Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The New Voices Project

The New Musicals Initiative is thrilled to be launching our New Voices Project with the goal of helping young writers between the ages of 18-25 showcase their original work by participating in the 17th annual Stages New Musical Theatre Festival held in Los Angeles between August 23-25, 2013.

The New Musicals Initiative is the professional division of the Academy for New Musical Theatre.  ANMT is a Los Angeles based developmental company offering workshops, seminars and online courses designed to help artists develop and produce new musical theatre works.
Young writers have been submitting their promising works so they can take part in our prestigious Stages New Musical Theatre Festival. These writers come from all over the country and from prominent musical theatre programs. We are delighted to be able to showcase the future of musical theatre.
The New Voices Project will take place on August 24th at 8:30pm at the Academy for New Musical Theatre in North Hollywood.
For more information on the New Voices Project, visit us at

For information on our Stages New Musical festival visit us at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Academy for New Musical Theatre's Stages Musical Theatre Festival

It's hard to believe, but Stages Musical Theatre Festival will be almost twenty years old this year. This biennial musical theatre event returns to Los Angeles the weekend of August 23-25.  Featuring eight new musicals presented in concert readings, the festival will be hosted by the New Musicals Initiative (the professional wing of the Academy for New Musical Theatre) and will be presented in two locations: the Lonny Chapman Theatre (10900 Burbank Blvd in North Hollywood) and the Academy, 5628 Vineland in North Hollywood.
The New Musicals Initiative will be bringing together dozens of writers and over fifty actors to present eight brand-new shows. The schedule is designed so that a Festival Pass holder can see four shows on one day at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, and the other four shows at the Academy on the other. Or, if audience members have only one day, they can pick and choose among all eight shows, shuttling between the theatre and the Academy, which are five doors away from each other.
The shows featured at the "First Stage" (at the Lonny Chapman Theatre) will be:
<Mad Bomber- winner of the 2013 Search for New Musicals -  based on the true story of the man who terrorized New York in the 1950s by setting off a series of bombs to get back at Con Edison (written by Charles Monagan and Richard deRosa);
Vlad: a vampire's love story- a re-envisioning of the classic vampire story, with a 4-person cast, a rock score, and some plot twists you might not be expecting (written by Plácido Domingo, Samantha Domingo, and Scott Guy);
Wanting Miss Julie- a modern re-telling of the Strindberg classic (written by John Sparks, Jake Anthony, and Patricia Zehentmayr); and

Bloodline- the story of a 1920s spinster who finds herself engaged to a vampire with ulterior motives (written by Richard Castle and Clifford Tasner).

The shows featured at the "Very First Stage" (at the Academy for New Musical Theatre) are:
LA Carmen - a futuristic setting for the beloved Carmen set in a time when speaking Spanish is illegal (in development with the Latino Theatre Company; written by Evelina Fernandez, Rosino Serrano, and Richard Castle);

Over the Horizon- a collective project by writers at the University of California at Irvine, about an Iraqi blogger and the son of an American soldier;
The Max Factor Factor- an ice-cold reading of a musical about closeted gay film stars in the 1920's.

New Voices Project- a final slot to be filled by a showcase of material from brand new, young writers.
Festival Passes cost $50 and will admit you to every event in the Festival from Friday through Sunday. Single tickets will also be available  - but Festival Pass Holders will be given priority seating.
"There are only 90 seats at the Group Rep Theatre," explains the Festival's Executive Director Scott Guy, "and so it's possible there won't be seats for last-minute individual ticket buyers. To counterbalance that, we're scheduling events at the Academy a half-hour later than the ones at the theatre, so there still will be a musical to see for everyone."
Artistic Director Elise Dewsberry explains the distinction between events at the Academy and those at the theatre: "Events at the Academy showcase first drafts, whereas the ones at the theatre have all had several more stages of development...hence the word 'Stages.' We've also invited a team of writers from the University of California at Irvine to bring us a brand new musical they've been developing; we're planning a special event for young up-and-coming writers to showcase their work - the New Voices Project; and for the first time ever we are planning a special "ice cold reading" in which the cast will be handed their script and score as the lights come up and they will literally cold-read and sight-sing their way through the piece with no preparation at all. New musical theatre, at every stage of development."


