Daly Draws on Family Memories for New Musical Daly News, Starting Nov. 13

News   Daly Draws on Family Memories for New Musical Daly News, Starting Nov. 13 Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) presents the Milwaukee premiere of The Daly News, a new chamber musical based on the true World War II-era experiences of the middle-class Daly family of Milwaukee, Nov. 13–Dec. 14.
Jonathan Gillard
Jonathan Gillard Photo by Tom Fritz Studios

Written by Milwaukee actor and playwright Jonathan Gillard Daly, the musical memoir "chronicles the lives of the Daly family as inspired by the true stories told in their WWII family newsletter, The Daly News," according to production notes. "The lively score embraces several period musical styles including boogie-woogie, vaudeville-style patter and ballads."

The Daly News has book and lyrics by Jonathan Gillard Daly, and music by Gregg Coffin, Larry Delinger and Daly.

This is technically the world premiere of a revised three-actor version of the musical play, which was seen on the West Coast with a larger cast. MCT producing artistic director C. Michael Wright directs the production, which features three Milwaukee-based actor-musicians — Daly, Jeff Schaetzke and Jack Forbes Wilson. Opening night is Nov. 14.

In The Daly News, writer-actor Daly invites audiences to witness the realities of World War II that his relatives experienced every day.

According to MCT notes, "Martin Daly, Jon's grandfather, wrote the weekly newsletter to keep his four sons connected to the rest of the family during WWII. The war is examined from every angle: parents worried about their sons on the front lines, young brides missing their husbands and caring for the children, and soldiers fighting to protect their loved ones back home." The musical stems directly from the numerous weekly issues of The Daly News that were "pounded out by Martin onto onion-skin stationary during the war." C. Michael Wright, producing artistic director of MCT, told Playbill.com, "I must admit I was skeptical when Jon first approached me three years ago with the idea of redeveloping a musical about his family. But the more we talked, the more intrigued I became. At the time, we'd been voicing a renewed commitment here at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre to nurturing local talent and developing plays and playwrights with Wisconsin ties.

"Here was this wonderful local actor who had branched out into playwriting with a quintessential Milwaukee story to tell, a story that also happened to have universal resonance. How could I help but become engaged and excited by that?

"This revision is drastically different from the original version of The Day News. Jon really wanted to re-examine the piece, to make it more personal by zooming in on his relationship with his own Dad. So our version has two story arcs, one is a nostalgic tale of a father (Jon's grandfather, Martin)…and the other is the present-day journey of a middle-aged man using these old newsletters to get to know and understand his father better."

In the development process, Wright explained, "We ended up removing a number of songs that no longer served us, reworking others and completely rethinking the theatrical approach. Once we arrived at the decision to have three men play all of the roles, male and female, while also providing all of the music, everything started to fall into place. What really sold me was the opportunity it offered us to showcase some of the extraordinarily unique talent we have in this amazing Milwaukee theatre community."

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Performances play Broadway Theatre Center's 99-seat Studio Theatre, at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.

Daly is a Milwaukee native and graduate of Marquette University High School and UW-Madison. In addition to his work as a playwright, Daly is also a company actor at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Daly began working on this show after receiving The Daly News collection of newsletters after his father died. After reading the texts, the playwright "was motivated to write a tribute to his grandfather."

The creative team includes scenic designer Stephen Hudson-Mairet, costume designer Ellen Kozac, lighting designer Matthew J. A. Kerr and properties designers Meghan Savagian and Randy Holper.

For more information visit www.milwaukeechambertheatre.com.

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Founded in 1975, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre "produces intimate, high-quality, professional theatrical works of literary merit that engage and challenge the audience, while employing and nurturing principally local theatre artists."

MCT is under the leadership of producing artistic director C. Michael Wright and managing director David R. Todd.

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