It’s fairly common to experience the finished product from a writer or composer, but it isn’t every day that audiences get to see the first draft.
Aug. 23 will mark the beginning of the second annual Florida Festival of New Musicals, the Winter Park Playhouse’s own talent showcase. Roy Alan, co-founder and artistic director for the playhouse, put together the four-day event in 2017 for one simple reason — to provide a platform for writers and composers from across the county in the hopes their work will be picked up and become full-blown productions.
“Most musicals take on average — from the time it’s typed up, goes through the development stage, goes through a workshop stage, finally mounted with a full-blown production — up to seven years,” he said. “This is the very first step of that process. Audience members get that rare opportunity to see something that’s literally in its infancy and could have the potential to go to New York.”
A panel of musical directors and directors has been reviewing the materials, reading scripts and listening to the music scores since last September before deciding on the final six that will be presented at the festival.
The enterprise was designed after the National Alliance for Musical Theater’s festival that takes place every October in New York.
The playhouse received 18 submissions this year between September and December — six more than the first showcase — which took the volunteers longer to settle on their favorites. This year’s panel had five members, but Alan hopes to increase that to six or seven for coming festivals.
Festival attendees will be able to listen to the first act of each of the works, read and presented by 39 equity and non-equity actors from Central Florida and South Florida. The actors will be playing more than 50 roles with three musical directors, three directors and three stage managers making sure the show runs smoothly.
“(The audience), and anyone who comes to see it, will get a taste of what the show is and what it’s about, the music style,” Alan said. “Then there’s a talkback. … Each show is read three times over the course of four days, 18 readings altogether. It’s quite an undertaking; the logistics alone are mind-boggling.”
The authors, coming to town from New York, Virginia, Maryland and Australia, will be present for the audience talkbacks to receive feedback and offer explanations for character decisions and thematic dynamics. Alan said writers from a show last year were performing on-the-fly rewrites mid-festival based on feedback from the audience and that the show now has moved on to a theater in upstate New York.
One of the stipulations for the festival is that the scripts need to be unpublished, off-the-typewriter pieces. But that doesn’t mean they stay that way. “Gigolo: A New Cole Porter Revue,” a production that made its debut at last year’s festival, was picked up by the Winter Park Playhouse and is on its way to a showing in New York.
THE SIX SCRIPTS
DIAMOND AND THE NORTH WIND
Book by Jeffrey Haddow
Lyrics by Jeffrey Haddow and Thomas Tierney
Music by Thomas Tierney (New York)
Book by Jenny Stafford
Lyrics by Jenny Stafford and Scotty Arnold
Music by Scotty
Arnold (New York)
HOW TO MARRY A DIVORCED MAN
Book and lyrics by Bryan D. Leys
Music by Clare Cooper (New York)
MISS ISABELLA RAINSONG AND HER TRAVELING COMPANION
Book, lyrics and music by Ross D. Martin (Fulton, Maryland)
Book, lyrics and music by Alan Becker (Vashon Island, Washington)
THE STRANGER FROM SEVILLE
Book and lyrics by Victor Kazan
Music by Kevin Purcell (Melbourne, Australia)
IF YOU GO
Florida Festival of New Musicals
WHEN: Aug. 23 to 26
WHERE: Winter Park Playhouse, 711 N. Orange Ave., Suite C
TICKETS: $10 a show, 6 shows for $50
PHONE: (407) 645-0145