NYMF Announces Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award Winner Audra McDonald as 2017 Honorary Chair

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(New York – June 15, 2017) The New York Musical Festival (NYMF) is proud to announce Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Audra McDonald (Shuffle Along; Ragtime; The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess) as 2017 NYMF Honorary Chair.

McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both a singer and an actress. The winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy Award, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015 and received a 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. Raised in Fresno, California, the Julliard-trained soprano is equally at home on Broadway and opera stages as she is in roles on film and television.

"New musicals are essential to seeing our art form continue to flourish and impact new audiences. It’s important for artists to support these new works by bringing them to life on stage. In my career, some of the most rewarding endeavors have been those explored alongside the composer, playwright, or director. Their ideas are not only artistic, but often have an important message for the audience—one that can have a great effect on our society,” said McDonald.

She continued, “The beauty of theater is that people of different races, ages, genders, and orientations gather together to hear a story. I believe that sharing this experience is an amazing way for all of us to find what we have in common rather than how we differ. New ideas and new musicals bring people to the theater. The more people we bring in, the greater our chances are to find common ground."

"It is our privilege to have Audra McDonald, one of the most iconic and celebrated musical theater performers of her generation, join us as Honorary Chair this summer,” said Rachel Sussman, NYMF’s Producing Artistic Director. “As an actress and interpreter of new and classic work - both musical and non-musical alike - she exemplifies the innovative, passionate, and collaborative spirit we feel is essential to the ethos of the Festival. We are deeply proud to have her support for the 14th annual New York Musical Festival."

NYMF also announced the initial casting for the 2017 season.

Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita (Matilda), Max Crumm (Disaster!, Grease), Wayne Wilcox (RENT, “Gilmore Girls”), and Jennifer Blood (Gentleman’s Guide, Violet) will star in Matthew McConaughey Vs. The Devil: An American Myth, directed by Thomas Caruso (Southern Comfort). Matthew McConaughey Vs. The Devil is a Faustian comedy that dares to ask the question, “How did Matthew McConaughey win an Academy Award?" This show recounts how the Rom Com-starring stoner became an A-list award winner. Matthew has his loyal agent Penny, his best friend Woody Harrelson, and his beloved bongos. Now all he needs is to be taken seriously in his art. Enter a demon with a deal too good to be true. Friendship, love, and loyalty are all tested in this hell-raising adventure to win Matthew the Oscar...and save his soul. Book by Emilie Landmann & Carrie Morgan; Music by Jonathan Quesenberry; Lyrics by Carrie Morgan & Jonathan Quesenberry. Learn more: nymf.org/matthewmcconaughey

Billy Lewis Jr. (“Glee”), Krystina Alabado (American Psycho, Lazarus), Remy Zaken (Spring Awakening), and Sami Gayle (“Blue Bloods”) will star in Camp Wanatachi: In Concert, directed by Mia Walker (Assistant Director, Waitress), produced by Bridget Regan (“Jane the Virgin”, “Agent Carter”)with a book by Bekah Brunstetter (“This Is Us”) and Natalie Elizabeth Weiss. Camp Wanatachi is an electro-musical that explores two girls’ journey of sexual discovery within the unlikely setting of an all-female Christian summer camp. Spirit-soaked and hormone-charged, this “hilariously subversive piece of theater” (New York Magazine) celebrates teenage love with pulsing EDM beats and lush orchestral arrangements. Book by Bekah Brunstetter & Natalie Elizabeth Weiss; Music by Natalie Elizabeth Weiss & Travis Stewart; Lyrics by Natalie Elizabeth Weiss. Learn more: nymf.org/wanatachi

Tony Nominee Emily Skeggs (Fun Home) will star in the The Shakespearean Jazz Show. Energetic and innovative, The Shakespearean Jazz Show reinvigorates and recontextualizes Shakespearean performance. Experience how the loose, improvisatory nature of jazz music can free Shakespearean text, allowing the feeling and intent of the words to be expressed in a completely new way. The Nine Worthies provide an unforgettable parade of Shakespearean sonnets, songs, and scenes composed to original New Orleans-style jazz. Music by Patrick Greeley; Lyrics by William Shakespeare. Learn more: nymf.org/jazzshow

Kennedy Caughell (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) and Mitch Jarvis (Rock of Ages) will star in Killer Wigs From Outer Space, the story of Orville, a carnival handyman attacked by a galactic, brain-eating parasite. This alien from another planet transforms Orville into a rock-and-roll prophet for peace with out-of-this-world hair. Battling forces of evil with several colorful characters, we follow him on an epic operatic journey to save our world. Book by David Nehls & Zac Miller; Music and Lyrics by David Nehls; Additional Lyrics by Zac Miller. Learn more: nymf.org/killerwigs

Tony Award winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia (RENT) will star in Pedro Pan, based on the real-life events of Operación Pedro Pan, in which a boy is sent to the U.S. to escape the growing dangers of post-revolutionary Cuba. To survive, Pedro must learn a new language and a new culture – while hoping to someday be reunited with his parents. With a score featuring the percussive rhythms of Havana to '60s New York soul, Pedro Pan examines what it means to be a displaced immigrant in America. Book by Rebecca Aparicio; Music and Lyrics by Stephen Anthony Elkins. Learn more: nymf.org/pedropan