Festival passes may be purchased for $50 through the Academy's website at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ANMT's Annual 15 Minute Musical Festival

Once a year, every June, like clockwork, you can hear composers weeping in North Hollywood, and threatening to call attorneys, and then kissing and making up and saying they've just had the most wonderful experience of their lives. Yes, it's time for the annual 15-Minute Musical project at the Academy for New Musical Theatre: June 24th and 25th at the Met Theatre in Hollywood. For the final project of Academy's famous writers' workshop, composers and lyricists and bookwriters are put together on writing teams and are given eight short weeks to write, revise and polish a brand-new musical written for five actors whom they've never met before.

"It's like a rite of passage," says Elise Dewsberry, the Academy's Artistic Director and producer of the 15 Minute Musicals. "We design the process to imitate a full-length show in a professional theatre: draft, rehearsal, rewrites, rehearsal, opening. It's really a wonderful experience, but it's often stressful, just like a million dollar opening night. Our writers' names are in the program, and it's important to them they write the best show they possibly can, in the short amount of time we've given them."

This season there will be four 15-minute musicals, featuring the same cast of four actors. The writers have been given a theme of Haves and Have Nots; four short musicals about inequality, and they have cooked up four wildly different approaches to this theme.

These evenings are an annual highlight of the Academy's yearlong season of developing new musicals and feature many new voices in musical theatre. Every seat in the house usually sells out.

The four shows presented each evening (June 24 and 25) are:
Gracie...from Economy Class with book and lyrics by Joel Adlen and music by David Anthony Hall..
Conception of Love with book by Robert Rosen, music by David Haworth, and lyrics by Denis McCourt
In Mysterious Ways with book by R.K. Rich, music by Brian Graden, and lyrics by Ben Boquist
Coming Out of the Cave with book by John Aaron, music by Ron Barnett, and lyrics by R.K. Rich

The cast for all four musicals is: Nikki Jenkins, Kevin Noonchester, Rachel Tyler, and Peter Welkin.  The four musicals are directed by Scott Guy, with music direction by Jake Anthony.

Tickets are $25; the performances begin at 7:30pm. For tickets, reservations and more info:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Comparing GHOST and ONCE

In the fall of 2012, I was in New York City for two days, so naturally I saw two Broadway musicals.  I was struck by how much these two particular shows have in common, and yet how completely different they are.

Most obviously, each is based on a movie.  GHOST is based on the 1990 Hollywood blockbuster movie starring Patrick Swayzee, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Jerry Zucker.  ONCE is based on the lesser known low budget 2006 Irish cult movie written and directed by John Carney.

Both are love stories in which (spoiler alert) boy does not get girl - and for equally bittersweet, gut-wrenching reasons.

Where the similarities abruptly end is in how their directors and design teams have decided to present those stories to the audience.

GHOST is a never-ending visual feast of stunning projections and visual effects that keep the audience oohing and ahhing in surprise and amazement.  At the beginning of the show, images are projected onto a huge scrim at the front of the stage - complete with the title of the show - making you almost need to check your ticket to make sure you didn't accidentally walk into a movie theatre rather than a Broadway show.  Huge scrim-based walls slide in and out to create the basic shapes for the various locations of the story, while a constant barrage of fast-moving projections adds the details.  The able ensemble contributes extra flair and color with many flashy dance numbers - augmented by larger-than-life colorful disco-style silhouette versions of the dancers projected behind them.

The score, by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard (with additional lyrics by bookwriter Bruce Joel Rubin) is that driving, showy, contemporary pop that has become very popular in musicals these days, giving the singers lots of opportunities to bring down the house with their bravado.

Despite the talent of the cast, the real star of the show, of course, is the series of visual illusions used to accomplish all of the moments we remember from the movie - ghosts walking through doors, moving objects through the air, taking over other people's bodies, and being sent over to the 'other side' either by the white light of the angels or the red glow of the devils.  Oh, yes, and a brief, almost cursory nod to the most famous scene of all with the pottery wheel (which presumably doesn't get as much focus because it doesn't take a visual illusion to accomplish it).

In ONCE, there isn't a special effect to be seen that isn't created by the singing/playing actors, with a little help from some simple but effective lighting.  The set is an Irish pub (where audience members can actually buy beer and listen to live music before the show and at intermission), and the ensemble doubles as the band.  Or, the band doubles as the ensemble.  They're all so good at both, it's nearly impossible to make the distinction.

