Pop sensation and Hamilton alum Ari Afsar will present a live demo concert of her new musical Jeannette at SubCulture (45 Bleecker St) on Monday, July 29 at 7.30pm. Afsar will be joined by special guests Joshua Henry (Hamilton, Carousel), Lexi Lawson (Hamilton, In the Heights), and Jessica Vosk (Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof). An epic pop musical based on the true story of America’s first congresswoman, Jeannette electrifies the life and history of suffrage activist Jeannette Rankin who was elected to Congress in 1916—three years before women were granted the right to vote.
With a book by America’s most produced playwright, Lauren M. Gunderson, and music and lyrics from Afsar, Jeannette heralds one person’s radical voice in America’s ongoing journey toward equal rights for all. Smart as a whip, with a Montanan’s penchant for big dreams and a politician’s penchant for getting what she wants, Congresswoman Rankin boldly paved the way for resistance through law and government. She was not only the first woman to win a place in American federal congress, but the first woman in the democratic Western world to be voted into national office.
The concert will be directed by Erin Ortman (One Thousand Nights and One Day, Real), with music supervision by Mary-Mitchell Campbell (The Prom, Mean Girls) and a band led by music director Meg Zervoulis (The Prom, Mean Girls). The evening is produced by Jen Bender (The Lion King, Avenue Q). Jeannette was selected by The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center to receive a two-week developmental workshop during the National Music Theatre Conference this summer.
Tickets for the concert are $55 for reserved seating and $45 for general admission seating. Doors open at 6:30pm, the concert begins at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at bit.ly/JeannetteTix. For more information on Jeannette, visit JeannetteMusical.com.
Ari Afsar (music and lyrics) is a singer/songwriter with placements on ABC, Disney, and an On-Demand feature. A graduate of Ethnomusicology Jazz from UCLA, Afsar just released her debut EP, “Somewhere I Thought I’d Be.” Most recently she opened for Michelle Obama at the Shrine Auditorium, performed at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and opened for the ACLU national conference in D.C. She was the original Eliza Hamilton in Chicago’s production of Hamilton, Miss California 2010, top 10 at Miss America 2011, a top 36 American Idol Alum, and currently stars in a SXSW-award winning series. She has been an advocate/performer/and public speaker for The Women’s March, The Social Innovation Summit, Nexus Global, The University of Chicago, The MoveOn rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, and The United State of Women.
Joshua Henry (guest performer) was most recently seen on Broadway as the iconic Billy Bigelow in the revival of Carousel for which he received a coveted Tony nomination. Last December, Joshua closed his run as Aaron Burr in the cultural phenomenon, Hamilton, in Los Angeles. This fall, Joshua will be starring opposite Jason Mamoa in “See” for Apple TV . Joshua can also be seen in the action flick Renegades starring opposite Oscar winner JK Simmons and Sullivan Stapleton. Joshua has also starred on Broadway as Noble Sissle in George C. Wolfe’s Tony-nominated musical Shuffle Along. Prior to Shuffle Along, Joshua was Tony nominated for his star turn as Flick in the musical Violet. He received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Award nominations for his thrilling, show-stopping performance. He was previously nominated for a Tony Award for his starring role in Susan Stroman’s The Scottsboro Boys. Other Broadway credits include leading roles in Diane Paulus’ revival of Porgy & Bess and Green Day’s American Idiot.
Lexi Lawson (guest performer). Broadway Star Lexi Lawson joined Lin Manuel Miranda’s 11-time Tony award winning revolutionary phenomenon Hamilton as the leading female role of Elizabeth Hamilton at the height of the show. She logged over 1000 performances with rave reviews in national and international publications around the world such as Vogue, Rolling Stone, InStyle, Marie Claire and The New York Times. Lexi went on to record the hit single “First Burn” which went straight to number one on the charts and has over 12.5 million views on YouTube. She has a Christmas station on Pandora that tracks one million clicks per holiday season featuring her rendition of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”. Lexi was on Season 8 of “American Idol” where Simon Cowell was on board at “100 % YES” but then chose to leave the show to star as Mimi Marquez in the world known Broadway show Rent with original cast members Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, along with original director Michael Greif. Rent ended after a critically acclaimed and highly successful run in North America and Asia. It logged over 54,000 miles playing 373 performances in 39 sold out cities. She then went on to direct a production of Rent at the SPAC theater. She continued her musical theater journey and joined the first national tour of Lin- Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights as the leading character of Vanessa. Lin-Manuel Miranda jumped into the tour for a week in Puerto Rico, joining Lexi as the lead. After this much publicized performance, Lexi again performed with Lin for a live performance on the hit show “So You Think You Can Dance.” After touring North America and Asia twice, she followed her passion to China to play Carmen in Fame. Aside from pop musical theater she has performed at a range of famous venues all over the world including Madison Square Garden in an opening spot for Ne-Yo. Lexi also recently sang the National Anthem at the MetLife arena. Her powerhouse vocals and songwriting abilities have given her the opportunity to grace hundreds of stages around the world, the ability to be heard on the radio, and seen on television. She also did a reunion tour with the group Duran Duran. She also lends her voice and help to Graham Windham which is the orphanage that Elizabeth Hamilton established in 1806, and is still in existence today. Lexi’s acting credits have found her on FOX, ABC, CBS, STARZ, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Intermedia, and New Line Cinemas. Her latest appearance was playing Olivia Gorman on Hit Television show “Power.” Lexi is currently in the studio writing and recording original material and has recently lent her vocals to a track entitled “Wordless” This song was produced by 2019 Grammy winner Swagg (H.E.R.) and classic songwriter/producer Richard Gottehrer.
