New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” announces its 27th season of adult, alternative musical theatre, including the St. Louis premiere of the four-woman rock opera “Lizzie,” a very different take on the Lizzie Borden legend, running Sept. 28-Oct. 21; followed by Cole Porter’s satiric masterpiece “Anything Goes,” running March 1-24, 2018; and the St. Louis premiere of the world’s first bio-historical musical comedy, “Yeast Nation,” written by the Urinetown team, running May 31-June 23, 2018. All New Line’s mainstage shows will be in the company’s home, the Marcelle Theater, in Grand Center, St. Louis’ arts district.
The season will also include two Special Events. New Line will present a public reading of the new/old musical “The Zombies of Penzance,” “Gilbert & Sullivan’s original operatic abomination,” free and open to the public, in January 2018, exact date still to be announced. New Line will also present a reading of another new musical later in 2018, details to be announced later.
New Line continues its partnership with the Webster University Department of Music and their Bachelor of Music in Music Direction for Musical Theatre degree program. Jeffrey Richard Carter is chair of the department and also resident music director for New Line.
It’s a sweltering August in 1892, in Fall River, Massachusetts. A prominent businessman and his wife are brutally axed to death in their home. Their daughter Lizzie Borden is the prime suspect. Lizzie’s trial is a coast-to-coast media sensation, and her story becomes an American legend.
“Lizzie” is ferocious, powerful musical theatre as rock concert, four women and a six-piece rock band, chock full of rage, sex, betrayal, and bloody murder, an American mythology set to a blistering rock score, a radically new American musical with a sound owing less to Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber than to Bikini Kill, the Runaways, and Heart. The show has music by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Cheslik-DeMeyer and Tim Maner, book and additional music by Maner, and additional lyrics by Hewitt.
The cast of New Line’s “Lizzie” includes Anna Skidis as Lizzie, Kimi Short as Bridget, Larissa White as Alice, and Marcy Wiegert as Emma. The show will be directed by Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Sarah Nelson, scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter, and sound design by Elli Castonguay.
“Lizzie” contains adult language and content.
New Line continues its 27th season with the rowdy, naughty, subversive masterpiece of musical comedy, Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” the stinging satire of Americans’ quirky habit of turning religion into show business and criminals into celebrities, along the way skewering Wall Street, Prohibition, the Brits, and several other ripe targets.
First opening in a time when John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Al Capone, and evangelists Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy Sunday were all national celebrities, this was potent, pointed satire; and it’s just as potent today. The show’s evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney is equal parts McPherson and speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan (the model for Velma Kelly in Chicago). And though we never meet gangster Snake Eyes Johnson, he’s seems a fair double for Dillinger. But they all have their modern-day equivalents too.
Despite its reputation as old-school fluff, “Anything Goes” is a smart satire of American “cafe society” (the 1 percent of 1934), with the steamship S.S. American standing in for Shakespeare’s woods, a place with no rules, where people find out who they really are and “correct” the mistakes they’ve made in the world of the City.
The cast of New Line Theatre’s “Anything Goes” includes Evan Fornachon (Billy Crocker), Eileen Engel (Hope Harcourt), Sarah Porter (Reno Sweeney), Zachary Allen Farmer (Sir Evelyn Oakleigh), Aaron Allen (Moonface Martin), Sarah Dowling (Bonnie), Jeffrey M. Wright (Mr. Whitney), Kimmie Kidd (Mrs. Harcourt), with Gabriel Beckerle, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Clayton Humburg, Will Pendergast, Michelle Sauer, Larissa White, Alyssa Wolf, and Sara Rae Womack. The show will be directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with musical direction by Jeffrey Richard Carter, choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter, and sound design by Elli Castonguay.
The world’s first bio-historical musical comedy, from the mad geniuses who brought us Urinetown.
It’s the year 3,000,458,000 BC. The Earth’s surface is a molten mass of volcanic islands and undulating waves. The atmosphere is a choking fog lit by a dim red sun. And the mighty waters of the world are inhabited only by rocks, sand, salt, more rocks, a little silt, and the great society of salt-eating yeasts – yes, yeasts! – the world’s very first life form.
