The Wild and Wacky Year Ahead...

A few days ago, I posted my year-end New Line poem for 2017. I've looked backward over the previous year; now I look forward to the coming year, which will be pretty crazy and pretty awesome.

We have another very busy year ahead...

We've been rehearsing several weeks already to learn the score of The Zombies of Penzance, and we'll present a free public reading of the show on Monday night, January 8. I hope you'll join us. Readings of new works are so valuable, to watch and listen to how the audience reacts, to see if jokes land, if plot points are clear, etc. And afterward we'll have a short chat with the audience, ask them some questions and ask for their thoughts. I hope you'll join us.

It was almost exactly five years ago that I first got the idea for The Zombies of Penzance. It was after watching the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. With all the horror/classic literature mashups lately -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, among others -- I thought it would be fun to do a musical theatre version of that. And that's when it hit me that one of my all-time favorite shows is in the public domain -- The Pirates of Penzance. If I was ever going to try a stunt like this, Penzance was perfect.

So first, I rewrote the famous patter song, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General." I figured if I could write a lyric that makes sense, keeps all the stresses and rhymes intact, and is funny, then I would be able to do the whole show. And I really pulled it off! So I spent some time thinking about plot, and planning the big, ridiculous reveal at the end that always resolves a Gilbert plot at the last second. I realized I didn't have to change the story much at all, though I did end up cutting a couple songs, as well as the characters of Ruth and the policemen.

And then I constructed an elaborate meta-backstory, which you can read here. The very silly premise is that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote The Zombies of Penzance first, but their producer Richard D'Oyly-Carte refused to produce it. So they rewrote their show as The Pirates of Penzance.

And yet, I've also gone out of my way to pepper the score with contemporary references and four-letter words, which makes it impossible to actually have been written in the 1870s.

The day after our ZofP reading is our first rehearsal for Anything Goes.

I know, I know, why is "the bad boy of musical theatre" doing Anything Goes? Because it's a brilliant satire of two socio-political trends in America that are still with us today -- our desire to make celebrities out of criminals and our habit of turning religion into show business. These are the themes that run throughout Anything Goes, and they are completely in tune with our work over the last twenty-seven seasons.

Also, from time to time over the years, New Line has produced famous shows that most people consider mainstream, and then we show them how much these shows are actually "New Line shows" -- Camelot, Grease, The Fantasticks, Man of La Mancha, and now Anything Goes.

Also, the more I've learned about Anything Goes over the years, the more I see that recent productions have strayed quite a bit from the show in its original form, and we intend to put back the adult humor, the abundant alcohol, the anarchy, and the pointed satire that make the show so brilliant. I want to remove Merman from Reno Sweeney and let her be Texas Guinan again. I want Sir Evelyn to be heterosexual again. I want Moonface to be small and meek and mousy again (Joel Grey did sort of return to this characterization in the last revival).

The S.S. American is Shakespeare's woods, where our characters escape from the rules of The City, to find their authentic selves, and also to de-couple from the wrong partners and re-couple with the right ones. (A Little Night Music uses this device too.) But an important element of this archetypal story is the anarchy of the "woods" -- humankind's "natural state" -- where there are no rules. So our production will be wild, fast-paced, outrageous, and overwhelming.

I can't wait to show people how much fun Anything Goes can be and how relevant it still is to today's world.

After Anything Goes closes, we'll get one week off, then we'll jump into rehearsals for the bizarre and brilliant Yeast Nation, a wild, subversive comedy about conformity and the human pull toward exploration, played out on the ocean floor three billion year ago, and written by the mad geniuses behind Urinetown, which New Line produced to rave reviews in 2007. This will be Yeast Nation's fifth production ever, and the writers are likely coming to see us during the run.

Rob and I have talked about the set for Yeast Nation and it's going to be really different and really cool, in a configuration we haven't tried yet in the Marcelle. And Dowdy and I have been talking to costumer Sarah Porter about some pretty hilariously high-concept costumes. It's going to be endless fun.

Then we'll get a little bit of a break in July, and in August we will go back into rehearsal with The Zombies of Penzance, for a fully-produced four-week run in October. I expect I will have done some rewrites and shaping in the interim.

Meanwhile, Dowdy, Zak, and I have been writing a new musical, and we expect to do a reading of that sometime in 2018 as well. And Dowdy will continue curating our cabaret series at The Monocle.

Lots of cool shit coming...

I think we've also settled on our 2018-2019 season, but we're not quite ready to announce it yet. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, mark your calendar and plan your Year of New Line. So much fun ahead! And if you don't have a calendar to mark, we can help with that too -- check out New Line's awesome 2018 calendar, with gorgeous production photos of New Line shows by Jill Ritter Photography!

Long Live the Musical!