Out of Town
Musical Theatre Productions of (the Other) London Streams Their 2014 New World Hit
Riding out the COVID19 pandemic at my parents’ house in London, Ontario, I find myself sitting nervously watching and reading about the rising numbers in Canada. This is particularly true in Toronto, the city where I thought I’d be spending half my week building a private psychotherapy practice (that is while maintaining my NYC office, flying back and forth each week). The traveling went out the window pretty fast mid-March, as did meeting clients face-to-face in my therapy offices in those two cities. But one thing I have been able to maintain, thankfully, is my theatre addiction and this theatre blog. The New World, as scary as it is, has opened up so many surprising windows that I never knew about, even as other doors were closing and going dark. Streaming and watching theatre online has become the new norm. Luckily, I found my way through it all, gloriously seeing many shows that I have loved in the past, like She Loves Me and Sunday in the Park with George, and/or discovered sadly missed productions, such as National Theatre’s Amadeus and Stratford’s Macbeth. In a total ‘silver lining’ modality, had it not been for this terrible pandemic (today’s numbers: one million people have died world-wide, and 700 new cases in Ontario yesterday, a new daily record sadly), there are a number of theatre companies that I never would have even known about, like the one I discovered this morning. That New World order is giving me a little shiver of joy to hold up against the dark ominous skies hanging above, and breath a sigh of relief.
Lo and behold in today’s local newspaper, an article in the arts section sparked a twang of theatrical discovery in my soul. The piece reported that Musical Theatre Productions of London, Ontario (I call it ‘the other London’) is streaming online Jason Robert Brown’s iconic musical, Songs for a New World, a 2014 MTP hit filmed live onstage at the local Grand Theatre, for a fundraising event this very Wednesday night, Sept 30th at 8pm EST. I know nothing of the company nor the musical, but the excitement and discovery is real and thrilling. The online event has been scheduled to raise money for the struggling company, and it is only $10 Canadian per device, so basically a theatrical bargain any way you look at it. And from the look and sound of it, it might just be one of those silver lining discoveries that bring musical joy inside these troubling times, and I can’t wait to voyage out into this New World and discover the Songs that were written for it.
MTP‘s production of Songs for a New World was written and composed by Brown and co-directed at the Grandby Angela Southern and Nicole Newell. The show is an abstract musical construction consisting of a series of songs written in a variety of musical genres. It weaves itself thoughtfully around the internalized theme of decision-making, and ultimate survival. It was the first musical written by Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, Bridges of Madison County) to debut on the New York stage almost 25 years ago, and it has been described as a “moving collection of powerful songs examining life, love and the choices” that we make as we travel down the difficult roads set before us. Opening off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre in 1995, the show has since become a favorite for colleges and local theatres to produce, despite its very vocally demanding score, which includes the song “Stars and the Moon“, a cabaret standard (click on the title link to hear the magnificent Audra McDonald singing it at The Smith Center), and possibly Brown’s best-known composition to date.
This week and moment in our lives is definitely a time we could use some brilliant uplifting Songs for a New World that will hopefully connect us all together in each and every decision made going forward. It’s a world filled to the brim with many challenges and crossroads ahead, and this show, with a cast of twenty, will musically take us down those various pathways with grace and courage, enveloped in pop, gospel, and jazz overtones, with several songs dynamically merging genres with power and passion. Guiding us through these twists and turns vocally in song, the cast also coaxes us along showcasing their musical skills at each intersection by playing an assortment of instruments ranging from drums, percussion, djember, to trumpet, clarinet, piano, violin, and melodica.
“It’s a cycle of songs that are all written with a similar idea in mind. The idea of one moment in your life and the road not taken,” explains co-director Southern to the London Free Press, “and they all deal with different relationships in different time periods...”
It sounds most deliciously like the curvy dangerous roads ahead for our world, one that parallels our journey as we try with an open mind and heart to ride out a second wave without losing our sense of self and our optimism. “Right now, the theatre community and MTP in particular are struggling to survive,” says Joe Recchia, the company’s past-president and publicity director, “with no sign of when we will be able to return or gather in person again.” And with all the standard fundraising avenues unavailable to theatre companies worldwide, online events like this one have become the only lifeline to raising money, awareness, and engaging with the community that counted on them before this all went so dark. Tickets to view the 8pm show are available on the company’s website: mtplondon.ca and I must say that I am excited to tune in and discover a new theatre company, one that was sitting in my hometown backyard all along, one that I might never have discovered if I hadn’t found myself in this particular situation. Just one more reason to feel a little bit fortunate, in a strange new world that on one hand, feels like it is crashing down all around us, and on the other, we find discovery.
Musical Theatre Productions is a not-for-profit organization and, like so many arts organizations across the world right now, that have had to close their doors to rehearsals and performances and the things we all love that they do to bring the community together. They, and many other companies across the globe rely on the funds raised from events like these in order to continue their mission to nourish local talent and inspire a passion for musical theatre. We all eagerly await their return, but until then please support their new online events and consider making a donation to support MTP. http://mtplondon.ca/musicals
SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD
Producer/Choreographer: Laura Wood
Directors: Angela Southern & Nicole Newell
Music Director: Angela Southern
Stage Manager: Anne Cuthbert
Lighting Design: Stephen Mitchell
Set Design: Tom Smyth
Costume Design: Becky Lenko & Lesleigh Turner
Elizabeth Van Doorne
For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com
Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T
Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde
Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.
Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.
Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.
American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little Pill; Waitress; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at AmericanRepertoryTheater.org.
Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.
Reading For Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee New Musical Other World
Other World, a new musical with an original score and story by Tony Award Nominee Hunter Bell (book), Obie Award winner Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics), and singer-songwriter and author Ann McNamee(music and lyrics) will present invite-only staged readings on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 at Open Jar Studios in New York City. With direction by Jenn Rapp (The Illusionists Director/Choreographer) and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia (Tick, Tick … BOOM! film, Kennedy Center Honors), Other World is being developed in creative consultation with the five-time Academy Award winning WĒTĀ Workshop (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies).
One moment Sri and Lorraine are in a garage on Earth. The next, they’re unexpectedly transported into Sri’s favorite video game, Other World. Now trapped in the game and in a race against the clock, this unlikely pair must work together, discover their inner strengths, and connect with gifted gamers and astonishing avatars in order to survive and find a way home. With art direction provided by Academy Award–winning Wētā Workshop (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar), this heartfelt, humorous musical explores the connections we make on- and off-line, while celebrating the families and friendships we need to thrive in any world. Join us for this spectacular, original, otherwordly adventure. Your journey begins…now!
The cast features Micah Beauvais (Sri), Bella Coppola (Lorraine), Ryan Andes (Roman/Antagon), Madeleine Doherty (Myra), Kaden Kearney (Tris), Brandi Porter (Temula), Mikaela Secada (Jamie), with Sojouner Brown, Elena Camp, Sommer Carbuccia, Laura Dadap, Seth Rettberg, Sherisse Springer, Blake Stadnik, Levin Valayil, and Jason Williams.
The creative team for the developmental presentation also features music direction by Amanda Morton (KPOP), casting by Paul Hardt Casting (Once Upon A One More Time), video design by Khristian Bork (Coco live at the Hollywood Bowl, Danny Elfman – Coachella), sound design by Hidenori Nakajo (Octet), and general management by Alchemy Production Group (The Music Man, Come From Away). The Executive Producer is Lauren Tucker/Alchemy Production Group.
For more information about the show, visit https://otherworldmusical.com/
Hunter Bell (Book) earned an OBIE Award, a Drama League nomination, a GLAAD Media nomination, and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, all for the original Broadway musical [title of show]. Other credits include the books for Silence! The Musical (Lucille Lortel Nomination, Outstanding Musical), Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Bellobration! (Ringling Bros. Circus), Villains Tonight! (Disney Cruise Lines), Found (Atlantic Theater, Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Book of a Musical), and Julie Andrews’ The Great American Mousical (Goodspeed). He is a co-creator of the web series “the [title of show] show” and has developed television with ABC Studios/ABC Television. Hunter is a proud graduate and distinguished alumnus of Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts, a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, a MacDowell Fellow, and currently serves on the board of the Educational Theatre Association and Educational Theatre Foundation, national arts advocacy organizations representing theatre teachers and students.
Jeff Bowen (Music and Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for and starred in the Broadway musical [title of show] (OBIE Award) and Now. Here. This. Additionally, he has written music and lyrics for Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Villains Tonight! (Walt Disney Company), and the theme songs for the web series “the [title of show] show” and “Squad ’85.” His songs can be heard on the original cast albums of [title of show], Now. Here. This., as well as Broadway Bares Openingsand Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project. He is a proud member of ASCAP, AEA, Writers Guild, Dramatists Guild, and the National Audubon Society. He serves as a faculty member of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.
Ann McNamee(Music and Lyrics) received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University, leading to a twenty-year career in teaching, choral conducting, and music research at Swarthmore College. After retiring as Professor Emerita, Ann composed for, sang, played keys, and toured with the Flying Other Brothers and Moonalice, both bands led by her husband Roger McNamee. She composed the majority of the songs on the Moonalice album that was part of T Bone Burnett’s nomination for Producer of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards. For the Lilith Fair tour in 2010, she fronted the band Ann Atomic. Another highlight was opening up for U2 at the Oakland Coliseum in November 2011. She retired from touring in 2012 in order to collaborate on musical theater projects full-time. Ann’s outside interests include co-founding the Haight Street Art Center, a community center/poster music/print shop to celebrate rock poster art in the Bay Area.
Out of Town
The Avett Brothers Musical Swept Away Sails Into Arena Stage This Fall
Swept Away, the new musical written by Tony Award winner John Logan (book) and “America’s biggest roots band” (Rolling Stone), The Avett Brothers (music and lyrics), was announced today as part of the 2023/24 season at Arena Stage, Washington, DC (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Producer). Performances will begin November 25 and will continue through December 30. Tony Award winner Michael Mayer will direct the production as he had last year in the musical’s sold-out world premiere at Berkeley Rep. The Arena Stage engagement will feature an updated score with additional, never-before-heard songs. Swept Away is produced by Special Arrangement with Matthew Masten, Sean Hudock, and Madison Wells Live.
Swept Away is set in 1888, off the coast of New Bedford, MA. When a violent storm sinks their whaling ship, the four surviving souls — a young man in search of adventure, his older brother who has sworn to protect him, a captain at the end of a long career at sea, and a worldly first mate who has fallen from grace — each face a reckoning: How far will I go to stay alive? And can I live with the consequences?
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org
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