Sweet Smell of Success (2017)

music by Marvin Hamlisch
lyrics by Craig Carnelia
book by John Guare,
based on the short story and screenplay by Lehman Engel
June 1-24, 2017
Marcelle Theater

Sidney Falco – Matt Pentecost
J.JHunsecker – Zachary Allen Farmer
Susan Hunsecker – Ann Hier
Dallas Cochran – Sean Michael
Rita – Sarah Porter
Madge – Kimi Short
Lt. Kello – Kent Coffel
Otis Elwell – Jason Blackburn
New Yorkers – Jason Blackburn, Mara Bollini,
Kent Coffel, Alison Helmer
William Pendergast, Michelle Sauer,
Christopher Strawhun, Sara Rae Womack

Conductor/Piano – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Trumpet – Kaela Barnett
Keyboard – Sue Goldford
Reeds – Steven Johnson
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergos

Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Choreographer – Taylor Pietz
Stage Manager – Patrick Donnigan
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Elli Castonguay
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Gary Karasek, Nick Brunstein,
Grace Brunstein, Paul Troyke, Richard Brown
Box Office Manager – Jason Klefisch
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“New Line Theatre sizzles with Sweet Smell of Success. . . The show casts unflattering shadows on the underside of fame, but the musical is spectacular theater and visually gorgeous. The story is compelling and captivating, the performances are uniformly strong and harmonically on point, and attention to detail adds the finishing touch on New Line Theatre's entertaining production.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“There are so many things to love about New Line Theatre's latest production, Sweet Smell of Success, that this review is certain to be filled with superlatives. . . Superior performances, a great band, and sharp direction make this show a must-see. . . a joy to behold. It's smartly conceived and executed, and completely engrossing. What's more, it's totally relevant to events we see transpire in the world of journalism today. ” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

Sweet Smell of Success is a string of firecrackers that detonates at dangerously close range. It's dark, it's dirty and it somehow tricks you into believing in the petty dreams of an ambitious scumbag, at least for a little while. And the best part? While those little explosions are still ringing in your ears, you realize exactly how you were duped — and your own complicity in the game Sidney and J.J. play with other people's lives.” – Paul Friswold, Riverfront Times

“In a sense, the stage has never been so empty. It's fully peopled, but it's a late night world of smirking nightclub owners and press agents and would-be ingénues, all starved for success, leaving humanity in short supply. It's the opposite of Our Town, where only the set pieces are meant to look fake. But don't worry, there's also a beautiful love story growing up between the cracks, like some defiant orchid. Romance, in fact, gains synergy under the direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor: the dominant, grueling cynicism of Sweet Smell of Success only makes the romantic subplot more compelling. . . It's a show that's full of kind-hearted people showing their tough edge, and tough-hearted people striving to show a kindly façade. The trick, as in real life, is in telling the difference between the two.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“New Line Theatre's Sweet Smell of Success Is disturbingly brilliant . . I’ve covered New Line’s show for a long time, and co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor do two things exceptionally well: find great material that may be better suited for their black box theatre at The Marcelle than the glitzy, over-produced attempts on Broadway, and cast some the best and brightest up and coming actors in the St. Louis area to perform it. . . When the acting in any show is so good you forget you’re merely observing the show and aren’t actually in it, they’ve got you. The entire cast of Sweet Smell of Success got me big time. . . tremendously entertaining. The plot is intricate without being difficult to follow, the songs are memorable, and the acting is top notch.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“A smart, intriguing, and endlessly entertaining story . . . Once again, New Line has produced a show full of incredible songs that I’ve never heard of – yet instantly fell in love with. Hats off to the New Line Band, directed by Jeffrey Carter, who beautifully transports the audience to ’50s New York with their endless talent. . . Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor bring home another winner with this twisted tale of success, and the rise and fall that inevitably comes with it. The music is fantastic, as the intriguing story pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the very end. The entire cast – from the principals to everyone in the ensemble – is extremely talented, and does a terrific job in bringing this tale to life.” – Kevin Brackett, Review STL

“It’s a blue world at New Line Theatre: kind of sad, kind of dirty, kind of blue in Marvin Hamlisch’s jazzy score for Sweet Smell of Success. . . That mood is established from the get-go by music director Jeffrey Richard Carter and the New Line Band. They sound as if they’re appearing at the Marcelle via time travel, on loan from a midcentury hot spot in Greenwich Village.. . .its smoky atmosphere thrives at New Line.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“The musical version of Sweet Smell of Success opened big on Broadway. . . Scott Miller, the founder of New Line Theatre, saw it, loved it – and realized it didn’t belong in a big Broadway house. He was right. Much of it takes place in smoky nightclubs of the 1950’s and in the equally smoky offices of press agents. Intimacy is good for the music, it’s good for the actors and it’s good for its effect. The only thing New Line’s current production lacks in reproducing that intimacy is actual cigarette smoke. . . Jeffrey Carter and the New Line band take good care of the score and the sound from Elli Castonguary is nearly perfectly balanced. Taylor Pietz’ choreography – and this is a dance-heavy version of the show – is fun, especially with the chorus, which has some folks who would have been right at home in Guys and Dolls. They’re a delight. Much credit to Miller and co-director Mike Dowdy-Windsor for this show, which manages to be a romp despite its very serious story.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“This is the kind of show that New Line does especially well–a show that might have been too ‘small’ in a sense for Broadway. It’s the kind of show where an intimate presentation in a venue like New Line’s Marcelle Theatre can be ideal, to scale this story down to its most important elements–the characters, the raw emotions, and the key concepts at play in this seedy, sultry, and sometimes downright scary morality tale that focuses on the down side of the quest for fame. . . This is a challenging, incisive story with an incisive message, richly drawn characters, and even more richly drawn settings. It’s an homage to Film Noir, tied to its time in one way, but surprisingly timeless in another, since the modes of communication and the names may change over the years, but human nature hasn’t changed, and neither have the temptations that come with the thirst for knowledge, influence, and especially power and control. Sweet Smell of Success isn’t always sweet, but at New Line and with this cast and creative team, it’s certainly a success.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“New Line Theatre captures the rhythm of Marvin Hamlisch’s jazz/rock musical score as well as the biting social satire about the dark side of the 1950s in John Guare’s book in its current production of Sweet Smell of Success. . . a well-wrought execution of a fascinating look at what some people remember as the ‘good old days’.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“Set in rollicking jazz clubs in 1950s New York, the current staging of Sweet Smell of Success at New Line Theatre pulses with a live jazz ensemble and excellent singing.” – Rosalind Early, St. Louis Magazine

“It's a must-see this summer!” – Lynn Venhaus, OnStL

I saw Sweet Smell of Success on Broadway in 2002, and I immediately realized this show doesn’t play by the same rules as most other musicals.

