9 Shows Not to Miss at This Year’s New York Musical Festival

News   9 Shows Not to Miss at This Year’s New York Musical Festival We list some festival favorites to keep on your radar this summer.
The cast of <i>Freedom Riders </i>in rehearsal
The cast of Freedom Riders in rehearsal

The New York Musical Festival (NYMF) kicks off its 14th year July 10. Over the course of four weeks, the annual New York event showcases brand-new shows, works in development, concerts, emerging and established artists, and more.

We list nine shows to keep on your radar at NYMF 2017.

A Wall Apart
Though Lord Graham Russell is best known as the guitarist and singer-songwriter for the rock band Air Supply, his musical career began performing in Jesus Christ Superstar in 1975. Now, Russell is coming full circle with his first rock musical, A Wall Apart. With music and lyrics by Russell, A Wall Apart follows the stories of three brothers in East Berlin; it’s a tale of family ties, brotherhood, love, and marriage. The musical has a book by Sam Goldstein and Craig Clyde, and features a star-studded cast that includes Maddie Shea Baldwin (Bright Star), Leslie Baker (Wicked), Emily Behny (The Fantasticks), Jordan Bondurant (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), Darren Ritchie (Thoroughly Modern Millie), and Matt Rosell (Les Misérables). Performances run July 25, 26, 28–30 at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

Watch Russell perform Son of the Father from the show below.


Ben Virginia, And Me (The Liberace Musical)
The new musical, with a book by Pippin's Roger O. Hirson, details the early life of Liberace before his fame. Ben Virginia, And Me (The Liberace Musical) follows the famed actor and pianist when he was a child prodigy, as well as his run-in with one of history’s most notorious gangsters. Music and lyrics are by Barbara Carole Sickmen. Performances run from August 2–6 at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

Listen to A Thousand Watt Light from the show below.


Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical
The historical new musical tells the true story of the nonviolent activists who were demanding change in the Jim Crow South by riding buses in mixed groups. Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical pays tribute to such Civil Rights icons as Diane Nash, John Seigenthaler, and John Lewis. The musical features a book by Richard Allen, and music and lyrics by Allen and Taran Gray. Performances run August 1, 3–5 at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

Watch the company sing the act one finale, Freedom Song below.

MotherFreakingHood!
What happens when two University of Kansas alums, Julie Dunlap and Sara Stotts—now both moms—come together to create a musical about motherhood? You get a hilarious adult comedy. MotherFreakingHood! celebrates “the mother you never thought you should be.” After a run in Kansas, where it received terrific reviews, the show is debuting at NYMF. Performances run August 1, 3–6 in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Listen to Baby Phase from the show below.


The Fourth Messenger
Nancy Anderson (Sunset Boulevard) stars at Mama Sid, a modern-day Buddha with a following too good to bue true. Directed by Matt August (Grinch), the show tells the story of what it means to be enlightened, yet human. The Fourth Messenger features a book and lyrics by Tanya Shaffer, and a score by Vienna Teng, an Independent Music Award-winning artist. Performances run July 18, 20–23 at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

Listen to “The Human Experience” from the show below.


The Goree All-Girl String Band
This female powerhouse of a show—recently named this year’s Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF) Artists of Choice USA in Musical Theater—follows the true story of six convicted band members who learn to play country music behind bars, earning themselves a spot on a prison-based radio program. The musical of sisterhood and freedom features a book by Michael Bradley, who wrote the Fringe Excellence in Acting’s The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, and lyrics by Bradley and Artie Sievers. Lauren Patten (Fun Home) stars in the new production. Performances run July 24, 26, 28, and 29 at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

Watch the company perform “One Way Wagon/The Girls In White” above.


Miss Blanche Tells It All
Brian Charles Rooney (The Threepenny Opera) stars as Lee/Miss Blanche in this solo show set in New Orleans in 1969. When the real Miss Blanche misses her opening number, a young man named Lee takes the stage, and takes the audience on an intimate journey to liberation. Miss Blanche Tells It All features a book by Jason Jacobs, music by Matthew C. Pritchard, and lyrics by Pritchard and Jacobs. Performances run July 12, 14, 15, and 16 in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Watch a performance by Rooney below.


The Body Politic
The new musical tells the story of a Muslim transgender man who emigrates to North Carolina during the Afghan War. With a book and lyrics by Charles Osborne and music by Leo Hurley, The Body Politic became the first musical in American history to be performed for a State Legislature when it was presented in protest of the “bathroom bill” in North Carolina. Performances are July 18–23 in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

See the company perform “Peace and a Picket Fence” from the show below.


Peace, Love, and Cupcakes
Mother-daughter duo Sheryl and Carrie Berk had a mission: write a family friendly musical dedicated to raising awareness—and funds—to end bullying. The result is Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, a schoolyard tale about a girl who uses cupcakes to unite her entire middle school. The pop-infused score is by Rick Hip-Flores, with Broadway vet Rommy Sandhu attached as director. Proceeds benefit NoBully.org. Performances run July 27 through July 30 in The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

The festival runs through August 6 at locations around midtown Manhattan. For the complete NYMF line-up and more information, visit www.nymf.org/.

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