PHOTO FROM THE 2016 FESTIVAL BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI
If you aren’t into skiing, skating, sledding or sitting in front of a roaring fire, what do you do to enhance or endure the long cold winter months New England is noted for? The antidote for winter blahs is clearly the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, now in its twelfth year of providing the great escape for freezing toes and icy noses. Produced by the Max Showalter Center for Education, this year’s festive festival will be held at Goodspeed in East Haddam for the whole weekend of Friday, January 13 to Sunday, January 15 and you’re invited to participate in the joy of the occasion, no snow shoes, skis or skates required or even necessary.
The weekend is packed with pleasure for all theater lovers who can come to see a trio of brand new musicals as well as attend seminars, lectures, previews, cabarets and a dinner. Opportunities galore will be available to speak to and listen to the best writers and actors in their fields and be present as staged readings will be mounted featuring students from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford and the Boston Conservatory of Music. Excitement will be swooping and pulsing from every corner of the Goodspeed as well as next door at the Gelston House and across the street at the La Vita Restaurant.
The festival will open Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with the debut of “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” with book, music and lyrics by Daniel Zaitchik, adapted from the novel by Joan Lindsay. Turn the clock back to Valentine’s Day, 1900 in the town of Victoria, Austrailia, where a bevy of girls from a prestigious college are allowed a day trip to a famous geological rock formation. What happens there is bound to intrigue and haunt you in this gripping musical adaptation. At 10 p.m., a cabaret will be held at the Gelston House featuring the musical soundings of Matthew Lee Robinson, who is part of the 2016 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony and will share selections from his recent works, like “Atlantis” and “Happy People.”
Take your vitamin pills because Saturday requires energy and enthusiasm. It begins at 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m and features a full morning of seminars like how Cirque du Soleil is expanding its borders to cross into Broadway. As Cirque Theatricals, it is embracing a new show “Paramour,” and the process will be explained by Jayna Neagle, Executive Director, and Elizabeth Shumate, Associate Producer in "Cirque Goes Broadway." Jack Viertel, famed Broadway producer, will discuss his new book “Secret Life of the American Musical” with theater critic Frank Rizzo. If the life of a Broadway stage manager is of interest, look no further than Chris Zaccardi and his stories and insights on his career, especially as it relates to the Broadway revival of “Hello Dolly! with Bette Midler this spring.
Did you see “Come from Away” in 2013 at Goodspeed? Now come hear theatrical producer and developer Michael Rubinoff reveal its progress to Broadway and how this tale of Gander, Newfoundland’s hospitality when 38 planes of passengers were stranded on 9/11/2001 is translated to the big stage. Ever wonder how actors perfect all the dialects and accents they need to make their roles believable, then tune in to dialect coach Gillian Lane-Plescia’s talk on how to do the voices properly. Before a theater can put on a show, they must acquire the rights and Sean Cercone, senior vice president New Musical Development will discuss how the property even gets its first performance rights in “Licensing 101.” The spotlight will be on Ken Billington, a Tony-Award winning lighting designer, when he regales with tales of his more than 100 Broadway shows including “Chicago,” “Amazing Grace” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”
The vibrant history of The Goodspeed will be revealed at 1:30 p.m. with a colorful tour in front of and behind the scenes followed at 3:30 p.m. with a musical preview of all three of the trio of new musicals to be featured at Goodspeed’s little sister theater, The Terris. If you purchased the $139 GOLD Package, you will now enjoy a Festival Dinner at 5:30 p.m. at either the Gelston House or La Vita. The SILVER Package at $80 will include an abbreviated selections of choices. For reservations, call the box office at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Single tickets at $25, students $15, are also available.
The second musical offering is “ZM” at 7:30 p.m. with music by Mark Hollmann, book by Greg Kotis and lyrics by both, and features a pair of fast food workers and a sandwich that may have the powers to turn any one who eats it into a zombie. Yum! This from the clever guys who brought us “Urinetown The Musical.” A cabaret at the Gelston House at 10 p.m. will broadcast the talents of Mark Sonnenblick, a prize winning librettist.
On Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., “Row” with book by Daniel Goldstein and music and lyrics by Dawn Landes will set sail, based on the book by Tori Murden McClure, “A Pearl in the Storm.” This true adventure took place in 1998 when McClure attempted to row across the Atlantic and landed in the eye of Hurricane Danielle by accident, discovering much more than she bargained for finding. At 3:30 p.m., the festival will conclude with a reception at the Gelston House with the three teams of composers answering questions about their process and how they created their works.
Be sure to clear your front walk and your calendar so you can be an active participant in this inspiring and exciting weekend of new musical theater that is the Goodspeed Festival.