First, it's a very intimate story about four people with incredibly volatile, complicated relationships, and I think that doing the show in our small blackbox will be so much more intimate and more intense than in a huge Broadway theatre. Here, there’s no distance from these ugly, ferocious, fragile emotions, no safety.

Second, this is almost a jazz opera. Like Sweeney Todd, the music only stops periodically, to underline certain moments, to punctuate the action. But this kind of 1950s club jazz shouldn’t be a big, heavy, orchestral thing; it's an up-close, sweaty, sexy, subtle thing. A full Broadway orchestra, a big stage, and a big chorus, took the urban and the desperate out of the story. Our band will offer up the kind of sound you'd really hear in a jazz club in the 50s.

The reviews of the Broadway production weren't great, but I think they really missed the point. This isn't a conventional musical, if there even is such a thing anymore, and that's how they judged it. Like almost every show we produce at New Line, Sweet Smell is one of a kind. But like a few other shows we've done in recent seasons, it’s also a moral thriller. It will leave you breathless, and the Act I finale is a killer cliffhanger! More than any other show I've ever worked on, this is a virtuosic translation to the musical stage of the devices, tone, and atmosphere of film noir.

I'm reading some great books about that time and place, and about Walter Winchell, the real life Broadway columnist that J.J. Hunsecker is based on. What surprised me the most – and it made me understand better the high stakes in our story – was that sixty million Americans across the country read Winchell's nasty, petty gossip column every morning over their coffee. Sixty Million People. That's close to half of all the men, women, and children in America at the time.

J.J. has power only because sixty million people want their morning dirt. Like Chicago, Sweet Smell lays the responsibility for this nightmare world right at our feet. We are to blame for our own mess.

Oklahoma! this ain't.

In the age of Fox News, Breitbart, social media, and fake news, this show may be even more timely now than it was in 2002. We can never forget that information is power – and power corrupts.

Enjoy the ride!

Zorba (2017)

lyrics by Fred Ebb
music by John Kander
book by Joseph Stein,
based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis
March 2-25, 2017
Marcelle Theater

Zorba – Kent Coffel
Nikos – Dominic Dowdy-Windsor
Madame Hortense – Margeau Steinau
Widow – Ann Hier
Leader – Lindsey Jones
Pavli – Evan Fornachon
Mimiko – Devin Riley
People of Crete – Mara Bollini, Sarah Dowling,
Robert Doyle, Even Fornachon,
William Pendergast, Devin Riley,
Kimi Short, Sara Rae Womack

Conductor/Piano – Sarah Nelson
Bouzouki/Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Violin – Twinda Murry
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergos

Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Director – Sarah Nelson
Choreographer – Michelle Sauer
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Brendan O’Brien
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Asst. Sound Designer – Elli Castonguay
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson,
Patrick Donnigan, Richard Brown, Paul Troyke
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Videographer – Jason Contini
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“Filled with passion and genuine exuberance, Zorba is the most beautifully hopeful tragedy I've seen in quite some time. The score and dancing are evocative, drenched with the sounds of Greek folk music. The lyrics are filled with exposition and storytelling reminiscent of the classics. The musical tackles the story of humanity as told through the eyes of an aging man determined to squeeze every last ounce from his own life. . . Thankfully, New Line Theatre has produced a deeply satisfying and effective show that resonates with hope. Zorba is a compelling story. The performances are sharply executed and endearing, and, though the ending is sad, it is filled with joy and gratitude.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“New Line Theatre's production is a real revelation, because even though this show received its fair share of award nominations, it's really not revived that often. Perhaps it's the darker shades that pervade the show that turn some people off, but then life isn't always sunshine and roses, so I like that that those elements are present. This kind of presentation is something that New Line does better than anyone else, and that's to revive a neglected or forgotten show for a new audience to appreciate, and their track record is impeccable in this regard. This show is a genuine must see. . . Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor find the heart and humor that define this piece, and they have their cast deftly bring it to life for another generation to enjoy. . . Don't miss New Line Theatre's Zorba! It's not only tuneful, but it provides food for thought. A nice combination.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“For nearly all of New Line Theatre's existence, Scott Miller has brought a piercing, keen intellectual meaning to his shows; and now in the last couple of years there have been added layers of warmth and kindness and heart, thanks to this extremely knowledgeable director/producer/author, now working in tandem with co-director Mike Dowdy-Windsor. Plus, here, some pretty over-qualified actors on stage, and the songs of Kander & Ebb, from 1968, right after their blockbuster Cabaret.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“A lesser known musical by lyricist Fred Ebb and composer John Kander, Zorba demonstrates the duo’s remarkable talent for creating intriguing and intoxicating musical stories. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor take this rarely performed work and mine its rich potential in a highly entertaining presentation by their energized cast in the current New Line Theatre production. . . The production’s success is due in no small part to the exhilarating musical accompaniment of conductor/pianist Sarah Nelson and her band. . . Zorba the musical will lift your spirits with its wisdom and its zest and make you appreciate what you have all the more.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“The show is directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, a winning combination that started a couple of seasons ago. . . Their work on this production is another home run for New Line, packed full of great choreography and stage direction. . . Zorba is a musical that you may not yet know, but one that you will never forget. The songs are brilliantly crafted, telling a story of an unlikely friendship and the ups and downs that come with life. There is a significant lesson behind the catchy songs and wonderful performances that should not be ignored. Life is both good and bad, and you have to embrace everything that it entails to fully appreciate it. The show does an incredible job of teaching this lesson, and is non-stop fun at the same time.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“New Line Theatre’s newest production, Zorba, is a perfect example of the unpredictability of the one commodity that everyone holds most precious. . . Kent Coffel showed once again why he’s one of the best local actors in the St. Louis area. . . he can grab the attention of an audience in so many ways: booming voice, fantastic facial expressions, and deep characterization. . . His Zorba feels completely realized, more than just an actor’s notion of who the character is. To what extent he’s traversed the globe, how many unique adventures he’s had throughout his life, I couldn’t say. Kent’s gift as an actor is making you forget the actor completely and only see, in this case, Zorba. Every actor strives for that but not everyone achieves it. I tip my hat to Mr. Coffel on a job most beautifully done. . . I also tip my hat to the always sensational New Line Band....” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“Thankfully, New Line Theatre's current production of this rarely produced classic is a lived-in marvel of beauty and honesty. And it has a lot of bouzouki, which is always nice (the stringed Greek instrument is criminally underused in musicals). Much of the credit should be heaped upon the shoulders of Kent Coffel, who plays Zorba as an aged rake who loves sharing an instructive story almost as much as he enjoys pursuing women and breaking into dance. . . Zorba is a show that leads you into deep waters.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“New Line Theatre has given us a solid production with Kent Coffel in the title role and a solid supporting cast. Mr. Coffel has the zest and charisma needed for such an overpowering personality. He unabashedly swaggers into every situation, woos the women as if he knows they can’t resist him and handles the delightful music with a singing voice that matches the confidence of the character. . . A wonderful supporting cast who double up some pivotal roles are remarkable as well. Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor co-directed and they bring out the unusual story line and odd mix of characters full of life -- and even a few deaths -- with satisfying results...” – Steve Allen, Stage Door St. Louis

