BY BONNIE GOLDBERG
If the thought of snow boarding, skiing and skating are just chilly reminders of winter, ones you might prefer to ignore, then plan to warm up the winter month of January with a toasty and inviting weekend of theatrical magic. This year for the luckiest 13th time, Goodspeed Musicals is offering its annual Festival of New Musicals, produced by the Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre, and you are invited to unwrap your plaid scarves and take off your fuzzy mittens to enjoy all the fun and festivities. From Friday, January 12 to Sunday, January 14, The Goodspeed in East Haddam has a plethora of musicals, cabarets, workshops and seminars for your entertainment pleasure.
Think of an incubator of new chicks being hatched and you are fortunate enough to be witnessing their birth. They are emerging from their shells right in front of your eyes. How special is that! The weekend begins with the viewing of “Five Points” at 7:30 p.m., written with book by Harrison David Rivers, music by Ethan Pakchar and Douglas Lyons and lyrics by Douglas Lyons. This staged reading will take you back to the Civil War era of 1863 in New York City as two men, one John Diamond, an Irish immigrant who was a jig champion, uniting forces with Willie Lane, a young black performer at the well known Alack’s Dance Hall. They are willing to risk everything to achieve the American dream. At 10 p.m., the Gelston House, right next door, will welcome a cabaret featuring Jenny Giering, a composer, singer and pianist who was a 2013 and 2014 participant in the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony on site. She will share selections from the two new musicals she is writing.
Make sure you take your vitamins to prepare for a wonderful day, long and exciting, on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. being held at the Gelston House and La Vita Restaurant across the street in a series of seminars that will be held until 1 p.m. At 10 a.m. you have a choice of Festival Alumni Success Stories, Marionette Magic and Dramaturgy 101, at 11 a.m. the selections are The Life of a Child Actor, Marionette Magic and The State of the NEA while at noon you can pick from The Music Man: David Krane, The Business of Show: How to Produce Commercially and Show and Tell. From 1-2:30 p.m., the Scherer Library will show the movie “On the Town” to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth.
At 3 p.m. you will get the tasting flavor of one of the trio of musicals offered at the Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre in Chester, a sneak peek if you will, to whet your appetite for what is coming in the spring. This will be followed by a symposium, free and open to the public, on “The Critic’s Role in the Digital Age” with Colin McEnroe from WNPR moderating a panel of well known theater critics. If you purchased the Gold Package at $139, you will now gather with fellow festival goers for a three course meal at the Gelston House or LaVita at 5:30 p.m. or otherwise dinner is on your own at a local establishment.
At 7:30 p.m., it is back to the Goodspeed to meet brave and independent women who, during World War II, joined the U.S. Army to fly, risking everything to leave their home in Sweetwater, Texas, without military status, to serve their country. With book and lyrics by Patricia Noonan and music by Sean Mahoney, “Sweetwater” will introduce you to these intrepid female pioneers. At 10 p.m, the Gelston House will open its doors for the second Cabaret, this time featuring Zoe Sarnak, a 2016 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony participant at Goodspeed, who will share her award-winning works as a composer, lyricist and playwright. Zoe is one half of the indie folk/pop band “she.”
Sunday begins at 1 p.m. with the third musical offering, “Passing Through” with book by Eric Ulloa and music and lyrics by Brett Ryback at the Goodspeed. Follow the journey of a young man who walks from Pennsylvania to the west coast gathering stories as he goes until he must face a family trauma from his past. Will the lessons he is learning as he travels be enough to offer him the healing power of forgiveness? A Meet the Writers Reception will be held at the Goodspeed at 3:30 p.m. with the teams of composers to learn about their process of creation.
For tickets ($25 for each stage reading, students $15) call Goodspeed at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. The Gold Package at $139 includes admission to all events, dinner on Saturday night and one cabaret while the Silver Package at $80 features the three staged readings, the New Musical Preview, the Festival Symposium and the Meet the Writers. Students from the Hartt School of Music and the Boston Conservatory will present the musical material with enthusiasm and skill.
Warm up your winter with an active participation in Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals. Come watch these chicks hatch and show off their feathers and fur of potential greatness.