In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club hosts a showcase of excerpts from new or developing musicals created by workshop members, March 11.
Since its start in casual meetings hosted by famed conductor Lehman Engel in the 1960s, the workshop — now a nonprofit project of the music-rights organization, BMI — has welcomed hundreds of composers and lyricists in what is known as an important crucible of craft leading to the creative marriages of writers and the creation of new musicals. The workshop, run by a steering committee of professionals, including composer-lyricist Maury Yeston, pairs songwriters up and provides a forum for critiques by fellow writers and established professionals over a period of years.
National Alliance of Musical Theatre members, New York producers and press are invited to the evening of new work 6:30 PM March 11 at MTC's Stage I.
BMI has a long history of presenting new work through showcases and in-house cabarets, but this event marks the first time that Manhattan Theatre Club has joined forces with BMI in joint venture, according to a BMI statement. The event was created by MTC's associate artistic director Michael Bush and Patrick Cook, the BMI Workshop's artistic coordinator.
Manhattan Theatre Club's most recent musicals were all written by members of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop: Time and Again, music and lyrics by Walter Edgar Kennon, Newyorkers by composer Steven Weiner and lyricist Glen Slater and A Class Act, with music and lyrics by Edward Kleban and book by co-writer Linda Kline. A Class Act, based on the life of Kleban, with many scenes set in the BMI Workshop, moved to Broadway in spring 2001 where it was nominated for a handful of Tony Awards. It makes its West Coast premiere this summer. Patrick Cook and Frederick Freyer's Captain's Courageous had its New York premiere at MTC. The showcase includes the following songs or selections from the following shows.
· Avenue Q, a "Sesame Street"-like musical for grownups from the writing team of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. Lopez and Marx have written TheatreWorks/USA and shared the 2000 Kleban Foundation Award and received a BMI Foundation Harrington Award.
· Baby Case, a musical fantasia on the subject of the public and private hysteria over the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, by composer-lyricist-librettist Michael Ogborn. The show had its world premiere at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia in fall 2001.
· The Night of the Meek, a Christmas musical by Frederick Freyer and 2001 Kleban Award Winner, Patrick Cook. Freyer and Cook's Captain's Courageous had its New York premiere at MTC after trying out at a number of NAMT venues including Goodspeed Musicals, Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, The Eugene O'Neill Musical Theatre Conference as well as the NAMT NYC Festival.
· Archie's Girls, a comic look at adolescent love, with music by Tony Scheitinger and lyrics by Emily Jenkins.
· "Gertrude Irvington's Box," a specialty number by composer-lyricist David Arthur, from his new show, Saratoga Trunk Songs.
· The Enchanted Cottage, based on the Arthur Wing Pinero play, by composer Kim Oler and lyricist Alison Hubbard (TheatreWorks/USA).
· "If You Leave Me," the collaborative effort of composer Walter Edgar Kennon and lyricist Amanda Green, comes from Put A Little Love in Your Mouth, recently seen at Manhattan's Westbank Laurie Beechman Theatre.
· Adventures in Love, by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, is a modern-love revue that had its recent at St. Paul's Ordway.
· "I Won't Mind," with music by Jeff Blumenkrantz and lyrics by Annie Kessler and Libby Saines, is from the biographical musical, The Other Franklin, based on the life of Benjamin Franklin's illegitimate son, William. Blumenkrantz is not only a BMI writer, but also appeared in the Broadway production of A Class Act, playing multiple roles including Kleban's A Chorus Line collaborator, Marvin Hamlisch.
· "My Recipe for Joy" is by composer Jenny Giering and lyricist Beth Blatt. The writing team wrote TheatreWorks/USA's Island of Blue Dolphins and are winners of the 2000 Jonathan Larson Award.
In November and December of 2001, members of the workshop's steering committee screened hundreds of tapes and CDs of songs written by members of the Workshop's three composer-lyricist groups. The committee narrowed the field to songs from 27 new shows and sent them to MTC's Bush for his final selection. Bush then chose 10 shows for representation in the showcase and added a bonus: "Better," from A Class Act.
The performers appearing in the showcase are Jenny Giering (a workshop writer performing her own work), Randy Graff, Amanda Green (also a workshop writer), Ann Harada, Pam Isaacs, Joseph Kolinski, Steven Skybell, Jim Stanek, Eric Stein and Sarah Uriarte-Berry. Puppeteers for the Lopez-Marx Avenue Q segments are John Tartaglia, Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Rick Lyon (also a member of the workshop. Musical director is Lynne Shankel.
The BMI Workshop has helped foster Pulitzer and TonyAward-winning musicals, and members would go on to win Grammys, Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Among those who have presented songs, taken their knocks in critique sessions and encouraged fellow writers are Kleban, Judd Woldin (Raisin), Carol Hall (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Yeston (Nine and Titanic), Alan Menken(Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horrors), Clark Gesner (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), Susan Birkenhead (Jelly's Last Jam), Gerard Allessandrini (Forbidden Broadway), Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime and Once On This Island and Michael John LaChiusa (Marie Christine, The Wild Party).
For information about the showcase or the workshop, contact Jean Banks, BMI's senior director of musical theatre, email@example.com, or (212) 830-2508.
— By Kenneth Jones