“While John Kander and Fred Ebb’s celebrated masterpiece Cabaret plays the Fox Theatre, New Line Theatre offers up a gemlike production of one of the team’s later, lesser-known musicals, Zorba. New Line has previously staged Cabaret, as well as Kander and Ebb’s Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman — all three with flair and intelligence. But with this zesty new production, New Line asserts a particular advantage that a small, idiosyncratic theater can bring to its community. It can mount the shows it chooses, shows we don’t see anyplace else. In this case, the gamble really pays off.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“It’s a good show for the intimate confines of the Marcelle Theater, full of storytelling and vivid characters. . . New Line always seems to cast first on the basis of musical talent and other considerations after that, and here’s another place where it’s rewarded, the chorus sounding really great. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have carried this off well, and Rob Lippert’s set and lighting work well. . . Despite the funny lines, this is ultimately a serious, thoughtful show and it’s given a good showcase here.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“After seeing Zorba at New Line Theatre last week, I decided to quit my job. Instead of work, I would go wherever my feet would take me, making my living with odd jobs, beholden to no one. By the time I got home, I had sobered up (or chickened out). But that’s the kind of impact Zorba can have. From the early assertion that 'life is what you do while you’re waiting to die,' through the penultimate song 'I Am Free,' Zorba sells a vision of life that’s not necessarily new (live every moment to the fullest and like it’s your last), but is extremely seductive. . . ” – Rosalind Early, St. Louis Magazine

“Sarah Nelson’s music direction is impressive, as is the band’s impeccable work. . .Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor emphasize the show’s ‘live in the moment’ philosophy, which is always good to be reminded of, and this production is all about living out loud. . . Zorba has the kind of message that makes us appreciate life as it is.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

“A celebration of the beauty and messiness of life itself. At New Line, this show is brought to the stage with energy, intelligence, and an especially strong cast in the leading roles. It’s definitely a show worth seeing.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Have you ever pondered the Meaning of Life? If not, you need to smoke some pot. If you have, we've got a musical just for you.

Zorba opens in a bouzouki parlor in Greece where a group has gathered to drink and tell stories. They tell us the story of Zorba and his philosophy of living life to the fullest.

So what is this brilliant, rarely produced show really all about?

On the surface, Zorba is a wild mashup of sex comedy, romantic tragedy, social commentary, and philosophical debate. All in one. Along with some wonderful Kander & Ebb songs. Zorba is very much like the other Kander & Ebb shows Cabaret and Chicago, except Zorba really isn't cynical, while the other two are almost entirely cynical.

Years ago, I was listening to the Zorba cast album and had a huge revelation. I recognized suddenly the subtle, stunning brilliance of calling the opening song “Life Is.”

It's not an unfinished phrase, which is what it seems on the surface. After all, the title is not “Life Is...” No, the point of the title – and the song and the entire show – is that Life just is. Or in my own lingo, “It is what it is.” No use trying to change it or rage against it. Life is good and bad and beautiful and ugly and tender and rough and everything else; and the only way to fully love life is to embrace all of it. The only way to be truly happy is to love all of life. Even when people leave us, even when they die.

That's the secret to happiness that Zorba knows and Nikos must learn.

Lots of people have told me they think Zorba is depressing, but they're missing the point of the show, and they're not listening to the opening number. It’s not depressing; it's just aware. When Anthony Quinn revived and rewrote the show in the 1980s, they changed the Leader's first line to, “Life is what you do till the moment you die.” A kinder, gentler Zorba. But Zorba isn't about the fear of making the audience sad: it's about the embrace of the adventure of living. Tonight you’ll hear the real lyric.

I had another revelation about this same song recently in rehearsal. What I realized is that “Life Is” is a debate, an argument; and so is the rest of the show. Our story, though so funny and emotional on the surface, is as much a philosophical debate as it is a romantic comedy-drama. Throughout the entire story, Zorba is teaching Nikos just as Socrates once taught Plato, through argument, through story, through parable.

Don't get me wrong, Zorba tells a straight-forward, linear story, but as with most Kander & Ebb shows, there's a whole lot more going on. Zorba achieves what Bob Fosse once called “Poetry, Popcorn, and Politics,” or in other words, artistic beauty, pure fun, and important issues, all in one.

It's an extraordinary show, as emotional and cerebral as it is rowdy and vulgar, and populated by a bunch of wonderful characters that you're really not going to want to leave at the end of the story. We’re very glad we get to share it all with you tonight.