PJ Griffith (American Idiot) and Jillian Louis (It Shoulda Been You) will star in Georama: An American Panorama Told On 3 Miles Of Canvas, directed by West Hyler (Paramour). In the 1850’s John Banvard did more to elevate fine arts than any single American artist before him. Banvard was the most famous living painter in the world and the first millionaire artist, world-renowned for his three-mile long moving panorama celebrating the majesty of the Mighty Mississippi. Today an examination of reference books will not turn up a single mention of his name. John Banvard, the greatest artist of his time, has been utterly obliterated by history. This musical tells his story. Book by West Hyler & Matt Schatz; Music and Lyrics by Matt Schatz; Arrangements, Additional Music, and Lyrics by Jack Herrick. Learn more: nymf.org/georama

Lauren Patten (The Wolves, Fun Home) and Ephie Aardema (Song Bird) will star in The Goree All–Girl String Band, directed by Ashley Brooke Monore (Assistant director Indecent). The year is 1938 and The Goree All-Girl String Band is the biggest new radio sensation in Texas. They also happen to be convicted criminals. The six band members teach themselves music from behind bars and earn a slot on a prison-based radio program. Through sisterhood, determination, and a little bit of luck, these women work (and play) together to fiddle their way to freedom. Inspired by a true story, The Goree All-Girl String Band is a tale of redemption that features an ensemble of actor-musicians performing a brand new country score. Book and Lyrics by Michael Bradley; Music by Artie Sievers. Learn more: nymf.org/stringband

Disney Channel stars Milo Manheim (Zombies) and Will Meyers (“The Invisible Sister”) will star in Generation Me about the aftermath of a teen’s suicide. 15 year-old Milo Reynolds had it all - a seat at the popular table, the perfect girlfriend, the “coolest” parents, and friends who worshiped him. So when Milo takes his own life on Monday morning, his friends and family are left questioning everything they thought they knew about him. Told in flashbacks that open Milo’s story like a mystery, Generation Me explores the heartbreak, confusion, and survivor’s guilt of those left behind. Book by Julie Soto; Music by Will Finan; Lyrics by Julie Soto; Story by Julie Soto & Ryan Warren. Learn more: nymf.org/generationme

Brian Charles Rooney (The Threepenny Opera) will star in Miss Blanche Tells It All. 1969 New Orleans: it’s standing room only. The band starts the opening number for Miss Blanche, the hottest act in the Quarter - but Miss Blanche is missing in action. Instead, a fiery young man takes the stage. Relaying tales from his brutal childhood, he reveals a mysterious trunk, filled with clues about his past and the key to his future. Inspired by the imagination of Tennessee Williams, this intimate and seductive show takes us on one man’s journey of desire, self-expression, and liberation. Book by Jason Jacobs; Music by Matthew C. Pritchard; Lyrics by Matthew C. Pritchard & Jason Jacobs. Learn more: nymf.org/missblanche

Matthew Gumley (Elf) will star in Happily: The Musical.Happily Ever High is the #1 preparatory school for fairy tale youth. At the beginning of their education, students are assigned specific storybook roles such as Prince, Princess, Knight, or Fairy Godmother. According to their parents and teachers, finding ‘happily ever after’ means learning how to slay dragons or waiting idly by until someone rescues you from your tower. As graduation approaches, members of the senior class begin to realize that maybe their happiness isn’t found at the end of a storybook. Book by Livi Perrone; Music by Sean P. Pallatroni; Lyrics by Sean P. Pallatroni & Livi Perrone. Learn more: nymf.org/happily

Drama Desk nominee Nancy Anderson (Sunset Boulevard, Wonderful Town) will star as “Mama Sid” a modern-day Buddhist leader with a worldwide following in The Fourth Messenger, directed by Matt August (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). But a determined young woman seeks to unearth Mama Sid’s mysterious past, exposing secrets that could change everything. Epic and intimate, comic and profound, THE FOURTH MESSENGER investigates what it means to be both enlightened and human. Book and Lyrics by Tanya Shaffer; Music and Additional Lyrics by Vienna Teng. Learn more: nymf.org/fourthmessenger

Brynn Williams (Lazarus) will star in Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical. Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical tells the true story of activists who boldly challenged the legality and optics of the Jim Crow South by riding buses in mixed groups. It features Civil Rights icons Diane Nash, John Seigenthaler, John Lewis, Congress of Racial Equality’s original 13 riders and other fearless activist of the Civil Rights Movement. Freedom Riders is a soaring portrait of the fearless voices of the Movement who used nonviolent direct action to initiate change. Book by Richard Allen; Music and Lyrics by Richard Allen & Taran Gray. Learn more: nymf.org/freedomriders

Grace Hightower De Niro (Precious movie soundtrack) will star in musical comedy, I Am, I Will, I Do. As the owners of Party City Now rebrand their wedding business to embrace marriage equality, Dave, their gay Music Director, has never felt more alone. Doomed to a life of playing weddings, Dave longs for a love of his own. But, when he’s forced to sing a duet with Human Rights Attorney, Harris, sparks ignite and hope is born. As three diverse couples struggle to find compromise, this new romantic musical comedy I AM, I WILL, I DO teaches us that perhaps being “outside the norm” is the new normal. Book, Music, and Lyrics by Dan Manjovi. Learn more: nymf.org/iamiwill

Full casting and creative teams for all productions, concerts and events will be announced throughout the season.

Now in its fourteenth year,the 2017 Festival will take place July 10th through August 6th at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Playwrights Horizons Rehearsal Studio, The Green Room 42 @ YOTEL, and The Castillo Theatre in  New York City. Dan Markley serves as NYMF Executive Director and Rachel Sussman serves as Producing Artistic Director.

Individual tickets for 2017 NYMF go on sale on today at 11am; NYMF Passes are also on sale and offer discounted tickets, early ticket booking, and priority seating. Visit nymf.org/tickets for more information.