These single-cell salt-eaters are the only living creatures on earth, and they’re up against a food shortage, a strange new emotion called “love,” and the oppression of a tyrannical yeast king. But when the king’s son ventures out of the known yeastiverse, the yeasts’ story – and ours – is changed forever.
With a book by Greg Kotis, and music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Kotis, Yeast Nation has been produced four times so far, at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska, in 2007; at the American Theater Company in Chicago in 2009; at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2011; and at the Ray of Light Theatre in San Francisco in 2014. The team has continued working on the show.
The cast of New Line Theatre’s “Yeast Nation” includes Sarah Dowling (Jan-the-Unnamed), Zachary Allen Farmer (Jan-the-Elder), Larissa White (Jan-the-Sweet), Dominic Dowdy-Windsor (Jan-the Second-Oldest), Sarah Porter (Jan-the-Sly), Michael Lowe (Jan-the-Wise), Keith Thompson (Jan-the-Wretched), Jennelle Gilreath (Jan-the-Famished), Lex Ronan (The New One), Colin Dowd (Jan-the-Youngest), Brittany Kohl Hester, Clayton Humburg, Eleanor Humphrey, and Bradley Rohlf. The show will be directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter, and sound design by Elli Castonguay.
The Zombies of Penzance — A Public Reading
Gilbert & Sullivan’s long-lost, original “operatic abomination,” in its wacky world premiere.
New Line Theatre has shocked the music world by discovering a long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896. One of the team’s best known works, “The Pirates of Penzance,” originally debuted in New York in 1879. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, which nobody knew about until now, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.
In Gilbert & Sullivan’s never-before seen original draft, titled “The Zombies of Penzance” (with the unwieldy subtitle, At Night Come the Flesh Eaters), Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance (for obvious reasons). According to documents found with the manuscripts, Gilbert and Sullivan finished work on “The Zombies of Penzance” in mid-1878, but their producer Richard D’Oyly-Carte refused to produce it, calling it vulgar, impolitic, and unchristian, and in one letter, “an operatic abomination, an obscene foray into the darkest of the occult arts.” In a letter to his cousin, Gilbert expressed his deep disappointment, writing “I fear the walking dead shall be the end of me yet.”
Until now, music scholars had been baffled by that reference.
After a battle that almost ended the partnership, the team reluctantly agreed to rewrite their show, and in 1879, D’Oyly-Carte debuted the much more conventional, revised version, “The Pirates of Penzance,” which added the characters of Ruth and the policemen, and eliminated all references to zombism.
In 2013, New Line artistic director Scott Miller discovered the original manuscripts for “The Zombies of Penzance” in the second sub-basement of the Judson Memorial Church in New York, hidden beneath some moldy band parts from Rockabye Hamlet and Shogun the Musical, and Miller set about reconstructing the bizarre original show as G&S intended. Gilbert’s walking dead and their Zombie King now make their long-delayed world premiere. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan’s music.
Now, for the first time, audiences will be able to see and hear the comic, flesh-eating insanity Gilbert & Sullivan originally wrought. New Line will host a free public reading of “The Zombies of Penzance” in January 2018, and then produce the show fully in October 2018, to open New Line’s 28th season.
The cast of New Line’s Zombies of Penzance reading includes Sean Michael as Frederic, Melissa Felps as Mabel, Zachary Allen Farmer as Major General Stanley the Zombie Hunter, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor as the Zombie King, with Mara Bollini, Kent Coffel, Kevin Corpuz, Robert Doyle, Evan Fornachon, Joel Hackbarth, Lindsey Jones, Will Pendergast, Sarah Porter, Christina Rios, Kimi Short, and Marcy Wiegert. The reading will be directed by Scott Miller, with music direction by Sarah Nelson.
Season tickets and single tickets for the 2017-2018 season will go on sale in August. All mainstage shows run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, at 8 p.m., at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, just three blocks east of Grand, in Grand Center. (See our website for directions.) The first Thursday of each run is a preview. Tickets for mainstage shows are $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors on Fridays and Saturdays; and $20 for adults and $15 for students/seniors on Thursdays.
For more information, visit newlinetheatre.com. All programs are subject to change. V
Via Press Release