The various locations are created in front of us by the ensemble with the slightest shift of furniture, and aided by defining patches of light.  This minimalist approach is broadly acknowledged by Enda Walsh's script, as when Girl suggests that Guy join her at a music store operated by a 'big man'....and then, as a tall man from the ensemble wheels a piano to center stage, Girl says 'Here's the store and this is the big man' and we are instantly there.

All of the songs in the score are 'diagetic' - meaning there are no characters breaking into song to express their feelings.  Instead, the characters are songwriters who are actually writing and performing songs they have written to express their feelings.  (All of the songs are written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who also starred in the movie.) (Make no mistake - I'm absolutely not suggesting that characters shouldn't burst into song - where would musical theatre be without that conceit?- but I do admire that this show doesn't try to navigate the dangers of combining both kinds of songs in one score.  Not that that is impossible, just...tricky...and rarely worth it.)

The multi-talented ensemble provides energetic, toe-tapping, infectious accompaniment, along with strangely beautiful choreography, and an array of colorful, eccentric and endearing Irish and Czech characters.  The music is contemporary, but haunting, acoustic, percussive, and, above all, fresh.

I would quite honestly recommend that you see both musicals as they are both highly accomplished and entertaining with great casts and production values.  See GHOST for the breathtaking special effects, even though it might leave you a bit emotionally disconnected.  See ONCE for a unique and compelling theatrical journey probably unlike anything you've experienced before.

And then decide for yourself how you weigh in on the fact that GHOST was nominated for three Tony awards (but NOT for Best Musical) and didn't win any; whereas ONCE was nominated for eleven Tonys and won eight, including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Actor, Best Orchestration, Best Lighting, Best Sound, and even Best Scene Design (too bad for GHOST that there is no category for special effects).  Apparently the Tony voters are not blinded by glitter.  Only time will tell if the audiences are.

Spectacle is very popular on Broadway today and it certainly has its place (and I really do enjoy seeing it).  But, in my mind, STORY will always win out over everything else because it is only the story that has the ability to capture not only our attention, but also our hearts.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


ANMT's GOT MUSICAL - April 12 at the Colony Theatre

Love musicals? Want to hear some brand-new material from up-and-coming new musical theatre writers? The ANMT writers have a 40 year history of writing musicals! Join us on Friday, April 12th at the Colony Theatre in Burbank for GOT MUSICAL: a sneak preview of brand-new musicals in development for producers across the country.

Musical theatre writers to be featured include:
Matthew Alexander, Adrian Bewley, Richard Castle, Richard deRosa, Eric Dodson, Placido Domingo, Jr., Noelle Donfeld, Evelina Fernandez, Alan Ross Fleishmann, Mitchell Glaser, Brian Graden, Scott Guy, David Haworth, Carl Johnson, Karla Kelley, Brian Leader, Matthew Levine, Roger Love, Ann McNamee, Charles Monaghan, Cindy O'Connor, Ken Offricht, Marian Partee, Richard Plotkin, Eric Przytulski, Carl Ritchie, Jan Roper, Robert Rosen, Rosino Serrano, Robin Share, Clifford Tasner, Gabrielle Wagner Mann, Julie Weiner, Chana Wise, and Clay Zambo

The excerpts will be presented by members of the Academy Repertory Company (Noel Britton, Elise Dewsberry, Scott Guy, David Holmes, Christopher Maikish, Tedd Szeto, and Peter Welkin); and Guest Artists Farley Cadena, Allie Costa, Randy Guiaya, Tara Hunnewell, Luke Klipp, Michelle Lane, Shannon Martinous, Kendra Munger, Kila Packett, Suzanne Mayes, Matt Valle, Christina Valo, and Gabrielle Wagner; with Ross Kalling at the piano.

Showcasing the tradition of creating and writing musicals, Got Musical! takes place at 8:00pm on Friday, April 12th at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Tickets are $10. For more information, and to make a reservation, please visit and click on Got Musical!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Academy for New Musical Theatre Summer 2013 Internship Announcement

The Academy for New Musical Theatre is looking for a Summer 2013 intern to assist in the planning, marketing and presentation of the 17th Annual Stages Musical Theatre Festival! See below for internship description and eligibility requirements.


