Up to Date in Kansas City: Seven New Musicals Get Readings in Festival July 15 & 22

By Kenneth Jones
15 Jul 2006

Could the next great American musical surface in Kansas City? Theatre League, Inc., is investing in that idea with the first annual Kansas City Crossroads Musical Theater Festival, starting July 15.



Theater League is the Kansas City-based national musical theatre presentation and production company, which has satellite presenting programs in a number of American cities. It will introduce its Missouri audiences to readings of seven new works over two weekends, with presentations on July 15 and July 22.

Playbill.com previously reported the titles of the works, some of which have had developmental readings around the country. The shows are presented in reading form with (mostly) Kansas City-area artists and directors involved in a number of venues.

Works were solicited in recent months in an open submission process. The July 15 presentations are Frog Kiss, An Unlikely Romance, Too Good To Be True, Maccabeat and Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class.

*

"Our mission at Theater League is to enhance the quality of life in the communities we serve with the thrill of live theatre," said Mark Edelman, Theater League president, in a statement. "We believe that introducing Kansas City audiences to new, fresh musical theatre productions is an important part of this mission. And by giving these new pieces a chance to be enjoyed, we plan to also offer new talent and new ideas the opportunity to grow and thrive. We are energized by the possibilities this exciting venture offers."

If the program takes off, Theater League, Inc., markets around the country may be witness to a reading festival, letting other regional audiences in on the process of giving voice to new works. One of the Crossroads Festival's goals is for the Theater League to possibly fully produce a festival production for future presentation in its venues. Theater League markets include Greensboro, NC, Long beach, CA, Mesa, AZ, Pasadena, CA, Richardson, TX, South Bend, IN, Thousand Oaks, CA, and Toledo, OH.

Following a national call for submissions, seven new musicals were selected. Readings will be staged at a variety of small venues in and around the downtown Kansas City "Crossroads District."

The festival will operate under Actors' Equity staged reading rules. Equity and non-Equity actors are expected to perform in the piano-and-voice presentations.

The readings "offer audiences the opportunity to hear new works before their full-staged premieres and give authors and composers critical feedback on the road to" a future life.

Here are the titles, creative teams and casts for the 2006 Crossroads Musical Theater Festival:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, book and music by Philip de Blasi, lyrics by Jane Landers, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Directed by Linda Ade Brand, music directed by Andy Anderson. 2 & 8 PM July 22 at Kansas City Ballet, 16th and Broadway.

    It "tells the tale of the promising young sailor Edmond Dantes who is falsely accused of treason by his jealous rivals. Imprisoned on the island of Chateau D'if for 13 years, Edmond loses everything, but plots revenge on those who betrayed him. An old priest (Abbe Faria) wrongly condemned reveals to Edmond the location of a hidden treasure on the Isle of Monte Cristo. In an amazing turn of events, Edmond escapes from prison and secures the treasure turning himself into the Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond returns to his home and uses his newfound wealth and influence to gain revenge on his betrayers, win back his love, and fulfill his promise to Abbe Faria to help the poor and needy."

    Cast: Katherine Lindhart, David Eiduks, Chris Cobbett, Richard Rischar, Robert Brand, Brad Torres, Michael Dragen, Jeremy Lobaugh, Brandon Sollenberg, Christina Rogers, Emilee Minnick, Mary Joe Duggan, Lyndsey Agron, Lee Ann Mahoney, Sarah La Barr, Mikael Allen, Doug Dodson, Patrick Hamilton and Nick Padgett.

  • Dakota Sky, composed by Deborah Wicks La Pama, libretto by Kathleen Cahill. Directed by Amy Coady, music directed by Molly Jessup. Noon and 5 PM July 22 at Little Theater at Penn Valley Community College, 31st Street & Southwest Trafficway.

    "Although lost to common history, 12 percent of homesteaders in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Colorado between 1887 and 1908 were single women. Dakota Sky was inspired by the letters and diaries of these single women who homesteaded the great plains at the turn of the century. On the night before the last land lottery in the American land rush at Fort Pierre, South Dakota, five single women are crammed into a tiny back room awaiting their fate: Abigail, a housemaid; Ida, a teacher; Viola, a prostitute; Wilomene, a society girl; and Mary, the acting Indian agent for the lottery. In the few hours they are joined together by the ghosts of their pasts and their hopes for a new beginning. When the night is over, they know their lives will never be the same."

    Cast: Lucille Windsor, Meagan King, Lena Andrews, Elaine Fox, Denis Knowlton, Bruce Jessup, Phil Eatherton, Robert McNichols and Dan Erbe.

  • Frog Kiss, An Unlikely Romance, book and lyrics by Charles Leipart, music by Eric Schorr, in collaboration with Daniel B. Brambilla. Noon and 5 PM July 15 at Just Off Broadway Theater in Penn Valley Park.

    "An adult twist on the classic fairy tale of the Princess and the Frog. The princess must marry, but no suitor suits her. However, she finds the 'yang' to her 'yin' in a talking frog. Although they try the age-old method of turning him into a prince with a kiss, it doesn't work and the zany kingdom unites as they try to free the prince of his affliction."

    Cast: Chris Waugh, Lucille Windsor, Bob Kohler, Abbi Miller, Katie Knipp and Chris McCoy, Chris Holbrook, Tara Varney, Cory Dowman, Marcie Ramirez and Lauren Braton.

