New York Musical Theatre Fest Kicks Off Sept. 12; Will It Spawn a Future Smash?

News   New York Musical Theatre Fest Kicks Off Sept. 12; Will It Spawn a Future Smash? In the days leading up to the Sept. 12 launch of the second annual New York Musical Theatre Festival, organizers announced that 20 percent of the more than 30 productions were already sold out.
Ivan Hernandez (top) and Doug Kreeger in the NYMF offering YANK! A New Musical.
Ivan Hernandez (top) and Doug Kreeger in the NYMF offering YANK! A New Musical. Photo by Shaffer-Coyle Public Relations

In other words, NYMF 2005 feels like a hit already.

The festival, offering full Actors' Equity-approved showcase productions of 34 new works in rotating rep in various 99-seat midtown Manhattan venues, continues to Oct. 2.

Broadway stars are sprinkled throughout the productions, which are housed, lit and marketed by the festival but produced (with a budget cap of $20,000) by creative teams or producers who are attached to the properties.

Some shows — 17, in fact — were juried in the NYMF "Next Link" initiative, drawing on blind submissions, and the rest were invited in following NYMF organizers' efforts to reach out to the theatre community, essentially asking, "What should we be looking at?"

"We thought it was important that we were not limited to just what came in the mail," Isaac Robert Hurwitz, NYMF producing director and head of programming, told Playbill.com, adding that he and executive director Kris Stewart sought professional recommendations from producers, artistic directors and organizations around the country. "We don't see the festival as an end-point for these shows," Hurwitz said. "It's a launching pad, a stepping stone for productions."

As nice as it is to imagine future Tony Award winners getting their start at NYMF, "the goal isn't to make it about the commercial future," Hurwitz explained. "One of our goals was to amplify the work that writers and musical theatre organizations are doing."

Per the Equity showcase agreement, there is a performance-count cap of 12, with the option to extend to 16. Most shows begin with a run of six performances and expand out as ticket demand and venue/performer availability allows.

Even in the low-budget, short-run climate of NYMF, Hurwitz said, "We want everyone to do as much as they can…to showcase the show and performers to the best of their ability."

Readings, panels and cabaret shows are also part of the mix of offerings in the festival, billed as "America's largest annual musical theatre event."

What attracts Broadway stars such as Debbie Shapiro Gravitte and Jackie Hoffman (The Big Time), Anthony Rapp and Amy Spanger (Feeling Electric), Frenchie Davis (Monica!), Peter Friedman (The Shaggs), Nick Wyman (Tom Jones), Ruth Gottschall (Isabelle and the Pretty-Ugly Spell) and others to work on NYMF shows for virtually no money?

Biting into new material is a passion for most performers. But also attractive is NYMF's condensed schedule of three weeks. That allows performers to commit to a show's run without it interfering with other future projects, Hurwitz said.

"It allows for Tony winners and other people with limited availability to take part," Hurwitz said.

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NYMF's kickoff event this year is a special Sept. 12 preview of The Great American Trailer Park Musical. The 8 PM show and after-party (hosted by Sutton Foster, John Lithgow, Rocco Landesman and Kevin McCollum) serve as a gala benefit for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, through which Trailer Park had a 2004 developmental run. Performances for the current commercial run of Trailer Park play Dodger Stages.

NYMF organizers also announced extensions of shows before the festival even began, suggesting passion not just for the titles, but for the growing festival.

The sold out and near-capacity shows include The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde, But I'm a Cheerleader, Feeling Electric, The Mistress Cycle, Nerds://A Musical Software Satire and Plane Crazy. The sold-out status came less than 10 days into general ticket sales.

"We were very impressed by the number of Festival passes that have been sold for this year's Festival, but nothing quite prepared us for the immediate demand we have witnessed since our single tickets went on sale Aug. 29 or that in three days, shows would begin to sell-out,” said Kris Stewart, executive director of NYMF, in a statement.

The following extensions were announced as of Sept. 9:

  • The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde - Sept. 19 at 5 PM, Sept. 23 at 1 PM
  • But I'm a Cheerleader - Sept. 19 at 1 PM
  • Nerds://A Musical Software Satire - Sept. 23 at 1 PM, Oct. 1 at 1 PM
  • Plane Crazy - Sept. 19 at 1 PM
  • Yank! - Sept. 16 at 1 PM For further information, full scheduling and ticketing, visit www.nymf.org or call (212) 352-3101.

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    NYMF is "dedicated to discovering new work and new artists" and "celebrates the diversity, creativity, and future of musical theatre."

    NYMF is a flagship program of the National Music Theater Network, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

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