The Intern will assist at rehearsals and production meetings.  The Intern will also be directly involved in the marketing campaign: assisting in the design of print materials, email campaigns, marketing plans, public relations, social networking marketing and other advertising opportunities.  Pending the Intern's particular skill set, assistance at the Festival itself will either be "front of house" (box office, house management, ushering) or backstage (light booth, sound, assistant stage manager).

The three-day Festival consists of concert presentations of eight new musicals in various "stages" of development:  from first drafts through polished versions ready for production.  Musicals currently selected for the festival include Mad Bomber, the winner of the 2012 Search for New Musicals, Vlad by Placido Domingo, Jr.  Other titles under consideration include works in development at the Latino Theatre Company, Deaf West Theatre, Celebration Theatre, and the Academy for New Musical Theatre.

The Festival was presented for fifteen years in Chicago; in 2010, the Festival moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, to be under the aegis of the Academy for New Musical Theatre.  The Festival is currently scheduled for August 23/24/25 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood. Rehearsals will take place at the Academy for New Musical Theatre.

This is a paid internship. The intern will receive a weekly stipend of $350. The tentative dates for this internship are June 17, 2013 - August 23, 2013.


ANMT has developed its own powerful database-driven communication and marketing software programs which assist in the dissemination of individually-targeted press-releases, as well as demographically-targeted ad campaigns, emails, newsletters, blog entries, RSS feeds and other specific marketing communications about musicals in the Academy's catalog and other programming.  Therefore, part of the Academy’s Festival Intern's additional duties and responsibilities will include assisting in the Academy’s current press list and semi-automated database-driven internet marketing procedure; writing and disseminating general press releases; and some general administration duties (such as filing and database management). 

Intern will be expected to assist with coordination of several other events associated with the Festival, including panel discussions, concerts, and some social events such as Opening Night Reception.  There may be an opportunity for the intern to function as an Associate Producer (supervised) for a concert on a weeknight prior to the Festival.  Duties and responsibilities would be similar to the Festival, but the intern would have more of a leadership role.


Eligibility is limited to currently enrolled undergraduate college students who reside or attend college in Los Angeles County. Students must have completed at least one semester of college by June 1, 2013 or will complete their undergraduate degree between May 1 - September 1, 2013 in order to be eligible to participate. Students who have already earned a BA, BS or a higher degree are not eligible. Students who have previously participated in the Los Angeles County Arts Internship Program are not eligible.


The Festival Intern will have some background and general working knowledge of marketing, e‑commerce, and viral marketing.  The Festival Intern will have good general computing skills and be comfortable with using online forums and posting in online user groups and social networks.  Very useful to the position will be working knowledge with some combination of the following software:  Office (Word, Excel, Access, Publisher), basic working knowledge of HTML web-interface coding such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver, and Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, Flash).  The Intern will also have good people skills, and be able to interface effectively with audience, actors, writers and press.


At the end of the ten week internship, the Intern will be able to:
- understand the basic planning required to produce a concert reading of a new musical
- understand the basic planning required to plan and implement a targeted marketing campaign designed to increase awareness of and participation in arts events (including budgeting, scheduling, marketing, and day-to-day operations)
- use viral marketing and online social networks to target potential participants and identify marketing opportunities
- interface with industry professionals (national writers, producers and theatre industry professionals)
- write and disseminate a basic press release
- know how to introduce oneself to theatre professionals
- identify key players in the musical theatre profession


Email an informal letter to and attach a formal resume or bio.  Address your ability to learn new software, your experience using social media as a marketing tool, and your interest or curiosity in new musical theatre.  TIP:  Although we suspect the ideal candidate is going to be in the marketing/producer arena, actors/writers are welcome to apply; this is a theatrical environment, rather than a corporate marketing atmosphere; and whoever is offered the internship will want to enjoy being around singers, directors and writers. 