Celebration (2016)

words by Tom Jones
music by Harvey Schmidt
Sept. 29-Oct. 22, 2016
Marcelle Theater

Potemkin – Kent Coffel
Orphan – Sean Michael
Angel – Larissa White
William Rosebud Rich – Zachary Allen Farmer
Revelers – Colin Dowd, Sarah Dowling, Christopher Lee, Todd Micali, Nellie Mitchell, Michelle Sauer, Kimi Short

Conductor/Piano – Sarah Nelson
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Keyboard 2 – Sue Goldford
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergos

Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy
Music Director – Sarah Nelson
Choreographer – Michelle Sauer
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Brendan O’Brien
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Scenic Artists – Patrick Donnigan, Richard Brown,
Melanie Kozak, Paul Troyke, Kate Wilkerson
Box Office Manager – Jason Klefisch
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“A sort of deconstruction and laying bare of the elements that make life so fantastic and worth living. New Line Theatre, in its visual and titillating production of Celebration, embraces the conceit with skill and fluidity. . . All the details fit together well and the effect is marvelous, creating the atmosphere of an exclusive party at a decadently fading disco. . . The songs are showy and catchy and the dialogue witty, allowing lead actors Larissa White, Zachary Allen Farmer, Sean Michael and Kent Coffel to shine. A little quirky and weird, Celebration is a delightfully provocative musical gem filled with intentional pomp and theatrical circumstance.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“I’m so glad New Line Theatre opened their 26th season with this fanciful and tune-filled musical. Through their superlative efforts we’re able to see the premiere of a version that’s been revised by Tom Jones. I’m not sure what was changed, but what we’re privy to is a very engaging and entertaining production that will make you wonder why it isn’t performed with more regularity. The score itself is gorgeous, and I cannot recommend this neglected gem highly enough. . . a genuinely fun experience. . . With a truly memorable score and many amusing moments, one wonders why this musical isn’t more well known and successful. That’s why I urge you to check out New Line Theatre’s wonderful production of Celebration.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have assembled an amazing cast to add polish and luster to Tom Jones’ and Harvey Schmidt’s musical. But they’ve also resurrected the forgotten style of a more beautiful time in this delightful piece. Aging hippies take note, your heart will find a home in Celebration. . . Part fable, part love triangle, and part 1960s hippie/Brechtian/Fantasticks-style love-in, this seldom-seen show succeeds brilliantly thanks to its post-Vietnam urgency, its post-Civil Rights egalitarianism, and perhaps even a soupçon of pre-Watergate naiveté—along with excellent leads and the sheer wit and exuberance of the whole ensemble.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“In a world full of remakes, rip-offs and rehashes, it’s nice to know that there are still surprises. . . New Line Theatre has proven time and again that what stumbles on the big stage can spring into life in a black box theater. Under the direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, New Line’s current staging of Celebration is a mystical journey that brings rebirth and rejuvenation.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“New Line Theatre’s world premiere of the revised Celebration features fantastic performances. . . This is a show that is a bit shocking, very funny and ultimately speaks volumes about the human condition. . . Once again, Scott Miller’s cast is top-notch. . . I’m extremely excited and honored to have been among the first few people in the world to see his revised version. I wouldn’t want to see it done any other way.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“The rediscovery of neglected work is one of New Line’s strengths, and this jazzy life-cycle fable has a lot to recommend it. . . .Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor make everything sing with the winsome, alluring voice that we’ve known and loved since The Fantasticks debuted in 1960.”“ – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Brisk and lightweight in appearance but abetted by universal themes of hope and beauty, age and death, Celebration is an intriguing musical written by the creators of The Fantasticks, which it strongly resembles in style and execution. The two-act story, first performed in 1969 and recently revised by bookwriter Tom Jones for New Line Theatre, is breezily performed by New Line’s cast within the cozy confines of the company’s Marcelle Theater under the watchful direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor. . . It’s rarely performed by professional companies in America, so do yourself a favor and make a resolution to experience the seasons of Celebration at the Marcelle Theater while there’s still time.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“Being an allegory, it’s a plot that must be experienced to be appreciated. Add the bouncy, cynical, often jazzy score and you’ve got the makings of yet another musical that fits perfectly into the black box of the Marcelle that is the home to New Line. . . Sarah Nelson leads a strong band which brings out the clever and exciting score. Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor co direct and set the mysterious and sometimes eerie feel of the story beautifully to stage.” – Steve Allen, Stagedoor St. Louis

“New Line Theatre is the first to premiere this revised version. Under the lively direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, the intimate black box space at the Marcelle seems like a marvelous fit.” – Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

“Under the innovative co-direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, this restless relic gets a new dawn, and a swell cast seizes the day, strange as it may seem. . . Music Director Sarah Nelson crisply leads four other superb musicians in Schmidt’s unmistakable compositions. . . While the show was created in turbulent times, pleading for a sliver of hope to emerge, its message — to survive in a very cold, cruel world is tough, but the noble choice, no matter how hard the struggle — remains timeless.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News Democrat

“The theme and mood of the production is stylishly presented, lending much to the overall entertainment value of the production and augmenting the performances of the excellent cast. Celebration is an entertaining production inventively staged. It’s not for everyone, as like almost all of New Line’s shows, this is for mature audiences. For the most part, Celebration is a witty, energetic, and extremely well-cast show that’s well worth checking out.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Celebration is an experiment. It’s a primal ritual drama about Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of fertility, love, sex, and wisdom, re-enacting the ritual of the hieros gamos, or Sacred Marriage, which takes place during the New Year Festival, symbolizing the union of the goddess Inanna/ Ishtar and her lover Dumuzi.

Doesn't that sound like a great idea for a musical comedy?

All theatre is ritualistic in some way, but Celebration isn't just a modern descendant of ritual; it is actually ritual itself.

Bookwriter-lyricist Tom Jones wrote in the introduction to the 1973 published script, “Celebration is different. It is a fable. It has ritual overtones. It is based upon ancient ceremonies depicting the battle between Winter and Summer. It was suggested by an editorial in the New York Times about the meaning of the Winter Solstice. It annoyed the hell out of some people. It delighted others. It ran for only 109 performances on Broadway. But it is done often around the country and the world. And it has been phenomenally successful in Scandinavia (where the Winter Solstice is something to be reckoned with).”

