Fourteen new musicals in various stages of progress will be presented July 26-27 at Chicago's Stages '97, the 4th annual festival of new musicals, at the New Tuners Theatre, 1225 West Belmont in the Theatre Building.
At the festival, which is open to the general public, the musicals are put into one of three categories, depending on the stage of completion. New Tuners's Judy Myers is festival music director. The presentations take place between 9 AM and 7 PM in the complex's three theatres. Each musical is presented twice.
This year, six shows will be highlighted in "pitch" presentations of 20 minutes each. In the Pitches, basic plot, characters and style are described by the creative team and sample songs are performed:
* Cashell Byron's Profession
* Flower Shop
* Goldy & the 3 Bears' Lox
* The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
* Nobody Likes Retsina
* Surf Story
Four musicals will be presented in full-cast Sit-Down Readings of the book and score:
* Emma & Co. by Judy Freed and John Steinhagen
* Sea Change by Tom Megan
* Slings and Eros by Bridget Dobson and Janet Barnet
* Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? by Lee Pockriss, Hal Hackady and Henry Farrell
Three musicals which have undergone previous readings and on which the authors and composers have done extensive revisions will be presented as Staged Readings (still book in hand, but with some blocking):
* The Money Tree by Harriet and Norman Belkin and Warner Jepson
* Medicine Show by Thomas Royal, Ellen Fitzhugh, and Walter "Skip" Kennon [Kennon heads the BMI Musical Theatre composer workshop in New York]
* 4 in the Morning Boogie Blues by Marsha Meyers and Jim Ownes
In the Skeletal Production category, one musical, Overland, with music by Jan Powell and book and lyrics by Ken Stone. will be given a fully staged but "no frills" (no sets, costumes, or special lighting) presentation on Saturday, July 26 at 7 PM.
Warner Crocker, artistic director of New Tuners and the festival, reported that the latter category is the final step prior to the scheduling of rehearsals and a fully-staged production by New Tuners or other theatre.
"This year, for the first time," he said, "musicals are being submitted from across the country." Among those participating are Marriott's Linconshire Theatre (Lincolnshire, IL), North Shore Music Theatre (Beverly, MS), Light Opera Works (Evanston, IL), and the Lehman Engel Music Theatre Workshop, Los Angeles. "New Tuners goal in sponsoring the festival," explained Crocker, "is to develop writers and composers of new American musicals and guide them through the entire development process."
Crocker noted that in addition to two to three new musicals a year presented in its regular season, New Tuners conducts workshops to teach the elements of musical theatre to writers, composers, and lyricists.
New Tuners is a non-profit agency, supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Sara Lee Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The theatre is located on Chicago's North Side, 32 blocks from downtown. Festival passes are available for one day at $25 and two days at $39. Single event admission is $8, if purchased before July 25, then $10. For tickets an/or information, call (773) 327-5252.
-- By Ellis Nassour