Happy New Year!

Holy shit! It's 2011...!It seems like only yesterday (well, maybe more like last month) that we started rehearsals for the amazing, thrilling, brilliant, shattering, challenging ride that was The Wild Party. What an experience! Just a couple days ago Jeff Pruett (who played Burrs) and I were talking about how much we miss that show. Truly one of the most difficult pieces I've ever worked on, in terms of music, character, staging, pacing, all of it. But we really pulled it off. And what a brilliant, inventive, hard-working cast we found for that show! And, lest we forget, Robin Berger's astonishing choreography -- sexy, scary, and wildly entertaining!

I have to give big-ass special props to the insanely hard-working Margeau Steinau (such a complicated, nuanced, emotional performance!), Jeff (in the performance of his life, I think), Deborah Sharn (also the best performance I've ever seen from her) and newcomer Keith Parker (with a voice from God and a really sensitive performance of an often thankless role).

The Wild Party is one of those shows I feel an obligation to produce. Who else in St. Louis will ever do it? I'm very happy I was able to get a chapter about the show into my next book, so maybe more companies will produce it. I think Wild Party will be on my top five list for a very long time...

What are the others on that list, you ask? It does vary a bit, depending on my mood and what I'm working on, but my top five list will always include Hair, Bat Boy, High Fidelity, and The Wild Party. Maybe also Assassins...? My top ten list is easier -- the others would include Return to the Forbidden Planet, The Cradle Will Rock, A New Brain... maybe Hedwig...? But I digress.

2010 also brought us Evita, a show I hadn't always been interested in producing even though I've always loved it. But the discovery of the much harder rocking 1976 concept album and a few "enhanced" conversations with Sparger, and Evita found its way into our season. I was stunned at how well it was received. People just fell in love with it. And again, we had this amazing cast, every one of them just perfect. Taylor, Todd, and Sparger all three kicked ass!

A lot of people told me it was a real revelation for them seeing the show stripped down to its essence, its emotions reinvigorated by a return to the score's rock roots. (Mandy Patinkin's Che was such a pussy compared to Sparger's Che!) Instead of the usual story about a hyper-bitch and her manipulations, ours was more a passionate love story, not just between Juan and Eva, but even more between Eva and her descamisados... Like we did for The Wild Party, we dug down into some incredibly intense, dark emotions, and made a really honest, compelling piece of theatre. After we did Jesus Christ Superstar in 2006, I was so proud of how well our "re-imagining" worked that I wished more people would try it our way. I felt the same way after Evita. In both cases the shows actually work better the way we did them... at least in my perhaps not-so-humble opinion...

Evita was also one of the biggest sellers we've ever had at this theatre. I guess it proves that our motivations are worthwhile -- to challenge our audiences rather than comfort them. People seem to really love that kind of theatre!

And in the fall, we took a total left turn, as we love to do, by producing the fairly lightweight but hilarious social satire, I Love My Wife, about wife-swapping in the 70s. After a full season of despair, doom, and gloom, it was so nice to return to comedy! And what a cast full of comic geniuses -- Todd, Jeff, Emily, and Sarah were all brilliant in the leads, but Troy, Joel, and Zak got just as much acclaim -- and laughs -- in their role as quirky Greek Chorus.

This is a score I've been in love with going back to my college days, but for some reason it never occurred to me to produce it. I hadn't even read the script before last year. Again, it's a show no one else in town will produce -- partly because it's just too sexual for high schools, community theatres, the Rep, the Muny, Stages...

But we New Liners LOVE sex!

We also hired a new music director in 2010, Justin Smolik, who joined us for the first time for I Love My Wife and he did a wonderful job! He's an incredible musician and he loves musicals almost as much as I do. He'll be part of our staff for the foreseeable future. Welcome, Justin!

We worked really hard during 2010, and it's going to be no easier in 2011, but I am soooo looking forward to Two Gents, bare, and then next season, Passing Strange, Cry-Baby, and High Fidelity. I look at this line-up of these five shows between now and summer 2012, and I'm positively giddy about all five of them! So much cool work ahead!!

We start rehearsals for Two Gents on Monday...! Woo-hoooo!

As most New Line followers know, we got another extension at our current space, so we can stay there till summer 2012. But we really need to find a new permanent space. There are several possibilities, but it seems every possibility requires us finding at least $100,000. Anybody got a rich uncle...?

It's been such a wonderful year artistically. We did so much cool work, I finished my new book, and we set a ridiculously cool 2011-2012 season. And somehow, even during these tough times, New Line is thriving! Ticket sales have been great, our supporters continue to invest in our work, and our funders are doing their best to hold our grants steady...

As our 20th anniversary season continues, we promise to keep surprising you, delighting you, and challenging you. I really think the work ahead may be some of the most exciting we've ever done... Stay tuned...

And if you've got $100,000 laying around, give us a call... We'll name the theatre after you.

Happy New Year!
Long Live the Musical!