There is no subplot here, no secondary couple, no eleven o'clock number. No, our four leads are the four seasons. This isn't just a story about nature; this is a story of nature. This isn't a story about the passing of time; this is the story of time. There is no Fourth Wall. And our stage is infinite. Which means the audience's imaginations do much of the work.

This really isn't like any other musical you've ever seen. (I find that's true of a lot of the shows New Line produces.) This is ritual disguised as linear narrative. This is a storytelling experiment. The “story” here is just the changing of the seasons and the calendar, and the climax is literally the clock striking twelve on New Year's Eve.

At the end of his intro to the published script, Jones wrote, “We did Celebration first at our Portfolio Studio. It felt good there. It belonged. When we moved it into the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway, it didn't feel as good. It seemed somewhat silly up there, not because it was less effective than a Broadway musical, but because it wasn't a Broadway musical. Who knows? Perhaps we will do it again someday. With revisions. And in a proper place.”

Tom Jones has given New Line Theatre the honor of premiering his revised Celebration, right here in St. Louis in our beautiful blackbox theatre. A proper place, indeed.

Tell Me on a Sunday (2016)

book and lyrics by Don Black
music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
August 11-27, 2016
Marcelle Theater

Emma – Sarah Porter

Conductor/Piano – Nate Jackson
Cello – Eric Bateman
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Reeds – Harrison Rich
Bass – Jake Stergos

Director – Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Directing Intern – Daniel Washelesky
Music Director – Nate Jackson
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Michael Juncal
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Props Master – Kimi Short
Dialect Coach – Laurie McConnell
Scenic Artists – Patrick Donnigan, Gary Karasek,
Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson
Box Office Manager – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“New Line's Tell Me on a Sunday is surprisingly moving. . . as intimate as a handwritten letter, and as welcome, too. It's a surprising change of pace for the man who ambushed the world with the monstrous Starlight Express. Of course it's no surprise that New Line Theatre's season-closing production of the show wrings so much joy from Tell Me on a Sunday; the company has a way with musicals . . . a lovely little show that celebrates our human need for love. It's an undeniable winner...” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“This newest production's director, Mike Dowdy-Windsor (who's made this show deeply personal and witty and strangely enlightening), says this batch of songs, united by a single, complex character, is what Sir Andrew calls 'the definitive version.' The well-known composer is probably right: Sarah Porter has four or five necessary costume changes, and about as many (unseen) lovers through the roughly 70 minute musical. But what makes it definitive is that it's all so psychologically clear and enthralling, full of twists and turns and self-deceptions that we laugh at how deep it all goes, into Emma's dreams, and (often) into her scorn as well. It's like Sex and The City, without the sex; or Bridget Jones' Diary, with more than twice as many lovers. And in lieu of sex (and in lieu of Hugh Grant or Colin Firth), we get a boatload of great songs that take us on one stirring emotional journey after another, thanks to Ms. Porter's searching soul. It's a very fair trade.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“I was thoroughly enthralled and impressed by the production. The performance, transitions, and direction ensure the show is an absolute delight while establishing Sarah Porter as a rising star in St. Louis theater. . . Porter expertly handles the vocals and, under the direction of Mike Dowdy-Windsor, deftly navigates the emotional context of the story. . . What captivated and mesmerized me was Porter's remarkable performance, and for that I could watch the show again and again.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“This production by New Line Theatre is probably the closest you'll find to its original vision. . . it radiates perfection under Mike Dowdy-Windsor's direction, and in the process, provides actress Sarah Porter with an excellent vehicle to showcase her exceptional talents. . . a one person show would seem to be a rather daunting task for any performer to undertake. But Porter has the chops and the seasoning to completely personify Emma, making her character fully realized, and giving incredible voice to the beautiful score that flows constantly through the show. There are some truly special tunes among Webber and Black's compositions, and Porter completely inhabits each and every one of them, making us laugh at times, but more often, touching our hearts in a deeply personal way. . . I recommend that you see it as soon as possible. It's a real treat!” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

"Heartaches and hope are the recurrent themes of the Andrew Lloyd Webber one-act musical, Tell Me On a Sunday, which has been ferociously tackled by New Line Theatre. . . A feisty Sarah Porter, who has brought a number of independent, willful and lively women characters to vivid life for New Line, fearlessly seizes the intimate stage at The Marcelle Theatre, grabbing our hearts as she commands our attention for a 23-song cycle without an intermission. . . Porter gives a virtuoso performance, a marathon of mettle — a testament to her talent but also her ability to courageously show us every facet of this ordinary woman. . . This show is a stripped down, change of pace for New Line, and appealing summer fare to close their vibrant 25th anniversary season.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

“New Line Theatre’s local premiere of this one-act is an enjoyable and entertaining evening thanks to the sweet, clear voice and animated expressions of Sarah Porter as Emma. Furthermore, she’s given substantial support by the muscular musical accompaniment of the New Line Band under Nate Jackson’s disciplined musical direction. . . The tunes range from thoughtful ballads to spirited, body-swaying numbers which demonstrate Webber’s considerable musical range, while Black’s easy-going lyrics prove a wise match for the infectious melodies. . . a touching presentation of one young woman’s search for fulfillment in an often indifferent and complicated world...” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“Sarah Porter is pure magic . . . Gifted with beautiful eyes that capture your attention and a smoky voice that can crack wise one moment and make your lower lip quiver with deep emotion the next, Sarah is the perfect choice to play Emma as she owns the stage and the audience’s attention for a little over an hour with no intermission. . . a brisk but brilliant experience that cements Sarah Porter as a hometown star . . . I’m telling you right now to plan to see New Line Theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me on a Sunday as soon as possible.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“The show is not about incidents. It’s about feelings. Which Sarah Porter embodies with total conviction. She and her director Mike Dowdy-Windsor have thoroughly explored Emma’s psyche, and they bring an abundance of drama and variety to the piece, along with vivid characterization and lively movement. Porter pleases eyes with her costumes and ears with her singing.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

“Sarah Porter shines in Tell Me on a Sunday . . . As a member of the New Line Theatre ensemble, Porter has shown plenty of range in role after role, season after season. . . But she takes on her biggest challenge in New Line’s latest production. . . She meets that challenge with aplomb — and charm to spare.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Sarah Porter nails it, kills it and every other theatrical cliche you can think of with a stellar breakout performance. . . Sarah Porter not only sings the role with perfection, her acting is superb and she maintains that British accent throughout in a show that’s completely sung. Facial expressions, body language and the range of disappointment, hope and joy in her voice make for a character and a show that you can’t help but fall in love with. What a stunning performance.” – Steve Allen, Stage Door St. Louis

“Porter certainly does shine. It’s a remarkable performance, played out with an impressively believable English accent, as well. . . This is a show that could easily come across as more of a concert than a play, but thanks to the clever, dynamic staging of director Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Porter’s superb performance, that doesn’t happen here. This is a fully staged, fascinating story, centered around a complex character who is learning about herself as she learns about her world and her relationships. There’s a lot to talk and think about, as well as some real humor and drama.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Atomic (2016)

book and lyrics by Danny Ginges
music and lyrics by Philip Foxman
Orchestrations by Andy Peterson
June 2-25, 2016
Marcelle Theater

Leo Szilard – Zachary Allen Farmer
Trude Weiss – Ann Hier
Enrico Fermi – Reynaldo Arceno
Arthur Compton – Ryan Scott Foizey
Edward Teller / General Groves – Sean Michael
Physicist / Bartender / Factory Girl – Victoria Valentine
Leona Woods – Larissa White
J. Robert Oppenheimer / Paul Tibbets – Jeffrey M. Wright

Conductor/Piano – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Guitar/Keyboard – Adam Rugo
Cello – Eric Bateman
Bass – Jake Stergos
Violin – Twinda Murry
Percussion – Clancy Newell

Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Michael Juncal
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Patrick Donnigan, Gary Karasek,
Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson
Nuclear Physics Consultant – Kathleen Dwyer
Box Office Manager – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“New Line Theatre’s Atomic is thrilling. . . It is a complex story that presents multiple viewpoints on the purpose of applied science, the ethics of war, the depths of the human conscience and the dangers of bureaucracy. That’s a heavy load for a musical to carry, but New Line Theatre’s current production of the show makes it look effortless. . . What could be a play bogged down in conceptual arguments is instead a very human story about our best and worst tendencies as a species. Ambition, curiosity and altruism jostle with overweening pride, blind obedience and vengeance.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“Full of surprisingly humor and heart, this is great theatre, and I could tell from the discussions that happened during intermission, one that will surely provoke a lot of lively debate. It’s essentially must-see entertainment that will have you pondering many of its myriad of aspects and points of view long after the lights have dimmed. . . It’s the thoughtful and touching book and lyrics by Danny Ginges and music and lyrics of Philip Foxman that will really grab you. And, also the performances of a splendid cast. . . Atomic is an artistic triumph! New Line Theatre has succeeded in putting together a production that does this piece the justice it deserves. There’s warmth, humor, tension, and pathos to be found here, and it’s all been done with precision and care.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

Atomic is a musical blast with persuasive power. . . A fascinating, riveting examination of the moral quandaries faced by a group of brilliant scientists whose pursuit of knowledge had terrifying consequences. . . A musical score that fuses driving rock with pop melodies and well-placed ballads makes Atomic a sobering, compelling and engrossing story that blends facts with philosophy and morality in a reflective and intriguing way. . . this revised version of Atomic is gripping, gritty stuff...” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“History comes to life with a strong cast and an intriguing script in New Line Theatre’s production of Atomic, a musical account of the Manhattan Project. . . Atomic is a strong production and audiences who appreciate theater’s ability to spur conversation may particularly enjoy this thought-provoking show.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“A long forgotten but important historical figure gets his due in the zealous rock musical Atomic, which bursts with passionate performances, an expressive score and combustible conversations. New Line Theatre’s smart production features a synergetic ensemble fully committed to telling this complex, fascinating story about Leo Szilard. We Americans should know of him, but unfortunately many of us don’t. Call this thoughtful, accessible work by Australian book writer/lyricist Danny Ginges and composer Philip Foxman a noble public service and a surprising, welcome eye-opener. . . Atomic is a highly dramatic equation that adds up to an insightful and reflective show, allowing New Line to reveal another facet of its range, this time focusing on science while projecting a very powerful, bigger picture.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News Democrat

“If you think the theatre season in St. Louis is pretty much over when spring rolls around, think again. Atomic is ‘the bomb’ and well worth checking out. . . This cast is, quite frankly, ridiculously talented. I’d be happy to watch a production with any one of these fine actors, but all eight at once is a must-see event. . . Towards the end of the first act, the crowd started cheering and whistling after each song...” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“It’s the most cerebral rock musical New Line has ever staged. It might be the most cerebral rock musical ever written. That’s a compliment to the show, its performers and its directors, Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy. . . Atomic is a dark play, in keeping with its subject matter. But when the Enola Gay reaches Hiroshima, lights seem to explode above and all around us. That’s the darkest moment of all.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“You really have to give credit to the authors on one major point: they bring clarity and thoughtfulness to the complex problems of making the bomb, the terrible pressures to complete the task, and the social issues raised by all of this. Even in act one, great moments emerge again and again. . . There’s really no shortage of compelling performances, but each of their greatest moments come when they’re reduced to utter simplicity, in grief or ponderous shame, or in the wake of betrayal. . .Here, science is the language of the future, holding out the promise of the endless power of the atom. But these scientists will only be listened to when the talk turns to mass-murder. In New Line’s staging, it’s a time of impossible dreams and impossible choices.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy have energized the story by casting powerful singers and actors and bringing out the heart of the story without getting too sappy or preachy. . . As always, New Line’s musical maestro, Jeffrey Carter has put a splendid band together. . . Rob Lippert’s set and lighting design is spectacular.” – Steve Allen, Stagedoor St. Louis

“it’s an interesting show, far more about moral dilemmas than anything else, a good portrayal of near-unanswerable questions about justification for nuclear war. How far do we go, and what does it take to stop us? . . . It’s a good score, melodic and generally quite winning. . . Not easy theater. But quite interesting and very different.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats & Drinks

Atomic is still early in its life, only having had a handful of stagings after an off-Broadway run a couple of years ago, and though New Line’s run is over, it’s exciting to know that contemporary shows like this are being produced right in our own backyards.” – Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

“An extremely well-staged, well-cast, compelling piece of theatre. . . New Line’s production of Atomic is the show’s St. Louis debut, and only the fourth overall production of this intense, intriguing show. In the hands of directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, along with the first-rate cast and crew, the show is a fascinating examination of the history of nuclear development as well as a stirring examination of the moral dilemmas inherent in the project. It’s a story that’s sure to provoke much thought and conversation.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

New Line’s production of Atomic is the show’s fourth, after its premiere in Australia (where both writers are from), a brief run off Broadway, big rewrites, and then a production in Michigan.

