Goodspeed’s New Musical Festival – by Bonnie Goldberg

For some people, winter signals a time for sledding, skating, snowboarding and snowman making. For others, like me, the highlight of the cold weather months is a special weekend, this year Friday to Sunday, January 12-14, when music theater lovers gather in East Haddam for the 2024 Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals. Come join this magical celebration. Hopefully the weatherman will cooperate and there will be no need for snow shoes or skis, just for open hearts and minds to the wonders that musical theater offers in abundance.

For the 18th year, Goodspeed is presenting a weekend with a trio of new musicals in play reading form, a pair pf exciting cabarets, and a whole day, on Saturday, stuffed with seminars, a symposium, a special announcement about the Terris Theatre season in Chester, and a festive dinner at the Gelston House next door as an added option.

First up at 7 p.m. Friday is a staged reading with book. music and lyrics by Claudine Mboligikepelani Nako. Enter the plant world created by Nike, a hard working Black owner of Miss Nika’s Awesome Blossoms, who feels pressure and a growing resentment maintaining her status as a community role model in “Photosynthesis.” When her ancient Volkswagen Beetle desperately needs repairs, she discovers that her car is not the only one with broken parts.

At 9:30 p.m., come listen to the compositions of Nevada Lazano, a pianist, lyricist, composer, professional music director, arranger, and orchestrator, who will share some of his latest works in a cabaret at the Gelston House.

On Saturday, gather at the Gelston House from 9 a.m. to noon, to select your tickets for three seminars at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. that are sure to feature talks by people significant in the musical theater world. At 3:30 p.m. there will be the Terris Theatre announcement followed at 4:30 p.m. by a special presentation and at 5:30 p.m. a Festival Dinner at the Gelston House.

At 7:30 p.m. prepare to be entranced by “Letters to the President” conceived by Michael Bello and Jessica Kahkoska, the latter the researcher and letter curator of the piece. A tradition began in 1783 when George Washington took office for citizens to send missives no matter their political party, race, age or background of their hopes, dreams and fears for our country. These letters have been enhanced by the works of multiple composers for inspiration.

With an emphasis on mental health, and her own personal experiences, Nikki Lynette will share excerpts from her autobiographical musical “Get Out Alive” at the Gelston House in a 9:30 p.m. cabaret. She will also debut selections from her new documusical “Happy Songs About Unhappy Things” which she just finished filming and is currently adapting into a live theatrical experience.

On Sunday, at 1 p.m., enter a world created with book and lyrics by Scott Gilmour with music by Claire McKenzie, based on a novel by Paul Gallico. An injured animal, “The Snow Goose,” unites two unlikely people in friendship as they try to restore it to flight. A young girl Fritha bonds with Rhayader, a recluse, as the threat of a world war looms ever closer.

At 3:30 p.m., the weekend will culminate in a fascinating discussion by the three sets of composers on the sources of their work, the inspirations and challenges in a question and answer forum.

A Festival Package for $100 can be purchased that includes a ticket for all three staged readings, three seminars, a symposium, the Terris Theatre announcement, and meet the writers. You can add the festival dinner at Gelston House for $42, and either of the cabarets for $15. Single tickets for the readings are $30, students $15. Call the Goodspeed box office at 860-873-8668 to order. Friends of the Festival can also be purchased for $500 by calling 860-873-8664, ext. 366.

Make the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals the highlight of your winter season as you ski, sled, snow shoe or snowboard into musical theater heaven.

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