Katrina with New Musicals in New York

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In October of 2014 I ventured to New York City to attend the 26th Annual NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre) Festival of New Musicals, and the organization’s fall Conference. I am new with this organization, which primarily has American membership. But I was not the only Canadian there – a small but illustrious team of canucks was soaking up the energy there too – Mitchell Marcus, Robert McQueen, Ray Hogg, and Michael Rubenfeld to name a few. The whole event was impeccably organized and housed in the several venues of New World Stages. Eight new musicals were on offer, in compressed 45 minute staged reading showcases, cast with and directed by Broadway’s finest. All the showcases were in the day, as many of the performers were playing in shows around town. The skill level on display was superb and the content wide ranging. My personal favourite new work was Stu for Silverton (Book by Peter Duchan, Music and Lyrics by Breedlove) – the true story of America’s first transgender mayor (of Silverton, Oregon) and the community that elected him. The Conference followed the Festival directly. The keynote speaker was composer Jason Robert Brown, who spoke to the amassed musical theatre producers about the pitiable designation of musicians in the theatre as second class citizens. It was somewhat humorous, but definitely designed to provoke. Other topics of discussion at the Conference focused on things like economic models for developing new work, and diversity (or lack thereof) in musical theatre. Throughout Canadians like Michael Rubenfeld (The Canadian Musical Theatre Project) and Ray Hogg (Rainbow Stage) seemed to play a seminal role. In my very little free time I managed to catch the new musical The Fortress of Solitude at the Public Theatre. This is the endearing adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s music-geeky novel about 1970s Brooklyn, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, and book by Itamar Moses. I thought it was excellent work. I sat behind the musical director who was in the pit conducting to three video cameras that streamed her instruction to the band behind the set. Awesome.

-Katrina

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