I’ve realized as we’ve worked that this isn’t the kind of smartass, ironic story we usually tell, and I’ve had to be careful not to fall back on habits that better suit a different kind of show. There are moments of pretty dark irony here and there, but overall this is a very sincere, very earnest script, because these physicists take their work and the questions around it very seriously. And the stakes are astronomical.

The reviews of the show off Broadway often said this was a musical about the Manhattan Project, but that’s not exactly true. This show is about the morality and moral questions swimming around the making of the bomb. This is a morality tale, not a history lesson.

This is a show about Dangerous Ideas. Pandora’s Box. Which is why it has to be a rock musical. This is a story about big emotions, big rebellion (in various forms), big questions, and big moral complexity. Rock is the language of rebellion, of danger and wildness. What other musical language could adequately portray these people, their emotions, their rage, and their fear?

The energy and intensity of this story demand rock and roll.

I’ve realized that Atomic is not a Hero Myth story, as so many of our shows are. This is a Frankenstein story. Leo and his fellow physicists create a monster, which they lose control of, and it rampages through the world killing people.

The show’s writers have created a dual personality for this show, part Brecht, part contemporary drama. That duality is present in the story itself, in the battle between science and government/military, in the conflicted emotions of these characters, even in our own moral assessment of the atom bomb as we watch this story.

Maybe the coolest thing about Rob Lippert’s set for this show is that our audience watches this gripping, morally complex drama, with the other half of the audience – with America – as backdrop.

Like 1776 does, Atomic takes these historical figures out of the history books and gives them full, rich, complicated humanity. I can’t even imagine having to grapple with questions like this...

As with every show, my only job here has been to understand what Danny Ginges and Philip Foxman wrote, and then figure out how to make that as clear as possible to you, our audience. Not to impose a “vision” or anything on it, just to follow the script and score wherever they take us. This is good storytelling and we just had to trust it.

We hope you find this story as powerful as we do.

American Idiot (2016)

music by Green Day
lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong
book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer
March 3-26, 2016
Marcelle Theater

Johnny – Evan Fornachon
Will – Brendan Ochs
Tunny – Frederick Rice
St. Jimmy – Chris Kernan
Whatsername – Sarah Porter
Heather – Larissa White
Extraordinary Girl – Sicily Mathenia
Favorite Son – Kevin Corpuz
Rock & Roll Boyfriend – Clayton Humburg
Ensemble – Kevin Corpuz, Cameisha Cotton,
Clayton Humburg, Jeremy Hyatt,
Omega Jones, Sean Michael, Ariel Saul,
Tanya Sapp, Gabe Taylor

Conductor/Piano – Sue Goldford
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Guitar – Aaron Doerr
Bass – Andrew Gurney
Violin – Twinda Murry
Cello – Jessica Nations
Percussion – Clancy Newell

Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Michael Juncal
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Patrick Donnigan, Melanie Kozak, Gary Karasek, Kate Wilkerson
Box Office Manager – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

"Where does Scott Miller find so many appealing young performers for his New Line Theatre shows? American Idiot is no exception. The large cast – a mix of New Line veterans and newcomers – delivers passionate performances, sings with authority and moves (you can’t exactly call it dancing) with hormone-fueled abandon. It’s just the cast that Miller – the company’s artistic director, and co-director of this show with Mike Dowdy – needs for this angry and melancholy musical. . . But the show is at its strongest when the whole ensemble is onstage, a living force-field of alienation." – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"It’s the perfect musical for New Line, and for directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy: gritty and real, and entirely propelled by great music and magnificent singing under the baton of Sue Goldford. So many moments of outstanding vocal artistry come roaring out at us in the dark, sculpting (through punk rock!) and defining barely formed youth, that the characters become real in a way that reaffirms the highly poised ‘realities’ of opera itself. . . somehow, both the popular and the classical merge seamlessly, getting their full due in this very intricately sung yet captivatingly natural and highly compelling production." – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

"Entertaining and effective, American Idiot is a sensory onslaught that flashes with brilliance. . . A captivating reinterpretation of the American Dream. . . New Line Theatre mines these themes in a deeply satisfying production that features an abundance of young talent. . . The cast are uniformly strong singers and the interpretations of the songs are spot on. . . The themes resonate with contemporary audiences, and the talented cast invites them along for a nihilistic-tinged roller-coaster ride that entertains at every turn, making American Idiot a show not to be missed." – Tina Farmer, KDHX

"The disconnect I felt with the touring production vanished in the cozy confines of The Marcelle. . . This is a real hit, that genuinely rocks the house! . . . Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy dynamically reshape this show in a way that brings it right up in the audience’s face. There’s no disconnect here; you’re always plugged in. It’s an complete assault on the senses. . . Go see New Line Theatre’s production of American Idiot while you can!" – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

"American Idiot is a show about youth and raging against a world you live in but aren’t old enough to shape. . . The New Line Band rocks the shit out of the music, particularly guitarists D. Mike Bauer and Aaron Doerr. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy went with a narrow stage and a deep riser for the audience, more in line with a rock show than a play. The result is a close, sweaty show that feels alive at all times." – Paul Friswold, Riverfront Times

"Some insanely entertaining and thought-provoking musical theater is happening at New Line Theatre. . . Shows like this don’t often make it to venues in St. Louis, so take advantage of the opportunity to see this adrenaline fueled show before it’s gone..." – Donald Miller, Alton Telegraph

"With conductor Sue Goldford and her band delivering a raucous and resonating interpretation of Green Day’s music, meshed with boisterous performances by the cast under the careful direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, this American Idiot makes sense of the disaffection of youth in the post 9/11 United States. . . New Line’s presentation superbly captures the musical essence of the album and show as well as making the most of the straightforward plot. . . You’ll likely find yourself swaying and tapping along with the many infectious tunes by Green Day that are well adapted to the stage." – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

