Five Shows that Stand Out at NYMF: 2015

Ahhhh, festival time.  It’s as much a sign of summer as BBQs, water parks, and people wearing short shorts who shouldn’t be wearing short shorts.

And the New York Musical Theatre Festival . . . the mother of all musical theater festivals that has given birth to shows such as Next to Normal, [title of show] and yeah, my first born, Altar Boyz . . . starts next week!  ACK!

That’s right, you might be just a week away from seeing the next big thing . . . before it’s the next big thing.

And this year, let me tell you, the crop of shows in the field looks good.  Real good.  Like the right people wearing short shorts good.  (Ok, did this just get creepy?  My mom always told me I never knew how to stop extending a metaphor.)

But here’s the problem.  You can’t see all the musicals, concerts, and readings in the festival.  It’s like impossible.  Cuz there’s like 147.

I’d love to see them all myself, but I can’t either.  And unlike your boss, mine would probably let me out of the office during the day to catch one or two (he hates when I leave my desk, but I know a few secrets about him that other people don’t, so blackmail usually works).

So how do you decide what shows to see?  How do I decide?

Every year I print out the catalog of shows “for sale” in the festival.  I read their descriptions, take a look at the art, and based solely on that, I circle the ones I want to see it.  I make my decisions based on the marketing, my assessment of the viability of future life, and, well, just what ol’ fashioned appeals to me.

And I just finished my circling for this year.

In alphabetical order, these are the Five Shows that Stand Out (to me!) at this Year’s NYMF!

1. Claudio Quest

I’ve been saying it for years.  The generation (that began with mine) that grew up on video games are now theatergoers.  And you can bet your Q*bert that interacting with a joystick is going to influence how that generation creates musicals.  And here comes the first.  From my reading, what Avenue Q was to children’s television, Claudio Quest is to video games.  And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tony Nominee John Tartaglia from Avenue Q is directing Claudio (Note to Writers and Producers: a sexy Director like Tartaglia absolutely makes Producers take notice).  I’ve also been following these writers for years, and I have a feeling they’re going to hit a high score very, very soon.  Claudio may be it.  Get tickets.

2.  Held Momentarily

West Side Story, In the Heights, Avenue Q, Rent, etc., all have one thing in common.  They take place in NYC.  There’s something about seeing a musical in New York City that’s about New York City.  And Held Momentarily is about that one thing that almost all New Yorkers have in common . . . the subway.  If you’ve taken a train or two in your day, then you knew exactly what that title meant as soon as you read it . . . (and you probably heard it in a garbled techno voice, am I right?).  All that plus Held‘s great little logo made me hold momentarily, and take an interest in taking a ride.  Get tickets.

3.  The Calico Buffalo

Now here’s a title that almost beats August: Osage County or The Drowsy Chaperone in the Olympic event of worst titles (both those shows did just fine, though, so don’t count a bad title out just yet).  The title did stop me for sure, as I wondered, “What the eff is a Calico Buffalo?”  But that’s not what got the Buffalo to make my list.  What did it for me was the words “Grammy-winning composer” in front of the composer’s name, and a quote from superstar columnist Liz Smith that I don’t even think is about the show!  This kind of social proof does wonders for festival shows, so if you’ve got it, flaunt it.  Get tickets.

4.  Tonya & Nancy: A Rock Opera

This one needs no explanation, now does it?  Tonya.  Nancy.  And how the @#%$ are they going to do the skating?  I want to know, and I bet you do too.  But in addition to the buzzy subject matter, the blurb on the show had three quotes (including, “Black Swan on ice!”) and it trumpeted two prior productions.  I’m making sure I’m at the third.  Get tickets.

5.  What Do Critics Know?

Maybe it’s because Ben Brantley just did my podcast (although it’s pretty clear that guy knows a ton) or maybe it’s because plays and musicals about musicals and plays are always a good bet (The Drowsy Chaperone, Something Rotten!, It’s Only A Play, A Chorus Line, Noises Off, etc.), but this backstage musical about critics putting on a show made me laugh when I read what it was about.  Or maybe it was because I was picturing Michael Riedel doing a tap number.  There’s no doubt that some subjects make for easier source material . . . and theater about the theater just makes sense.  And often a lot of dollars too.  Get tickets.


So there they are!  The 5 shows that stood out to me.

But I’ve got just one perspective.  Tell me what shows stood out to you.  You can see the list of all the shows here.  And you can pitch your favorites in the comments below.

See you at NYMF!


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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.