5 Shows That Stand Out at NYMF 2019
It was 15 years ago.
Can you believe it?
15 years ago, almost to the day, we started rehearsals for the New York Musical Festival production of Altar Boyz . . . starring Cheyenne Jackson, Andy Karl, David Josefsberg, Ryan Duncan, and Tyler Maynard. Talk to any one of those guys and they’ll tell you stories about singing “Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait” and “Jesus Called Me On My Cell Phone” around my little piano in my rehearsal room/bedroom in my apartment.
It was a blast.
Thankfully, we stood out at that first year of the festival, bounced to Off-Broadway a few months later . . . and stuck around for five years. And now, Altar Boyz is done all over the country and all over the world.
15 years later, we’re in the midst of this year’s New York Musical Festival . . . which has grown into the biggest, coolest, most influential musical theater festival in the world (is there any other musical theater festival that gets more industry attention? And I say that having a festival of my own!).
And a whole bunch of new shows are standing out. Every year, I go through the catalog of offerings, looking for the next Altar Boyz and more. And each year, I tell you which ones stand out to me!
How does a show make the list? It’s important to know that this isn’t a list of what shows I think are “best,” which are most likely to recoup or win awards, or which are most likely to have five year runs like Altar Boyz. I put shows on this list based on their descriptions in the NYMF catalog and what strums a chord in the commercial producer in me. And a disclaimer, I do know a few of the folks on this list (because they’ve been pretty good at getting my attention over the years), but I’ve got no reason to be anything but objective . . . especially since I’m not judging them on what’s going to be the next Urinetown.
Got it? So here goes . . . based on what I’ve read on the NYMF website, here are the five shows that stand out at this year’s NYMF (and a little explanation as to why, in the hopes that it’ll help you get your shows to stand out to Producers like me when you’re in a festival of your own).
You know that old A Chorus Line story of how Michael Bennett added the “A” before “Chorus Line” to appear first in the ABC’s (thank you alpha order)? Well, that @#$% works. 🙂 It’s not the reason I added Black Hole Wedding to this list, but it didn’t hurt, and it may have put it over the edge. But what got me to notice BHW first was the timeliness of its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter (Energy Politics) combined with the kookiness of the plot. It is described as a “zany satire,” and there’s always room for one of those at a festival.
This musical had three things going for it right away. 1) The word “journey” appears in the first sentence of their marketing blurb . . . and all great stories are journeys. 2) It takes place in the 18th century . . . and a majority of our great musicals are period pieces (including over 55% of Tony Award Winning Best Musicals). And 3) It features two women (a la Wicked) as its protagonists. Add that it’s “based on a true story,” and I wanted to know more.
Speaking of true stories . . . here comes one about a harrowing moment in American history, when the young Emmett Till was found murdered for the color of his skin. It’s almost too timely, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued, because I believe musicals can put a spotlight on society in a way that the news can’t and maybe even change a few minds in the process.
The Disappearing Man had the shortest description of all the shows in the festival this year. But the funny thing is because the title also suggested something mysterious, I wanted to know more. Add the cool setting of a “small-town circus in 1936” and it sounded like a world I wanted to walk around in for a while. Sometimes less is much more, and creating a strong visual for the time and place of your show can make me want to buy a ticket to take a trip there.
The description of Savage goes as far as to say exactly why it’s relevant today . . . it’s about a “divorced, single mother who fought racism, sexism, and abuse to make a name for herself.” This woman just happens to be a Native American, Annie Oakley type, and again, it’s based on a true story (are you getting a sense of what turns my ticket buying engine on?).
Honorable Mentions go to . . . Alive! The Zombie Musical (because who doesn’t like zombies), Finding Beautiful (“the first transgender woman to compose for the main stage and the first-ever NYMF Fellow”) and Flying Lessons (it sounds like something I’ll want to take my daughter to someday).
I was bad this year and posted this a bit late, so you can’t even catch some of the events above, but there are still plenty of opportunities for you to see other NYMF shows. Click here to see all the events and go to one. We all want more new writers and more new musicals on the boards, right? We can make that happen by supporting festivals like NYMF. (And, yes, Rave, too!)
Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.