  • Maccabeat, music by Harvey Shield, lyrics by Richard Jarboe and Chayim Ben Za'ayev, book by Ben Za'ayev, from a story by M. Edelman based on portions of the 1st Book of Maccabees (Apocrypha). Directed by Steven Eubank, music directed by Chris Leavy. 2 & 8 PM July 15 at Just Off Broadway Theater in Penn Valley Park.

    "A pop rock musical take on the Biblical story of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Judah Maccabee and his brothers sing doo wop, chase girls and try to remain true to their faith and traditions in a world where it's cool to be Greek. When Judah and the lovely Allura, a 'heathen,' fall for each other, two very different cultures are forced to confront — and learn from — one another. With Allura's help, Judah and his brothers outwit the bad guys and strike the blow against tyranny that made the Chanukah celebration possible. It may not have happened quite this way, but hey — you never know."

    Cast: Lauren Braton, Cory Dowman, Katie Knipp, Bob Kohler, Josh Lerner, Abbi Miller, Marcie Ramirez, Nathanael Schiffbauer, Jake Walker, Sam Wright, Ruth Biggus, Alex Biggus, Tara Varney and Marcie Ramirez.

  • Route 66, book by Jerold Goldstein & William Squier, music by Fred Stark, lyrics by William Squier. Directed by Ernest Williams, music directed by Tony Bernal. Noon and 5 PM July 22 at Kansas City Public Library, 10th and Baltimore.

    "Liz Mitchell is a big-city journalist, a career woman in need of a jumpstart. Drew Garrett is a bohemian photographer who lives life as it comes. They are both assigned to work on a photo essay on historic Route 66 — a journey that takes them through the heart of America where they learn important lessons about life in America, local color, and eventually themselves."

    Cast: Mark Snethen, Teri Wilder, Judi Jones, Bonita Hanson, Vanessa Severo, Jim Korinke, James Wright and Dean Vivian.

  • Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class, book and lyrics by Charles Leipart, music by Richard B. Evans. Directed by Ernest Williams, music directed by Tony Bernal. 2 & 8 PM July 15 at Kansas City Ballet, 16th and Broadway.

    "It's New York City, 1900, and out-of-work economics professor Thorstein Veblen takes his 'Theory of the Leisure Class' to the Fifth Avenue Vaudeville Theatre stage. He announces that to facilitate the promotion and sale of his recently published economic treatise, he has engaged several unemployed actors to present a musical demonstration of his socio-economic theory. He introduces the heroine of his story, Ellen Potts, a soon-to-be-heiress, with an overdeveloped social conscience. Veblen's demonstration takes Ellen through courtship, marriage, and the pursuit of her dream of social justice for the poor of New York — and ultimately into conflict with Veblen's vision of a Conspicuously Consuming and Status Driven American Society."

    Cast: Jim Korinke, Heidi Stubblefield, James Wright, Elaine Fox, Lyndsey Agron, Chris Cobbett, Mark Snethen, Dean Vivian and Cindy Baker.

  • Too Good To Be True, lyrics and book by Amy Coady, music and book by Gerald Stockstill. Directed by Amy Coady, music directed by Molly Jessup. 2 & 8 PM July 15 at Little Theater at Penn Valley Community College, 31st Street & Southwest Trafficway.

    Initiated and developed in The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, it's "loosely based on the life of Elmyr de Hory, one of the most notorious art forgers of the 20th century." The musical "pieces together facts and fables of the infamous imposter by those who knew him — or thought they did. The musical chronicles the adventures of Elmyr and his partner in crime, the actress Helka Rosika, from the time they meet as starving artists through their nefarious rise to fame and fortune. Along the way, philosophical questions about the meaning of art, truth, and talent are revealed."

    Cast: Kip Niven (as Elmyr), Teri Wilder, David Eiduks, Brandon Sollenberg, Lena Andrews, Andrea Boswell, Spencer Brown, Michael Dragen, Haley Hannah, Bonita Hanson, Sarah La Barr, Lee Ann Mahoney, Nancy Nail, Ken Remmert, Rick Truman and Sam Wright.

    *

    Chris McCoy is artistic director of Kansas City Crossroads Musical Theater Festival. He has worked for Theater League, Inc. for two years as both presentation manager and manager of education and community programs.

    For more information about projects and programming of work in Theater League markets (including Kansas City), visit www.theaterleague.com.

    *

    Founded in 1976, Theater League is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt, community-based performing arts organization "dedicated to the development of professional legitimate theater, both as a cultural and an educational resource."

    Serving its constituent communities by producing and presenting Broadway musicals, plays and new works in local performing arts centers, "the League enriches the lives of more than 300,000 theatergoers annually, made possible by the support of the organization's 55,000+ members, who subscribe to Theater League's cultural offerings."

    Theater League produces and presents professional theatre series in Long Beach, Pasadena and Thousand Oaks, CA; Phoenix and Mesa, AZ; Kansas City, MO; Richardson, TX; Greensboro, NC; South Bend, IN; and Toledo, OH.

    Performing arts centers and historic theatres "play host to the organization's Broadway musicals and plays." Its related activities include special performances for students of the performing arts, which feature question and answer sessions with theatre artists and a Theater ROCKs (Reach Out to Kids) program, "which brings at-risk youth to the theatre for special educational and cultural opportunities."

    In addition, the League's own in-house producing division mounts annual revivals of classic Broadway fare featuring stars of stage, screen and television. These Theater League-produced tours allow the organization further flexibility in meeting the diverse schedules and goals of each of the venues and communities we serve.

    Founder and president Mark Edelman is a member of the League of American Theaters and Producers and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.

    Outreach projects include the League's Teatro Latino division, created to bring Spanish-language plays to audiences in the West and Southwest.