Questions?  Please email

This internship is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. 74 undergraduate interns will participate in the program this year at 74 performing, presenting, and literary nonprofit arts organizations and municipal arts agencies throughout LA County. In addition to their full-time 10 week paid internship, interns will participate in several educational events as part of the program, which are funded by the Getty Foundation. The educational events are designed to provide interns with a broader perspective of the vibrant arts and cultural landscape of the County. For additional information on the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Arts Internship Program, and for a complete list of all the internships offered this summer, visit the Arts Commission website at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yet Another Vampire Musical
-- by Richard Castle
In 2006 I flew up to San Francisco to see the pre-Broadway production of Lestat, a new musical based on Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. With music by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin, the show was sure to be worth the trip. After all, I was a huge fan of Elton John's music, and I have always loved vampire stories. I've even had arguments about who was the better Dracula: Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee. So you can imagine my excitement as I took my seat at the Curran Theatre on that rainy January night.
The show was a flop. People walked out before the intermission. I remember leaving the theatre wondering how a show written by such a talented team could go so horribly wrong.
Flash forward to August of 2011, when ANMT asked me if I would be willing to write a song for a producer who was interested in a new musical about vampires. With the memory of Lestat haunting me, I was torn as to whether to accept the assignment. However, I had recently seen a Swedish film called Let the Right One In, which offered a fresh take on the vampire story, and I felt newly inspired. Paired with composer Clifford J. Tasner, I wrote the lyrics to a song called And Ever. The song is about a vampire who dreads falling in love, because he is doomed to witness each of his mortal lovers grow old and die, leaving him to mourn them forever And Ever.
The Academy Repertory Company performed our song for the producer in November of that year, along with pitch songs from three other writing teams that had been assembled by ANMT. The producer liked everything he heard that night, and asked the writing teams to develop three different vampire shows.
With the influences of The Heiress, Rebecca and Vertigo, I hoped to fashion a dark, romantic and spooky show. Refining our material with the helpful feedback from the monthly Writer's Workshop at ANMT, Clifford and l completed a 45-minute one-act version to present to the producer.
In May of 2012, Bloodline was presented along with two other vampire shows: Coffins of the Mayflower (a farcical comedy) and Child of Ages (a drama). Based on the presentation, the producer was eager to see all three shows expanded, so Clifford and I got to work on the second draft of Bloodline. ANMT staff provided helpful notes, and the producer offered some suggestions as well. We added some more songs, discarded some that didn't work, and tried to flesh out a few of the characters. The producer staged a reading at the Met Theatre in Hollywood, providing feedback forms to the invited audience.
As I write this blog, I am busy working on the third draft of Bloodline, with hopes of a possible full-production. The hardest part of this process has been the expansion of the show to a 90-minute intermission-less one-act. It was originally structured to be a 45-minute musical. With each draft, it has been extremely challenging to expand the show without 'bloating' it. I have found the feedback to be extremely helpful, and I am currently outlining the newly expanded story. Keep an eye out for the next incarnation of the new vampire musical Bloodline.
I just hope it doesn't suck.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Staff Member

The Academy is once again defying the odds, expanding its staff, rather than cutting back. We've hired a new administrative assistant, Bryan Blaskie, to help with daily workload, as well as special projects.

Bryan's responsibilities include sexy stuff like supervising the online Catalogue for New Musicals, overseeing new technology and social media, and then...LESS sexy stuff like office management, database supervision, and daily/weekly communication with composers, lyricists and bookwriters. And maybe a little bit of tidying and janitorial assistance thrown in, just for good measure.

Bryan first joined ANMT as a composer during 2011-2012’s Core Curriculum. After successfully completing the program, he wrote the music for “iWish” as part of the 2012 15-Minute Musicals program. In addition to his work as a composer, Bryan is an accompanist for various programs in Los Angeles. He played Keyboard II for our production of “A Ring in Brooklyn”. He is a staff accompanist for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. He also performs around the LA area in his blues duo, Torch Note. Bryan is from Columbus, Ohio, where he studied music composition and piano performance at Denison University.

"Bryan's starting as a part-time employee," says Scott, "but there is definitely room to grow into a full-time position, or even a whole new department. Bryan's a smart, funny, and artistic composer, but he also has the skills and drive of an entrepreneur, and he knows there are opportunities to launch whole new departments at the Academy: the world is his musical theatre oyster...if that metaphor makes any sense."

"I'm really a lucky guy," says Blaskie. "I've wound up in the right spot and the right time. I love my bosses -- we have a gas working together; lots of laughter and clowning around. But at the end of the day, I take this job very seriously. I know the opportunity they're giving me here. But now it's up to me to make something exciting happen."