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Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals promises tuneful weekend in East Haddam CT

Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals is one of the highlight events produced every January at the Goodspeed Opera House.
Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals is one of the highlight events produced every January at the Goodspeed Opera House.
Photo by Diane Sobolewski

If you’re a theater lover, the Ninth Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals is just the ticket to brighten up the winter. It’s a three-day weekend of on-stage previews of new musicals, cabarets, behind-the-scenes symposiums and other special events on the Goodspeed Opera House campus in East Haddam, Conn. The sound of music and laughter begins on Friday, January 17, 2014.

Cast of BAND GEEKS! performing a stage reading during a previous Festival of New Musicals at Goodspeed.
Photo by Diane Sobolewski

These productions, although presented in concert-style without costumes or scenery, are beautifully sung and acted by professional actors and senior students in musical theater studies from the Hartt School of Music and the Boston Conservatory.

Friday, January 17, Adam Lives will be presented at 7:30 p.m. at the Goodspeed Opera House. With book, music and lyrics by Rob Baumgartner, Jr., the synopsis of this musical is summed up as “Adam is an unsuccessful songwriter who doesn’t know how to settle into his long-term relationship with Claudia. When he has an opportunity to write for an emerging pop superstar, Adam is forced to decide which he values more: an enduring partnership or a love that is worthy of song.” Following the musical there will be a cabaret, showcasing new songs from the festival writers, at 10:00 p.m. at the next-door Gelston House

On Saturday, January 18 a full day of seminars, a new musical preview, a symposium, festival dinner, and musical reading are all part of a special Gold package. The offerings include these seminars from 10:00 - 12:45 p.m., at the Gelston House (adjacent to the Goodspeed Opera House):

*They’re the Tops! - What makes a Broadway hit? Mark Acito, Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright, novelist, and theatre historian, will discuss the common threads among the 100 top-selling Broadway shows of all time.

*Uncovering Goodspeed Treasures - Tucked away on a top shelf or buried in a dusty box, many one-of-a-kind treasures have been uncovered and preserved for generations to come in Goodspeed’s Scherer Library of Musical Theatre. Noted author and theatre historian Ken Bloom will guide a discussion about some of the most fascinating objects in this rare collection.

*An Actor’s Life - Get to know your favorite stars from Goodspeed’s Hello, Dolly! The beloved Klea Blackhurst (Dolly) and the Tony-nominated Tony Sheldon (Horace) will share stories of their lives as actors – including the triumphs, heartaches, and struggles.

*Casting 101 –Learn the ins and outs of the casting process as Goodspeed’s Casting Director Paul Hardt and Resident Music Director Michael O’Flaherty uncover the tricks-of-the-trade.

Then, from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m., at the Goodspeed Opera House, a preview of a new musical headed to Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in 2014 will be presented. You’ll have to attend to find out what it is.

At 4:00 p.m., at the Opera House, a symposium entitled “On the Road to Holiday Inn: Creating a World Premiere” will illustrate what it takes to move a musical from conception to full-blown stage production. A panel of theatre experts and members of the creative team will explore the work that’s been done and what’s still to come for Goodspeed’s world premiere of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. This event is free and open to the public.

Taking a break from the whirlwind of creative entertainment, special ticket holders will have the opportunity of attending the Festival Dinner on Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m., at either the Gelston House or across the road at La Vita Gustosa. After dinner, the second staged musical of the weekend will commence.

A Proper Place with book by Leslie Becker and Curtis Rhodes, music by Curtis Rhodes and Lyrics by Leslie Becker and Curtis Rhodes will play at 7:30 p.m. in the Opera House.
The story takes place in 1902 in Mayfair, England. When an upper class British family is shipwrecked on an island with only their butler to help them survive, traditional class systems are questioned and ‘unexpected love blossoms.’

Rounding out Saturday, the Festival Cabaret will take place at 10:00 p.m. back at the Gelston House. The on-the-go Saturday schedule promises to offer both exhilaration and exhaustion to participants, but that’s the fun and excitement of musical theater.

Completing the weekend festivities, on Sunday, January 19 the musical
Theory of Relativity will be presented at 1:00 p.m., at the Goodspeed Opera House.
With music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and a book by Brian Hill, this musical is described as an unconventional look at our surprisingly interconnected lives. The musical will be presented through a collection of songs, scenes and monologues.

At the conclusion of the Sunday afternoon show, a Meet the Writers Reception will follow at 3:30 p.m. back at the Gelston House. Writers from all three musicals will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the works they’ve just presented.

Ticket options offer single performance and event admission as well as special weekend packages.

This year, Goodspeed’s Festival GOLD Package offers a weekend full of special events. This $89 package includes admission to all three staged readings; the New Musical Preview; the Symposium panel discussion with musical theatre luminaries; three festival seminar sessions; a Saturday evening pre-show dinner at either the Gelston House or La Vita Gustosa and a Meet the Writers Reception which will complete the weekend’s festivities. Also included in the special Festival Package is a tour of Goodspeed’s mid-campus facilities including the McMillian Rehearsal Studio, Scherer Library, Costume Shop and Music Department, and admittance to either the Friday night or Saturday night cabarets, informal gatherings showcasing new songs by new and established artists.

A special SILVER Package with a schedule highlighting the staged readings, symposium and new musical preview is also available for $49.

Tickets are available at the Goodspeed Box Office or by calling 860.873.8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Tickets are $15 each for one show, $10 each for students. Lodging and dining information for Festival attendees can also be found on the Goodspeed website.

The weekend at Goodspeed’s Festival of New Artists offers more entertainment for your buck than a week on Broadway or the West End.

Compiled and written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle.