy, ambitious “Dani Girl.” “People aren”™t exactly chomping at the bit to produce a cancer musical,” said librettist Michael Dimond, “but we”™re grateful to the Festival and ASCAP for the opportunity to prove that something like this can be done.”

Festival Organizer Marcia Seligson said, “At the Festival, we continue to not only celebrate the remarkable American art form of musical theatre, but also to discover and foster promising a new generation of young writers, composers, and burgeoning performers, and appreciate that the Festival and the ASCAP Foundation as well as the musical theatre community are our close collaborators.”

More info available at the the Festival”™s official website.


Educational Initiatives:

Major educational initiatives are aimed at a diverse array of students of all ages. These include the Pacific Palisades Marquez Charter Elementary School, the Granada Hills John F. Kennedy High School and Lakewood Terrace PUC Education Complex Charter Middle School, Cal State Fullerton, and College of the Canyons, as well as the continuing FNAM Academy for Young Professionals, which supports talented high school and college performers and composers toward careers in musical theatre. A new “East Side Initiative” will bring hundreds of students from East Los Angeles schools to free Festival performances and will provide Festival shows to east side parks and schools.

The Festival is continuing its partnership, started last year with the distinguished New York Musical Theatre Festival, headed by Executive Director and Producer Isaac Robert Hurwitz. The New York Musical Theatre Festival, whose mission is strikingly similar to the Festival of New American Musicals, provides a launching pad for the next generation of musicals and their creators to ensure the continued vitality of America’s greatest art form.  NYMF, like FNAM, discovers, nurtures, and promotes promising musical theatre artists and producers at all stages of development, and reaches diverse audiences through vibrant, accessible, and powerful new work.

Last year the 5th grade students of Marquez Elementary School (who are participating in FNAM for the third year) travelled to New York to be part of NYMF Festival. For Festival 2011, middle school students from the largely Hispanic Lakeview Terrace PUC Education Complex Charter School will bring their original adaptation “Tempest Toss”™d,” fusing Shakespeare with the sounds of today to the NYMF Festival in the Fall. “Tempest Toss”™d,” which also performed in last year”™s FNAM, adapts “The Tempest” into a tale of magic, revenge and romance, told with Frankie and Annette styled beach party rock songs to Shakespeare”™s original text. The production highlights the PUC Education Complex”™ commitment to using the arts as a major tool for education.

Bob Klein said, “With our schools facing drastic cuts in arts programming, while musical theatre is flourishing on Broadway and at our major theatres, the Festival is making a concerted effort to reach out to students at all grade levels to involve them in musical theatre through specific programs this summer and year-round educational outreach activities. We”™ve been very successful at this, but know there are many more opportunities out there for us to develop.”

The Festival umbrella extends over 16 new musicals and musical events presented in area theatres as part of their on-going programming including “Summer of Love” (April 1-17) at Musical Theatre West; “Krunk Fu Battle” (May 12-June 26); at East West Players; “Thank You, Mister Falker” (May 14-29) at the Morgan Wixson Theatre; “Moscow, Cherry Town” (May 15, 18 and 22) and “The Difficulty of Crossing A Field” (June 15-18) at Long Beach Opera; “Bash”™d: A Gay Rap Musical” (opening May 26) at Celebration Theatre; “The Trouble With Words” (June) at Coureage Theatre; “Twist” (opening June 14) at Pasadena Playhouse; “Jerry Springer: The Opera” (July 1-August 7) at Chance Theatre; “Sherwood Forest” (July 25-27) at Theatre West; and Amanda McBroom at the Ford Amphitheatre (July 30).

The honorary co-chairs of the Festival of New American Musicals are Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Jason Alexander and Angela Lansbury.

Seligson founded and was Producing Artistic Director of Reprise! Broadway”™s Best, the leading Southern California musical theater presenting classic American musicals, from its inception in 1995 until 2005.  Bob Klein was a founding board member of Reprise!, and headed the company”™s successful effort to market rarely revived Broadway musicals. Shusett was a producer on last year’s Festival, as well as the 2008 Festival, has worked in the film business and is also a performer.

Main sponsors are the ASCAP Foundation, KUSC, BACKSTAGE, Greenberg & Glusker, and The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Festival Productions and Special Events

Lonesome Traveler: A Journey Down The Rivers and Streams of American Folk (April 13 to May 8; Rubicon Theatre) by James O”™Neil; musical direction by Dan Wheetman. Lillias White leads a cast of six in this musical that takes the audience on a journey from the backwoods of Appalachia to the nightclubs of New York and San Francisco – and through an era from which music of the American heritage and from new folk writers was on the top of the pop charts – “Tom Dooley,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Blowin”™ in the Wind,” and “This Land is Your Land.”   Rubicon artistic director James O”™Neil directs.

