Phoenix Best (Dear Evan Hansen on stage and screen) and Ben Fankhauser (Newsies, Beautiful) will star as a teenaged Mary Magdalene and Jesus, respectively, in the world premiere of A.D. 16, a new musical from Cinco Paul (Schmigadoon) and Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us).
Helmed by Stephen Brackett (A Strange Loop, Be More Chill), the production is set to hit the stage of Maryland's Olney Theatre Center beginning February 4, with opening night February 11. The production is scheduled to continue through March 6.
Joining Best and Fankhauser in the cast are Kelli Blackwell as Diana, Alan H. Green as Jacob, Jade Jones as Jessica, Jared Loftin as Nicholas, Calvin McCullough as Matthias, Adelina Mitchell as Ruth, Christian Montgomery as Bartimaeus, Da’Von Moody as Simeon, and Chani Wereley as Esther, with an ensemble comprising Alex De Bard, Sylvern Groomes, RJ Pavel, John Sygar, and Kanysha Williams. Tiffany Lyn Royster and Chris Urquiaga will round out the company as swings.
The biblically inspired musical centers on a teenage Mary Magdalene, who has got her eye on the carpenter's son next door—named Jesus, of course. The original score is inspired by '90s R&B, hip-hop, and pop.
Brackett leads a creative team that includes three-time Tony-winning orchestrator and music supervisor Doug Besterman, music director Christopher Youstra, choreographer Katie Spelman, scenic designer Walt Spangler, Tony-nominated costume designer Emilio Sosa, sound designer Matt Rowe, lighting designer Colin K. Bills, and wig designer Anne Nesmith. Karen Currie is production stage manager.
The world-premiere production follows a workshop at Olney in 2019. The musical was also developed, in part, at SPACE on Ryder Farm and at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, and is a winner of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. Sloane Productions, LLC joins as an enhancement producer for the Olney run, with hopes of bringing the work to New York.
Olney will also hold several behind-the-scenes events, including a conversation with Paul and Brunstetter moderated by Olney artistic director and playwright Jason Loewith February 10 at 5 PM, and a panel of biblical scholars discussing the intersection of gender, culture, and faith through the portrayal of women in the Hebrew and Christian Bible February 19 at 5 PM.
Olney will require masks and proof of COVID vaccination for all audience members, with exemptions for children under five and people with certain medical conditions or "closely held religious beliefs." Vaccine-exempt audience members will be required to show a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 48 hours of showtime, or a rapid antigen test taken within six hours of curtain. Additional COVID-19 policies can be found at OlneyTheatre.org/vax.