Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stephen Schwartz Headlines the Festival of New American Musicals

The Fourth Annual Festival of New American Musicals kicked off at the beginning of April, but the best stuff is yet to come. The five-month event takes place all over Southern California and features premieres by unknown artists as well as some of the biggest names in theater.

It began on April 1 and runs through August 28 and includes more than 30 pieces ranging from staged readings and workshops to concerts and full productions. It also includes programs for elementary, middle, secondary and college students providing educational outreach in this era of decreased arts spending in schools. Twenty performing arts organizations in the area are participating, each presenting a new American musical during the run of the festival.

While we completely get behind supporting new artists in musical theatre, the two events we most look forward to involve the theater royalty. On May 7 and 8 at Sony Pictures Plaza a yet-to-be-revealed all-star cast will perform the Tony-Award winning 1776 concert-style at a Gala Benefit. If William Daniels, Ken Howard and Betty Buckley show up it will be a good day in L.A.

Also on the agenda is the American premiere of My Fairy Tale, about the life and writings of Hans Christian Anderson with music provided by Stephen Schwartz. The composer, best known for Godspell, Wicked and Pocahontas, worked on the musical to honor the bicentennial birthday of Anderson and it premiered in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2005. This will be the U.S. debut of the show, which starts in a realistic world of the Royal Danish National Theater in 1846 but transcends into the imagination of the beloved author. It's a sort of an Alice in Wonderland with a dash of Pippin experience. It will be performed at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California, on August 12 to 19 and move to the Solvang Festival Theater from August 26 to September 25.

Other highlights of the festival include:
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings by Eric Whitacre at Walt Disney Concert Hall on June 25.

• The world premiere of Lonesome Traveler by James O’Neil at the Rubicon Theatre from April 13 to May 8.

• The world premiere of The Boy in the Bathroom by Michael Lluberes and Joe Maloney at the Orange County Chance Theatre from April 15 to May 22.

• The first reading of Cloudlands by Adam Gwon’s at South Coast Repertory’s 14th Annual Pacific Playwrights Festival on May 1 and a concert of the composer's work on May 4 at the Show at the Barre in Hollywood.

•  In addition there are dozens of readings, workshops and productions of new musicals all throughout Southern California from April through August. For a complete list visit the festival’s website.

For related stories check out:
Randy Newman's Harps and Angels
Brooke Shields in a Broadway Bound Musical at the Ahmanson

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