The Boy in the Bathroom (April 15 – May 22 The Chance Theatre) Book and lyrics by Michael Lluberes; music and additional lyrics by Joe Maloney; directed by Chance artistic director Oanh Nguyen.  Presented in workshop during the 2010 Festival and the New York Musical Theatre Festival, this musical about a boy with obsessive-compulsive disorder, whose life has narrowed down to a single room, receives a world premiere fully staged production.  “The Boy in the Bathroom” received four NYMF Excellence Awards including The Microsoft/HealthVault Most Promising New Musical Award and Excellence in Book Writing. Previously “The Boy in the Bathroom” received the 2008 Anna Sosenko Trust Award, was selected for the 2008 ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop with Stephen Schwartz and was a 2009 Richard Rodgers Award Finalist.

Composer Adam Gwon Events — Cloudlands (May 1 South Coast Repertory 14th annual Pacific Playwrights Festival); Adam Gwon concert (date to be announced at Show at the Barre in Hollywood). Adam Gwon, a rising musical theater writer named one of “50 to Watch” by The Dramatist magazine, won the 2008 Fred Ebb Award for excellence in Musical Theater songwriting and has been hailed “an extremely talented composer and lyricist” who “is seriously going places.” (The New York Sun).  Adam’s musical “Ordinary Days” made its NYC premiere with a sold-out run at Roundabout Theatre Company and has been produced around the world, including London”™s West End, South Coast Repertory, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Human Race Theatre Company, Pennsylvania Centre Stage, the Finborough Theatre, and was selected for the 2008 NAMT Festival of New Musicals.  “Cloudlands,” a new musical drama about desire and its transgressions, with book and lyrics by Octavio Solis and written with support from South Coast Repertory, tells the story of Monica, whose head is in the clouds most of the time — she takes photos of the clouds and pastes them in a book, trying to capture them before they’re gone. But when she discovers her mother in a tryst with a stranger, her entire life begins to feel as ephemeral and unreliable as a cloud. She decides to investigate the mystery of her mother’s secret life and the man at its center — but the deeper she goes, the more lost Monica becomes in the labyrinth of her own heart.

1776 (May 7 and 8 Sony Pictures Plaza) Music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards; book by Peter Stone.  This year”™s Festival Gala Benefit Staged Concert will feature the classic musical that dramatizes the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the men that came together to found the United States; this two night Gala Benefit for the Festival is produced by FNAM Executive Producer Marcia Seligson, who founded and was Artistic Director of Reprise, Los Angeles”™ classic musical theater producer/director/consultant John Holly.  Arthur Allan Seidelman will direct, David O will be musical director.

Lemonade (June 25 and 26 Skylight Theatre in Hollywood) A first concert performance of a rebellious new musical, “Lemonade,” a circus fantasy, written by two Hamilton Academy seniors Sean Eads and Anthony Lucas. The composers and the show are being mentored by the Festival. There is also interest in the creation of “Lemonade” as a possible reality tv series.

Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings (June 25 Walt Disney Concert Hall) a work of music theater with book by Edward Esch, music by Eric Whitacre, and lyrics by director David Norona and Whitacre. The story follows the last remaining tribe of angels, marooned in a post-apocalyptic Paradise as children and now grown into young adulthood. Within their fortress they have created a militant, martial society, always training for the next attack, always afraid. One angel, Exstasis, remains untouched by the brutal world in which she lives and dreams only of flying. The show, heavily inspired by and infused with the style of Japanese anime and manga, is a powerful and visceral hybrid of musical theater, opera, electronica, film music and Asian drumming.  The New York Times said of its Carnegie Hall performance in June, 2010, “You felt a buzz of electric anticipation in the air at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night long before a single note had sounded.  To call Mr. Whitacre a

Alice in Wonderland (August 5 to 14 Norris Center) As a new “Wonderland” opens in New York, the Norris Center prepares to present its own a new high-tech updating of one of the popular fantasies of world culture.

My Fairy Tale (August 12-19 Santa Maria and August 26-September 25 Solvang at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts PCPA) “My Fairy Tale” depicts the night that Hans Christian Andersen found his identity.  Set at the Royal Danish Theatre on an October night in 1846, the poet has heard an old legend: He who dares spend a night alone in the darkness at the stage will see his biggest dream come true. Andersen decides to spite his fear, but he wakes up to discover that he is imprisoned in his own fairytale world. In order to return to the real world, he must embark on an amazing and perilous journey into the realm of his own imagination where Andersen lives out his own fairytales, experiences sweeping love, fights for his life against his own shadow and meets a travelling companion – a small boy called Hans Christian.  Schwartz said, “It basically deals with Andersen’s choice to write fairy tales rather than the “adult” plays that he hoped would gain him the acceptance of the Danish intelligentsia and upper class of his day.”  The play includes characters from many of his stories, including “The Nightingale”, “The Shadow”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Travelling Companion”, “The Little Mermaid”, and “The Snow Queen”, among others and includes characters from his real life, including Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, Jonas Collin (one of the directors of the Royal Copenhagen Theatre and a benefactor of Andersen’s), and Johan and Luise Heiberg (celebrated playwright and actress of the day). Schwartz contributed five or six songs to the show, along with songs by other writers, traditional Danish folk songs, and pieces by Andersen himself. The show was originally presented in Danish at the Gladsaxe Teater just outside Copenhagen in 2005; the 2011 performances celebrate the Solvang Centennial.

