Seminars, Celebrities, Previews, Cabarets and More at the Goodspeed Festival

By Karen Isaacs

Goodspeed’s 11th Festival of New Musicals is more than just staged performances of three new musicals.

It is a weekend of activities and mingling with musical and theater fans, Goodspeed and staff, and often Broadway luminaries.

Both Friday and Saturday evenings (Jan. 15 and 16) after the performances, various performers and composers/lyricist gather at the Gelston House for the Festival Cabaret.  You may hear new material from the teams who have written and composed the festival’s musicals OR you may hear songs that the writers at the 4th Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Colony are creating.  These talented people spend a month in residence working on new musicals; this year 34 people are working on 19 musicals.

Saturday, Jan. 16 is jammed packed with activities including two tours – one a behind-the-scene visit to the theater itself and the other a look at Goodspeed’s Scherer Library of Musical Theater which is becoming one of the largest musical theater libraries in the country.

But the real highlights are the seminars. These may answer questions you have always been curious about such as “How Do They Do That? (How Musical Writers Make a Living on Their Way to Broadway)” or “A History of Dance in the Musical Theater” or “Orchestrating 101.” There’s even “Selling the Show 101” about the advertising and public relations involved.

Alfred Uhry of Goodspeeds My Paris. Photo by Diane Sobolewski

Alfred Uhry in foreground.

But this year, undoubtedly the two most popular seminars (each is scheduled twice) will be “Spotlight on Alfred Uhry” and “Razzle Dazzle: The Battle of Broadway.”

Uhry was at last year’s Festival to discuss the production of My Paris at the Norma Terris Theater in Chester last summer (it will be at Long Wharf in the late spring).  He is an accomplished playwright who wrote Driving Miss Daisy and The Last Night at Ballyhoo as well as the screenplays for Driving Miss Daisy and Mystic Pizza. He wrote the book for the musicals Parade (music by Jason Robert Brown), LoveMusik (which used music by Kurt Weill), The Robber Bridegroom and My Paris (with music by Charles Azanvour and English lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.

Razzle Dazzle: The Battle of Broadway is by NY Post columnist and co-host of razzle dazzle coverChannel 13’s Theater Talk, Michael Reidel.  He has developed a reputation for breaking some of the biggest Broadway stories around including the never-ending saga of Spider Man and Rebecca. In his recent book, he focusses on the Shubert Organization which owns many Broadway houses and how Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, took over the corporation in the late ‘70s and helped not only turn it around but Broadway as well. Reidel also chronicles the shows – A Chorus Line, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miz, Mamma Mia! which helped revitalize the entire Times Square area.

Michael Riedel_(c) Anne Wermiel

Michael Reidel

But there is even more. In the afternoon, Goodspeed will be screening its revival production in 2000 of Man of La Mancha which premiered at Goodspeed 50 years ago.

Two other highlights of Saturday include the preview of selections from one or more of the new musicals that will be produced at Chester.  This year, these include a revision of The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd and The Sign of the Times.

 The last event of the afternoon is the Musical Theater Symposium.  In what is called the Elevator Pitch Challenge: The Writer’s Audition, the writing teams have only a few minutes to pitch a panel of Goodspeed producers on a new musical project.  How can they make their pitch attention-grabbing, compelling and concise?  What does it take to persuade a producer to invest?  After the pitches, WNPR’s Colin McEnroe asks questions and solicit feedback.

The Festival concludes on Sunday, Jan. 17 with a tour that includes the rehearsal studio, costume shop, library and music department.  Then following the final staged performance, the there’s a meet the writer reception.

For information on tickets and packages that offer access to all or some events, contact goodspeed.org.

This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com.

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