Jessica Vosk (guest performer) just finished an acclaimed run as Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, having played the role in total for 2 years. Vosk also starred in the NYC Ballet Jerome Robbins tribute Something to Dance About, directed by Warren Carlyle. She re-created the role of Fruma Sarah in the most recent revival of Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof and other Broadway include: Finding Neverland, The Bridges of Madison County. She starred as Anita in San Francisco Symphony’s West Side Story, which garnered her first Grammy nomination. Her Billboard-charted debut solo album Wild and Free is available for purchase at www.jessicavosk.com. Follow along @jessicavosk for upcoming album and touring news.
Lauren M. Gunderson (book) continues to be one of the most produced playwrights in America after topping the list in 2018. She is a two-time winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award (for I and You and The Book of Will), winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award. She is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, and a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company where she is the Playwright in Residence. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US and UK. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr. Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon is now available on Amazon and she is at work on a major motion picture.
Erin Ortman (director) is a NYC–based director, creator, and equalist. She directed two widely recognized Off-Broadway productions in 2018-2019, One Thousand Nights and One Day by Marisa Michaelson and Jason Grote, and Real by Rodrigo Noguiera. She is developing new work with Tony Award winning producer Adam Zotavich, Obie Lifetime Achievement recipient Caridad Svich, Tony Award nominee Alexander Gemignani, Extraordinary Achievement Visa recipient Rodrigo Noguiera and Ugandan playwright Jedidiah Maguraru, currently at the U.N. She is directing Jeannette by Lauren Gunderson and Ari Afsar, which will receive extensive development at The Eugene O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference this summer. Her current concert work includes Hear Her Song, a series of songs written by women serving as acts of resistance, which will be playing Joe’s Pub and The Kennedy Center in 2020, as well as JR Unplugged, a concert with music by Ari Afsar inspired by the life of Jeannette Rankin. She has developed new plays and musicals with many acclaimed theatre companies including The Roundabout, LAByrinth, Ars Nova, Pipeline, Pan Asian Rep, The Prospect Theater Company, New Georges, New York Stage and Film, The Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Sheen Center and The Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, among others. Her unique directorial style was highlighted on HowlRound last April.
Mary-Mitchell Campbell (music supervisor). A 1996 Furman University graduate, Mary-Mitchell Campbell has served as music director for Broadway’s Mean Girls, The Prom, and Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway, and prepared orchestrations for Sweet Charity starring Sutton Foster. She has also lent music direction and orchestrations to Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland, Company (Drama Desk Award win for Orchestrations), and Allegro (Drama Desk Award nomination for Orchestrations) among many others. Also to Campbell’s credit are numerous philanthropic efforts including her founding of ASTEP – Artists Striving to End Poverty. Performers for the star-studded gala in February included Chenoweth, Jonathan Groff, Tituss Burgess, Debra Monk, and Raúl Esparza.
Meg Zervoulis (music director) is a versatile music director, arranger, educator, and pianist in the NYC/NJ area. Broadway: The Prom (Music Director), Mean Girls, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Head Over Heels. Other Selected New Works: Buñuel (Public Theatre) by Stephen Sondheim, Kooman and Dimond’s Dani Girl in the ASCAP/Disney Workshop, Other World by Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, and Ann McNamee, Stu for Silverton (NAMT 2014) by Peter Duchan and Breedlove, Teeth (Sundance 2017) by Anna Jacobs and Michael Jackson, and Andrea Grody’s Strange Faces (directed by John Rando). She also helms Hotel Elefant, a chamber ensemble in NYC, and played keyboard for the Big Apple Circus. Meg frequently appears as pianist/bandleader all over the country with the Nunziata Twins and Bryce Pinkham. She is also on the rosters of Sing for Hope, Sing for Your Seniors and Concerts in Motion. She has been the musical theatre accompanist for National YoungArts Week for the past two years, in collaboration with Michael McElroy. Meg is a proud member of the Lilly Power Network and Local 802 AFM.
Jen Bender (executive producer) is a producer, director, and consultant specializing in the development of new musicals. She is the president of Quick Brown Fox Productions and Creative Development Consultant for Lively McCabe Entertainment. She was Senior Vice President of Production and Development for The Araca Group, and served as Director of Programming for the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) which she co-founded in 2004. Her Broadway credits as Resident Director include The Lion King and Avenue Q (Broadway, Vegas, and New World Stages). She directed the world-premiere of Do You Hear the People Sing: The Dream Concert by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg featuring Lea Salonga, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Terrence Mann, and Stephanie J. Block at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX, and toured internationally as the Assistant Artistic Director of Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo. Jen is the executive producer on multiple new shows in development, including Jeannette by Ari Afsar and Lauren M. Gunderson, and The Glorious Death of Comrade What’s-His-Name, by Raymond Bokhour, David Bridel, and Simon Gray.