Continuing Event — World Premiere of the Festival”™s First Internet Musical —

“The Sunset Players” Created by Jordan Beck and Danny Blaylock, Directed by Cory Reeder, Renaissance Man Productions. Get an up close and personal look at the world of musical theater with this group of funny and talented young adults. But don”™t look for it on TV or Cable. It”™s on your computer, with new episodes added every month, beginning during the 2010 FNAM.  For complete episodes go here.


Equally important to the new works performed in the Festival, is the Educational Program. This program touches students at all grade levels, with educational initiatives at Marquez Elementary School, John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, PUC Education Complex in Lakeview Terrace, Cal State Fullerton, and the production of an entire new musical   “The Giver,” based on Lois Lowry”™s Newbery Medal winning novel, at College of the Canyons as a full accredited college course.

Marquez Charter Elementary School in Pacific Palisades — “Plymouth 2.0″ a new musical that tells the story of the Pilgrims, will be performed by 30 Marquez Charter School students from 4th through 7th grade. “Plymouth 2.0″ will be performed for the public on June 11 at the Actor”™s Gang Theatre, and on June 15 at the Marquez Charter School.

“Plymouth 2.0″ is part of an extraordinary program at Marquez School in which students learn about history through performing musicals written to illustrate important moments from the past; this is the third year that Marquez has participated in FNAM.  This program, run by teacher Jeff Lantos, is a unique immersion into American history – with what musical theatre does best – a way to dramatize the passion of the historic moment, and to bring to light the story and issues to the students, and their audiences, in an immensely immersive and immediate way.  The Marquez students also perform “Water And Power,” a musical that dramatizes the birth of the American labor movement in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1835, in two alternating casts of 50 students each. “Water and Power” is performed at Marquez School on June 14 and 16.

John Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, Lakeview Terrace Charter PUC Education Complex — On June 4 and 5, Futurefest will take place at John Kennedy High School in Granada Hills – bringing together ten or more area schools, including Marquez Charter Elementary Community School, high schools, and colleges on stage performing their new musicals in a marathon weekend showcasing a very next generation of musical theatre creative and performing talents. Among the schools will be the Lakeview Terrace PUC Education Complex (a community charter middle school) production of “Tempest Toss”™d,” their take on Shakespeare”™s “The Tempest,” directed by Sarah Rosenberg and Luis Reyes Cardenas, with music by Eric Luke and lyrics by Shakespeare and Luke.

“Tempest Toss”™d,” which was also part of the FNAM 2010 Festival, adapts Shakespeare”™s “The Tempest” into a tale of magic, revenge and romance, told with in a surfboard and sun interpretation with Frankie and Annette styled beach party rock songs to Shakespeare”™s original text. The production highlight”™s the PUC Education Complex”™ commitment to arts education.

College of the Canyons — At the college level, College of the Canyons returns to FNAM for the second year of its course (for college credit) devoted to the development of a new musical.  This year the course will center around the world premiere of “The Giver,” based on Lois Lowry”™s Newbery Medal winning novel about a boy who lives in a society that has eradicated emotional depth by placing their collective memory – the time before sameness — into a single person”™s consciousness.  The creative team – librettist Nathan Christensen and composer Scott Murphy of “The Giver” are on hand during the course to work with the students as they develop and produce the show, while learning every aspect of putting on a show.  “The Giver,” which has been in development for five years, was part of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre”™s 2010 Annual Festival of New Musicals, had a two-week developmental workshop at Theatreworks/USA in 2006, table readings by CAP21 in 2008 and 2009 and a concert reading in 2009.  The College of the Canyons Theatre Department and the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, June 7 presents this course, limited to 45 students, to July 10.  For information, contact

California State University, Fullerton — Cal State Fullerton will host a staged reading of “Beautiful” with book by Adrian Bewley, lyrics by Larry Todd Johnson, music by Cindy O”™Connor and directed by Kari Hayter – a provocative piece that features love, handguns, and incest – featuring a former Miss Alabama and a newly sober indie musician – in a most unusual adaptation of Ibsen”™s “Hedda Gabler.”  “Beautiful had a previous reading last year in the Los Angeles Academy for New Musical Theatre Dark Night Series.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.

1 comment

  • Great site. Lots of helpful information here. I’m sending it to some friends and also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you!


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