I’m Just Like My Country -- I’m Young, Scrappy, and Hungry

I think about history a lot, and most of that thinking is about American musical theatre history. That's why I wrote my history book, Strike Up the Band, and why I created our YouTube History of Musical Theatre, on New Line's YouTube channel.

Back in 2014, on a whim (or possibly because I was reeeeeally stoned), I re-sorted the list of New Line shows into chronological order by when the shows originally debuted, to get a look at how our company has explored the history and evolution of the American musical theatre. It's cool to see how the art form has changed and reacted to world events over the twentieth century, but also how wide-ranging New Line's programming actually is. 

It's worth noting that never, in twenty-seven years, have we ever violated our mission to produce adult, socially and politically relevant musical theatre. Even shows usually dismissed as shallow, like Anything Goes or Grease, reveal surprising new depth and sharp social critique when treated with some respect and thoughtfullness by the New Liners.

I've added to that 2014 list all the shows we've done since I wrote that post. Here's the updated list...
The Zombies of Penzance (1879)
The Threepenny Opera (1928)
Anything Goes (1934)
The Cradle Will Rock (1937)
The Nervous Set (1959)
The Fantasticks (1959)
Camelot (1960)
Anyone Can Whistle (1964)
Man Of La Mancha (1965)
Cabaret (1966)
Hair (1967)
Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris (1968)
Zorba (1969)
Celebration (1969)
Company (1970)
Grease (1971)
Two Gentlemen Of Verona (1971)
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971)
Pippin (1972)
The Rocky Horror Show (1973)
The Robber Bridegroom (1974)
Chicago (1975)
I Love My Wife (1977)
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (1978)
Evita (1978)
Sweeney Todd (1979)
Tell Me on a Sunday (1979)
March Of The Falsettos (1981)
Sunday In The Park With George (1983)
La Cage aux Folles (1983)
Into The Woods (1987)
Assassins (1990)
Kiss Of The Spider Woman (1990)
Return To The Forbidden Planet (1991)
Attempting The Absurd (1992)
Passion (1994)
Rent (1994)
Breaking Out In Harmony (1994)
Hedwig And The Angry Inch (1994)
The Ballad Of Little Mikey (1994)
Songs For A New World (1995)
In The Blood (1995)
Floyd Collins (1996)
Bat Boy (1997)
Woman With Pocketbook (1998)
A New Brain (1998)
Sweet Smell of Success (1998)
Urinetown (1999)
Reefer Madness (2000)
The Wild Party (2000)
Bare (2003)
She’s Hideous (2003)
The Amberklavier (2004)
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005)
High Fidelity (2006)
Johnny Appleweed (2006)
Bukowsical (2006)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2006)
Jerry Springer The Opera (2007)
Love Kills (2007)
Yeast Nation (2007)
Passing Strange (2008)
Cry-Baby (2008)
Next To Normal (2009)
American Idiot (2009)
Lizzie (2009)
Bonnie & Clyde (2011)
Night Of The Living Dead (2012)
Hands On A Hardbody (2013)
Heathers (2013)
Atomic (2013)
Be More Chill (2015)

Note the obvious pockets of creativity in the 60s and 70s, and then starting again in the mid to late 1990s. Also notice the absence of shows from the 40s and 50s – the Rodgers & Hammerstein era. Notice that once we get to the nineties, none of these shows follow the R&H structure anymore. Admittedly, other shows did follow the R&H rules during this period, but look at how many didn't. We're in a post-R&H era. Woo-hooo!

For many years, we've kept an online History of New Line, with full production details and links to the individual shows' webpages. We do this partly because we hope other adventurous companies like ours might get some cool ideas about shows to produce by seeing what we've tackled (I look at other companies' schedules all the time. That's how I found Night of the Living Dead); and to make it easy for them to find good, show-related resources once they are producing a show. But also because no other company has ever done what we're doing. (So far.) No other company is devoted solely to socially and politically relevant, alternative musical theatre. Some companies do some of this work, some do quite a bit, but as far as we know, nobody else does only this. And we want there to be a record of our adventures

A few years ago, the local theatre reviewers created the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, and they honored New Line with a special award for our body of work over the years. It was a very nice compliment, a real honor coming from the people who see almost all the theatre in town (some of them, for many years), and it was way better than "winning" something "over" someone else. It was one of the few times I've spoken in public without being nervous and without notes. I knew what I wanted to say:

In 2014, American Theatre magazine (which I've been subscribed to since high school) did a really long, really smart, really wonderful feature story about New Line, our work, our history, and our relationship to our art form, as it continues to evolve. I could not imagine a cooler portrait of our company. American Theatre has run short items about our shows before, but never anything like this. And it's not just complimentary, it's really respectful. It takes us New Liners and our work seriously. It treats us like we have something of value to say with our work, and with our approach to contemporary musical theatre. That's very cool validation.

In 2015, our own Riverfront Times also did a very cool feature story about New Line and our relationship to our art form, again a really nice validation that what we're doing is interesting and worthwhile and important. As much as we struggle from show to show, this kind of recognition and respect is so nice.

We're all incredibly psyched about the season ahead -- the world premiere of The Zombies of Penzance in October; an all new, more intimate look at the classic La Cage aux Folles in March; and the new sci-fi rock musical Be More Chill next June. All three shows are going to be loads of fun, all three will surprise the hell out of you, all three have genuinely amazing casts, and we're cautiously optimistic that all three shows will sell really well.

Season ticket sales are going great this year -- to order yours, click here.

Yet, as much recognition as we get, as successful as our shows are, it's always still hard to balance the budget (we had to raise ticket prices for the coming season, for the first time in six years). Ticket sales cover 40-45% of our budget -- the rest is grants and donations. If you'd like to contribute to New Line and join us on our adventures, click here. If you'd like to sponsor a show, click here.

But, despite how hard it is, all in all, things are good. The adventure continues and awesome people keep wanting to work with us. And that's pretty much all I need.

But if you wanna throw $10,000 our way, we would not object...

In a couple weeks, we start rehearsals for The Zombies of Penzance. I. Can. Not. Wait.

Long Live the Musical!