The 30th Annual Kleban Prizes for Musical Theatre were presented February 3 in a private ceremony hosted by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop at the ASCAP headquarters in New York City. The reception honored Daniel Messé with the prize for most promising musical theatre lyricist and Rehana Lew Mirza and Mike Lew with the prize for most promising musical theatre librettist.
Messé scored the Public Theater’s 2009 Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night, starring Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald. He made his Broadway debut with the stage adaptation of Amélie, featuring music by Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Messé, and a book by Craig Lucas. He’s currently working with co-lyricist Sean Hartley on adapting Lucas’ play Prelude to a Kiss for South Coast Repertory and developing a new theatrical song cycle inspired by Twain’s Huck Finn entitled You Don’t Know About Me Without You.
Mirza and Lew are married playwrights sharing a Mellon Foundation National Playwright residency at Ma-Yi Theater. Their Rodgers Award–winning musical Bhangin’ It (co-book writers with composer Sam Willmott) is upcoming at La Jolla Playhouse and McCarter Theatre in 2021. Individually, Mirza’s plays include Hatefuck and Soldier X with Lew’s plays including Teenage Dick and Tiger Style!.
The trio of Tony Award-winning judges who made the final determination this year were Forbidden Broadway creator-director-writer Gerard Alessandrini, actor-director Victoria Clark (Light in the Piazza, Cinderella), and producer Robyn Goodman (Avenue Q, In The Heights).
The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. Kleban's will made provisions for annual prizes, which in recent years have totaled $100,000 each, payable over two years, to be given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American Musical Theatre.
Previous Kleban Prize winners include Shaina Taub (The Devil Wears Prada), Lisa Kron (Fun Home), Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), Jason Robert Brown (Parade), Michael Korie (Grey Gardens), and Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q).