Happiness, Pleasure, Contentment, Serenity, Joy, Bliss, and Glee!

It's always a long and winding road, from our first talks about Next Season, to the moment when we publicly announce it. (Full Disclosure: we're already talking about Next Next Season, 2020-2021, which will be our 30th!)

Some years, the first plan ends up being the final plan. But not often. We always announce what we're thinking about for Next Season at our annual Holiday Dinner (come join us this year!), but the 2019-2020 lineup has changed again and again and again...

We were hoping to do this particularly cool new show, but the writers really aren't happy with their show, and they're planning some fairly big rewrites. It's gonna be a while. Dowdy and I had also discussed doing a season of three repeats, maybe including Return to the Forbidden Planet, Rent, and for a brief moment, Hands on a Hardbody was in the mix too.

But none of those will be in our upcoming season.

A tour of Rent is coming to the Fox in February, so we can't get those rights. And it just wouldn't feel right to do Hardbody without Anna Skidis, who's in grad school in Texas right now. And coincidentally, longtime New Liner Chris Strawhun will be directing his own production of Forbidden Planet for KTK Productions in March, so you can still see it...

Not too long ago, I found out we could get the rights to Head Over Heels! If I remember right, after that, every possible season lineup we discussed included HOH. It's one of those shows I had a really strong gut feeling about.

At one point, Dowdy and I decided to look at the top-selling shows in our history, and see if any of those needed another look.

Urinetown immediately grabbed me. I saw that show in 2001 on Broadway, and we produced it in 2007 in the ArtLoft blackbox theatre. Eever since we lost that space, I've been telling everybody that if we ever got back into a blackbox again, there were two shows I wanted to return to -- Bat Boy and Urinetown. In both New Line productions, we used the entire theatre, all around, through, and among the audience, as well as on the stage -- a lot like the recent New York production of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. That kind of staging brings a ridiculous amount of energy to the performances. Both those productions were overwhelming in the best ways.

And now here we, back in a blackbox. We'll save Bat Boy for another season, but Urinetown really felt right, not just for us, not just for our theatre, but also for our times. Also, we just recently produced the even weirder Yeast Nation, also written by the Urinetown team, Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann. And Greg told me that New Line is the only professional company to produce both their shows!

During discussions, we talked about the shows our patrons most often ask us to bring back. The list is always essentially the same, with very little variation -- Cry-Baby, Rent, Forbidden Planet, and Hardbody.

That left us with Cry-Baby, Head Over Heels, and Urinetown. All three shows about misfits trying to find their place and their way in the world, all three shows really tuned in to the current political and cultural zeitgeist. So we lived with that lineup for a while. And eventually, we knew that was our season.

But weirdly enough, back in 2010 and 2011, I almost didn't discover Cry-Baby. I love John Waters' movies, but this just wasn't on my radar.

The 2008 Broadway production was really bad. The director fundamentally misunderstood the world of John Waters, and he turned our heroes, the leather-jacketed Drapes, into really nasty assholes. But that's who the audience is supposed to connect with in a John Waters story -- the misfits! So the reviews were mixed to bad, and it ran three months. Nobody wanted to make a cast album.

But then one day, I was thinking to myself what a shame it was that the Cry-Baby musical was such a piece of shit! That story could be so great as a musical! And then I stopped myself. Broadway dismissed the brilliant High Fidelity, and then we proved how awesome it is! Maybe Cry-Baby is actually really good!

So I tracked down one of the writers, David Javerbaum, told him we were interested, and asked to see the script and score. I loved both. Soon after, I found myself sitting in a restaurant in New York, having Sunday brunch with the show's four writers, Javerbaum, Adam Schlessinger (of Fountains of Wayne), Mark O'Donnell, and the legendary bookwriter Tom Meehan! I never had a more entertaining meal in my life.

And not only did they agree to let us do the show, they decided they'd pay for new orchestrations for a six-piece rock band, which is what they had wanted from the beginning. And they gave me a free hand in "shrinking" the show down to a cast of 16. Ultimately, we really didn't change that much.

And so in 2012, we produced Cry-Baby to rave reviews and full houses -- it's still one of our top ten selling shows of all time. And Adm Schlessinger came to see us and was really pleased at how well it worked in a smaller house in a smaller production. We knew it would work -- we had done the exact same thing with High Fidelity in 2008, with exactly the same result.

Every time we do a show, one (or more) of our patrons asks me if we'll bring Cry-Baby back. So now we will. Cry-Baby is a prime example of the neo rock musical, but apparently, nobody on Broadway understood that's what it is. They also didn't understand that in the John Waters universe, the "bad kids" are the good guys, and the "good kids" are the bad guys!

(One cool side note about Cry-Baby...  After we produced it, other companies wanted to produce it as well, and for quite a while, we were the only contact that people could find, so New Line was a sort of unofficial broker for Cry-Baby rights. The same thing happened with High Fidelity and The Nervous Set. Hey, anything for a great musical! And now, Music Theatre International has picked up Cry-Baby, and now anybody can license the show. Which makes me very, very happy.)

I had heard a few good things about Head Over Heels, but it closed in New York after about five months. And I confess, once again, to assuming it wasn't a good show. You'd think I would've learned by now. I found out rights for HOH were being released, and decided I better take a look at it. I read about the show, and I found a bootleg video (shhhhh!), so I could actually see the Broadway production.

And to my great shock -- it's incredible!

