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WAY OFF BROADWAY: New Musicals in Development This Summer

May 30th, 2012

When there’s a month with a fifth Wednesday, I’ll be heading Way-Off-Broadway for a look at theatrical happenings outside New York City. This summer, it’s not just flowers blooming all over the country; it’s musicals…

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Image via

Keep your sun screen and your pitch pipe handy because it’s time for summer theater development festivals. All across the country,writing teams are converging on bucolic locations to test out new musicals and pretend they’re at summer camp with cute actors. And the great thing is, you can join in (on the musicals and the cute actors). In fact, audience feedback is an essential component (for the musicals and the cute actors).

So let’s take a look (and listen) to some of the best prospects getting workshops this summer…

National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Center: The Tony-winning, beachfront home to new works of all kinds (and a personal favorite of mine) continues pushing boundaries with four new musicals getting public readings in June and July. When We Met takes a look at love and quantum physics; A Good Man tackles courage and race in rural Mississippi; and The ToyMaker tells an epic tale of destiny and family. To insiders, the one that is likely to have the most eyes on it is String, because of its young, award-winning composer/lyricist Adam Gwon in collaboration with bookwriter Sarah Hammond. People are very curious to see where Gwon goes next after his much praised Ordinary Days; will this tale of Greek Gods in a modern cubicle world kick him to Broadway level? Let’s take a listen to a song from the show…


TheatreWorks Silicon Valley New Works Festival: Go West, young composer! The land of digital technology shows off its theater geek side in August with a series of readings and developmental productions of fresh plays and musicals. On the tuner side, three sophisticated choices: the intelligently quirky play on Kafka The Trouble with Doug; a 60’s set adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest from Paul Gordon, the lit-loving composer of Emma and Jane Eyre; and the century-spanning romance Triangle written by, well, me.

The Trouble with Doug. Image via Google.

I could be all self-efacing and suggest you listen to a song from one of the other shows but, you know what, it’s my blog post — so click to hear three demos from Triangle featuring Smash star Brian d’Arcy James and Nick Blaemire of Broadway’s Godspell.

New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Summer Theater: Curious where the cool kids (and movie stars) will be this summer? Try Vassar up the Hudson from New York City where the seriously connected like Chloe Sevigny test out their wares. Check out this pedigreed line-up: an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s acclaimed novel The Fortress of Solitude by Michael Friedman (Blood Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Itamar Moses (Nobody Loves You); love triangle rock musical Murder Ballad from playwright Julia Jordan (Sarah, Plain and Tall), indie rocker Juliana Nash and busy director Trip Cullman (Lonely I’m Not); and a musical version of high school classic A Separate Peace from Warren Leight (Side Man), Todd Almond and director Stafford Arima (Carrie).

Unfortunately, it looks like material from these pieces is under tight wraps; if anybody has a link to some tracks from one of these shows, share them in the comments!

Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival: There’s a new kid on the block in vacation-friendly Auburn, New York this July and August: The Pitch. Alongside a full slate of popular classics, here’s how the producers describe this new works showcase, “Accompanied by piano, teams of three will receive 40-50 minutes each night to ‘pitch’ their newest ideas in front of a live audience.” The shows may not be as familiar or big-name heavy (a Disney princess skewering, an Americana ghost story, an Oscar Wilde children’s story, a hockey romance and many more) but, with its innovative “tasting menu,” the Pitch looks like a great way to sample hits and misses without squirming in your seat. And who knows which one might be a diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered…by you!

Take a listen to a cute song from the festival opener, Flambe Dreams:

Know of some other developmental programs this summer? Share the info in the comments below and support new work!

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