By Ken Davenport
The 10th Anniversary of the New York Musical Theatre Festival is upon us! Boy, it seems like just yesterday I was attending an orientation meeting for Season #1 when Altar Boyz made it’s debut and I was thinking, “Really? They’re going to acronymn-it to NYMF? Sounds weird.”
Well, not only did they shorten it to NYMF, they stretched their run out a decade! And the fest is still going!
And that 10th anniversary season starts tonight! Start your musical theater engines, because you’ve got shows to see!
We get a lot of invites to NYMF shows. And every year, before the start of the season, I take a gander at the shows featured in the festival catalog and pick the five shows that stand out. Reminder – these aren’t the five shows that are necessarily the best – these are the five shows that for whatever reason (and I’ll explain that reason below) get me (and potential other audience members or producers) exited about learning more. Take a look at last year’s to see what I mean.
Alright, let’s get to the five. Here they are, in no particular order (wait, that’s a lie – they are in alpha order):
The first eight words in the Bend blurb are, “The beloved literary classic, Anne of Green Gables . . . “
Nothing sets a musical off in the right direction better than good strong source material with a good solid brand. The Producers of Bend knew that was going to be their selling point, and since the title of the musical wasn’t Anne of Green Gables (which I kind of wonder why), they smartly led with it in their description.
Another four words in the first sentence that got me? ” . . . for the whole family.” Family musicals (which I define as appealing to both the young folk and the adults – not just one or the other) are in, so Bend has a big potential market.
2. Castle Walk
They had me at Fred and Ginger.
Castle Walk is a show-biz-story about RKO’s making of The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, which starred the aforementioned dance duo. And, well, you just can’t go wrong with that kind of dance as a selling point for your show. Of course, now, you have to deliver.
God’s Country sounds like an adaptation as well, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out if it is one. It isn’t mentioned in the description, but it takes place in 1871, which screams adaptation . . . which is also the same year that this novel of the same name takes place, although the hero names are different. Huh.
Anyway, what got me about God was the Irish flag in the logo and the “Irish spirit.” Ever since I saw a workshop of a musical version of Molly Maguires back in the 90s, I thought the Irish sound and the Irish people were perfect for a musical. Sure, we had The Pirate Queen, but that came up short . . . so there’s still a lot of room for a big, fat Irish hit. Could God’s Country be it?
In today’s troubling Off-Broadway times, if you can get a show to run longer than 6 weeks, you deserve a place in the Off-Broadway Hall of History. Well, Roger Bean’s musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, ran a heck of a lot longer than 6 weeks after in opened in September of 2008 (which was not a very good economic year, if you remember correctly) and closed in January of 2010!
With that kind of track record, you can’t help but be interested in Roger’s next entry into the market, and that’s the similarly structured Life Could Be A Dream. This time, instead of a cast of ladies singing familiar tunes, the show features dudes singing doo-wop. Oh, and it comes to the NYMF as a winner of a Best Musical Award from LA Weekly. Awards are always great Producer and Audience bait, so this one got my attention twice.
Ok, so sports musicals are always a challenge . . . I’ve even blogged about how they don’t work. But you know my ol’ saying . . . as soon as you make a rule, something comes along to break it. And hey – since Rocky is on its way, why not a Volleyball musical? The other reason I like it, is that its description reads classically familiar – like the movie A League of Their Own, with the washed up coach leading a group of misfits. Oh, and VGsalso stars the funny-in-everything-she-does Susan Blackwell . . . who is worth the price of admission alone.
So those are this year’s five! And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy picking just a handful, so I’d make sure you head on over to NYMF.org and check ‘em all out for yourselves. There are some great looking shows with kick-a$$ casts in this year’s season, and it all starts tonight. Go see some!
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