Really smart, really insightful, really sexy, really funny, really surprising, and insanely high energy -- almost every song is a dance number! The biggest surprise to me was the show's sly mix of subtle-raunchy (if I may coin a hybrid) and genuine innocence. And on top of the astonishing trick of telling this wacky, upside-down story really clearly, I almost couldn't believe how perfectly the songs of the Go-Go's fit these characters and their story, set in 1580!

BTW, not just set in 1580, but based on a novel written in 1580!

The creators of this show made a world where all of these different elements feel exactly right, where the story and the period and the humor and the music all come from the same place. That will be our great challenge, but it's laid out so beautifully for us, all we have to do is follow the material. We've already scheduled twice the usual number of choreography rehearsals for this show.

I can't wait to share it with you!

Our third show of the season is one of the early masterpieces of this new Golden Age of Musical Theatre that we're lucky enough to be living in right now! This is no wacky parody. This isn't a show that can bear mugging to the audience or cheap schtick. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about meta-musicals and self-reference, and I wrote this about Urinetown:
I love Urinetown and I like very much The Producers, but those shows were both far more than just self-reference. Urinetown satirizes the simplistic, Rodgers-and-Hammerstein, black-and-white morality of old-fashioned musicals to demonstrate how inadequate it is in a complex real world. It mocks the way too many old-fashioned musicals ignore the complexities of the real world (because it's a lot easier to write that way), and it also mocks political theatre like The Threepenny Opera, with a strong political point of view that, in this case, gets totally subverted in the last few minutes of the show. The Producers is a story about subverting the creative process for selfish gains, and it's told by subverting the devices of the genre which is both the form and content of the story. Bialystock and Bloom violated the theatre and so did their story. In both cases, the self-reference grew out of the story rather than out of an inability to write good comedy.

I'll never forget seeing Urinetown for the first time on Broadway, and as soon as the opening number was over, I had this overwhelming feeling that someone had written a musical just for me! It was really cynical but really big-hearted. It was really dark but really hilarious. It struck me later that night that Urinetown was what Brecht would have created if he were still alive at the turn of this new century. And this tale of corrupt businessmen and corrupt politicians couldn't be more timely today. Again. Unfortunately. It's going to pack a powerful wallop.

One thing I remember very clearly though. People talk about what a crazy comedy Urinetown is, but it's not always funny. Parts of it are horrifying. Parts of it are disturbing. Just like Threepenny. I think that often, directors and actors don't let it be as ugly and fierce as it is, but that's exactly why it's so funny. It's an entirely ridiculous story (or is it?) populated by a bunch of ridiculous people frequently saying ridiculous things, and yet the storytelling style is so serious, so didactic, so self-important, so condescending.

And that's what's so funny. And the more seriously we take it, the higher we make the stakes, the funnier it all gets. It might sound counter-intuitive, but that's the nature of the beast, the neo musical comedy. I cannot wait to jump back into this brilliant madness!

It's a whole season of neo musical comedies, wacky, ridiculous, silly stories, about very important, front-page issues. Cry-Baby is full of big laughs, but at its core, it's about class and justice. Head Over Heels is incredibly silly on the surface, but underneath it's about gender and sexuality and orientation. Urinetown is utterly ridiculous in so many ways, but it also tells the truth about corruption, populism, and American politics.

And musical comedy.

We're very happy to report that the response to this coming season has been nothing short of stupendous. People are crazy excited! Last season, in only our second season of selling season tickets, we sold 100 subscriptions, which was great for a company our size, working in a small theatre. But already, just halfway through the summer, our season ticket sales this year are already up to 95 subscriptions! And 22 of them are new subscribers!

Thank you, St. Louis! If you haven't yet, you can order your season tickets here!

And I can't forget to mention the other really cool things going on this season -- our annual Trivia Night, hosted by Zombies of Penzance orchestrator John Gerdes, to raise money for New Line, on Sept. 13; and our annual New Line Holiday Dinner, on Dec. 4; and also a one-night-only, free, public reading of Gilbert & Sullivan's Bloody King Oedipus, their "long-lost" R-rated, horror-comedy, just recently "rediscovered" (you're welcome), on Monday night, Jan. 6.

If you thought The Zombies of Penzance was crazy, just wait...

PLUS, to my complete and total delight, this season we launch the New Line Theatre Film Series! During the runs of our mainstage shows, we'll take one night to show a companion film, related to the show that's running. We'll be showing John Waters' original film Cry-Baby during the run of the musical Cry-Baby, on Weds. Oct. 9; then Absolute Beginners during the run of Head Over Heels, on Weds. March 18; and finally Mack the Knife (an adaptation of Threepenny Opera), during the run of Urinetown, on Weds., June 17.

I think our film series is going to be really cool. We hope to do it every season from now on.

In fact, I'm so psyched about all of it, the shows, the films, the reading, the other events -- including the return of the New Line Cabaret Series at The Monocle! We've never had such an active season, but it's going to be a total blast. So much fun will be had.

In theatre, when a director asks an actor to face more toward the audience, especially when it's not a natural thing to do in the scene, theatre folk call that "cheating" or "cheating out." I don't. I call it "sharing." It's not just semantics. "Cheating" implies you're not doing it "right," or that you're duping the audience. "Sharing" implies you want the audience to come along on this ride.

For me, it's all about the audience coming along on these awesome rides with us. I find that I don't usually talk about being excited to "open a show" -- I usually talk about being excited to "share this show with our audience." It's a different mindset and it makes a difference in our work.

The great, unparalleld joy for me over the next year is I get to share a whole shitload of amazing stuff with you. All these things that make me so happy, I get to share. What's better than that?

Our 29th season and a whole new adventure starts soon. I hope you'll be coming along! Buy Your Season Tickets Now!

Long Live the Theatre!