Creators of Urinetown Unveil New Musical — Set in the Primordial Goo
By Kenneth Jones
Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann's Yeast Nation, a new comic musical about single-celled yeast organisms and their struggles in the timeline of Earth's evolution, was heard in a private industry reading in New York City Oct. 21.
The Tony Award-winning writers are known for their satiric Broadway musical, Urinetown. The starry Manhattan Theatre Club presentation of Yeast Nation included contributions by two of the earlier show's stars (Hunter Foster and Nancy Opel) as well as its director, John Rando.
In 2002, Kotis won a Tony Award for his book to Urinetown and Hollmann and Kotis shared a Best Score Tony for the show (Hollmann is the composer and co-lyricist, Kotis is the co-lyricist). John Rando won a Best Direction Tony for Urinetown.
The ensemble-oriented Yeast Nation is about a kingdom of one-celled yeast blobs (all of them named Jan — pronounced "yon") and how they reach for a new food source in the process of evolution. Within the community is a pair of daffy lovers, a leader, a villain, and more.
Nancy Opel played Jan the Unnamed, Chuck Cooper was Jan the Elder, Hunter Foster was Jan the Second, Tom Hewitt was Jan the Wise, Christiane Noll was Jan the Sweet, Leslie Kritzer was Jan the Sly, Sheri Sanders was Jan the Famished, Rick Crom was Jan the Wretched/Jan the Youngest, Robyn Kramer was The New One, and ensemble roles were played by Ann Arvia, Janet Dacal, Todd Horman, Hoon Lee, Kristie Dale Sanders and Christopher Youngsman.
Musical direction for the reading, attended by major Broadway producers, was Steven Gross. Clifford Lee Johnson III is director of musical development for Manhattan Theatre Club, the resident professional New York City company devoted to new works (Proof, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Doubt) as well as revivals (like Broadway's current Absurd Person Singular).
Urinetown, at once a satire of totalitarianism and a spoof of musical theatre conventions, ran 965 performances on Broadway and is now starting to blossom on professional and university theatres around the nation.
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