The National Alliance for Musical Theatre presents a second day of showcases of abbreviated versions of full-length musicals Sept. 27, part of NAMT's annual International Festival of New Musicals.
Readings of 10 new tuners began Sept. 26 at the Douglas Fairbanks and John Houseman theatres on 42nd Street.
The festival is considered the world's largest annual gatherings of musical theatre professionals. Over a two-day period, abbreviated (60- or 30-minute) versions of new musicals are performed with minimal sets, costumes and props for an international audience of producers, artistic directors, funders, publishers and others. Stagings are funded by NAMT and/or regional theatre companies.
Spokesperson Bryan Mason told Playbill On-Line that 100 percent attendance is likely for the popular industry event. Shows are read only twice over two days.
The term "new" is relative. Some shows, such as Eliot Ness...in Cleveland, have played regionally (Ness was staged by Denver Center Theatre Company, which also sponsored the NAMT reading). In accordance with rules of Actors' Equity, no reviewers are allowed and no admission can be charged. For information, call (212) 265-5376.
The 10 productions seen in alternating rep Sept. 26-27 at Off Broadway's John Houseman Theatre and the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre are:
• The Big Bang (music by Jed Feuer, book and lyrics by Boyd Graham), about two writers pitching their new extravaganza (the history of the world from Big Bang to the year 2000) at a backers' audition in a borrowed Park Avenue apartment. Sponsored by The 5th Avenue Musical Theatre Co., Seattle, WA.
• Birth of the Boom (lyrics by Thomas W. Jones II, music by Jones and Keyth Lee), about the world of African-American men, and how "Afro Jo" and his pals, the Doo Wop Orchestra, "defy the odds of the playground, workplace and personal relationships." Sponsored by NETworks Presentations, Gaithersburg, MD and The 1999 NAMT Festival Fund.
• The Boswell Sisters Project (by Stuart Ross and Mark Hampton, musical direction and arrangements adapted by Joe Baker), a "swinging explosion of harmony and great songs" celebrating the swinging female jazz trio, set 10 years after their breakup. Stuart Ross created the international hit, Forever Plaid, and Mark Hampton wrote Full Gallop. Sponsored by Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam, CT.
• Eliot Ness...in Cleveland (book by Peter Ullian, music and lyrics by Robert Lindsey Nassif, co-adaptation and additional material by Nick Corley), seen regionally, has the famous G-man working in Cleveland, searching for a serial killer and struggling with the press, politics and his own issues. Sponsored by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO.
• Heading East (book and lyrics by Robert Le, music by Leon Ko), a musical comedy about a Chinese prospector during the California Gold Rush who faces the immigration of others from Asian countries (over the next 150 years). Sponsored by TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, CA, and The 1999 NAMT Festival Fund.
• Honk (music by George Stiles, book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, based on "The Ugly Duckling"). A "magical retelling" of the classic fairy tale about fitting in and being different, by the composer who also wrote this year's NAMT fest Three Musketeers. Sponsored by The Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, Nyack, NY.
• In That Valley (music and lyrics by Richard Oberacker, book by Steven Minning and Oberacker, Cherokee translations by Prentice Robinson, Shawnee translations by Chief Hawk Page), inspired by the life of Jenny Wily, a white frontier woman who spent a year in captivity with a war party of Native Americans in the Kentucky territory in 1789. Sponsored by North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly MA.
• The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea (book by Karole Foreman, music by Andrew Chukermna, lyrics by Foreman and Chukerman), loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, this version is an African American fantasy in which an African princess "sheds her royal identity in search of independence." Sponsored by The AMAS Musical Theatre, Inc., and the John Houseman Theatre Center, NYC.
• Summer of '42 (book by Hunter Foster, music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum, based on the screenplay by Herman Raucher), heard in regional and New York City readings, this is the famous American coming of-age story about a homefront war bride and a teen. Sponsored by Sacramento Light Opera, Sacramento, CA.
• The Three Musketeers (music by George Stiles, lyrics by Paul Leigh, book by Peter Raby, original concept by William Hobbs), a new version of the classic swashbuckler by Dumas pere. A workshop was staged in Florida in 1999, and a world premiere is expected in Switzerland in 2000. Sponsored by The American Musical Theatre of San Jose, San Jose, CA.
The National Alliance for Musical Theatre was founded in 1986 and is now a network of 100 theatres, producers, presenters and organizations dedicated to musical theatre and the creation and development of new works. This year's festival has 3,000 reservations. The organization's membership has grown by 30 percent in the last two years.
-- By Kenneth Jones