"The fury that simmers within generations of young adults is nothing new, but New Line’s current production of Green Day’s American Idiot, adapted from the band’s 2004 concept album of the same name, is painted in sharp-edged, pop-punk strokes that strike a familiar chord, particularly now. With the country in the midst of a divisive political season, Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer’s rock opera about coming of age in a post 9/11 world of uncertainty, taps into an angry restlessness that’s as palpable today as it’s ever been. . . This fully executed musical is magnetic, whether you’re a Green Day fan or not. With doses of surprising introspection, a dedicated cast and heart-pumping music, you’ll leave the theatre with a memorable high." – Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

"New Line Theatre’s American Idiot is a sly but powerful wake up call . . . New Line’s dynamic directing duo of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy has assembled another sterling cast of local and regional actors backed by the always excellent New Line Band." – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

"Generation X has something to say in American Idiot, and goes straight for the jugular to get our attention. New Line Theatre’s art provocateurs shake the rafters in the explosive regional premiere of the 2010 Tony-award winning musical, an in-your-face introspection for anyone disillusioned, submissive or seething in post-9/11 USA." – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

"Thanks to the New Line corps of young talent, it works beautifully with singers that are actors leading the way and the pulsing sounds of the Green Day score carrying us along. . . Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy bring their usual spirit and flair to the proceedings and keep the show moving at a frenetic pace." – Steve Allen, StageDoorStL

"The musical based off of the Green Day album American Idiot is rocking the Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center here in St Louis. New Line Theatre is known for producing edgy and hard hitting shows. This show is no exception. From the start to finish the show is a train ride that doesn’t slow or show mercy." – Erin Karll, Onstage

"American Idiot was an album first, and then it was a musical. Now, it’s on stage at the Marcelle Theater in Grand Center in a big, loud, angry, and extremely thoughtful production from New Line Theatre. With the first-rate singing that New Line is known for, as well as a stellar cast and striking physical production, American Idiot makes a strong impression. . . It’s a gritty, high powered, emotionally charged rock opera that presents a compelling picture of the lives of three young men on a journey for fulfillment in difficult times. It’s definitely not for kids, but for adults and older teens, this is a show that provides a lot to think about. It presents a striking auditory and visual tableau of life in early 2000’s America, with a soundtrack by a band that helped define the cultural atmosphere of that era." – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts blog

America is a very angry place right now. And boy, do we have some theatre for you that taps into that zeitgeist and tries to understand it...

It’s interesting to work on American Idiot, as Hamilton dominates the world of musical theatre. People talk about how Hamilton will fundamentally change the art form (and I think they’re right and I’m really glad), but it reminds me that Rent was just as paradigm shattering in 1996, just as revolutionary, just as "fusion-ary" and influential. I realize that American Idiot holds up the center of a political rock theatre trilogy. As tuned into its own zeitgeist as Rent was, so is American Idiot, and so is Hamilton.

American Idiot is a triple Hero Myth, as Johnny, Will, and Tunny all respond in different ways to the cultural upheaval of a post-9/11 world, and all three go on spiritual journeys to find their place in the world, their path – their “Real,” as Passing Strange would put it.

Heroes’ journeys can be concrete, as in an actual journey, or they can be interior. Or both. In American Idiot, director and bookwriter Michael Mayer gives us all three versions. Will stays behind, and his journey is interior, about learning to grow up and stop being selfish (just like Rob Gordon in High Fidelity). Both Johnny and Tunny take actual journeys, but Tunny literally goes to the other side of the world, while Johnny physically travels to New York, but then journeys inside through the use of drugs. All three of them travel to “the underworld” in one way or another, as many classic heroes do.

All the big ideas in the show are present in the original Green Day album but more abstract, more thematic, more metaphoric. In the context of our triple Hero Myth, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is no longer about the death of Billie Joe Armstrong’s father, but instead it transforms September into a symbol, the month that contained 9/11 and all the anniversaries, the post-9/11 mindset in its totality, forever with us. This song of personal loss and pain becomes instead a song about societal loss, and about social oppression and delusion. September becomes the culture of the War on Terror.

What’s different about these three journeys from their archetypes is this additional element not always present in stories like these. Not only do these men have to find their individual paths, but at the same time, a very aggressive, oppressive culture is pushing them onto a different path, into a mindset they know instinctively is false and toxic. The entire conflict of our story is set up in the first sentence of the show, "Don’t wanna be an American idiot!"

In other words, "Your Real is not my Real. Your fear is not my fear. Your path won’t get me to my destination. But how can I find my own Real, how can I avoid being an American idiot, if Bush and Cheney’s Real is the only Real anyone recognizes? How can I find my Real when their Real permeates everything?"

None of the three finds much good in the path he chooses, but ultimately we see the problem isn’t the three paths; the problem is the world has gone mad. And the triumph for any of our three heroes is in not going mad as well, each finding sanity in his own Real and staying on his own road, just as humans have done during times of turmoil and upheaval for centuries.

Just as our Hero Myths have taught us.

25 to Life! An Evening with New Line Theatre (2016)

a world premiere concert
January 5-6, 2009
Sheldon Concert Hall

Reynaldo Arceno, Mike Dowdy, Colin DeVaughan, Zachary Allen Farmer, Ryan Foizey, Nikki Glenn, Joel Hackbarth, Lindsey Jones, Taylor Pietz, Sarah Porter, Anna Skidis, Deborah Sharn, Kimi Short, Keith Thompson, Larissa White, Jeffrey M. Wright

Director – Scott Miller
Sound – Tim Albert
Lighting – Gabe Taylor
Pianist – Scott Miller

“Four Jews in a Room Bitching” (from March of the Falsettos) – Zak, Dowdy, Joel, Jeff
“Children, Children” (from Bat Boy) – Colin, Company
“Timid Frieda” (from Jacques Brel…) – Taylor, Sarah, Colin, Joel
“You Could Do Better Than Him” (from Bonnie & Clyde) – Rey, Jeff
“Once in a While” (from The Rocky Horror Show) – Ryan (on guitar), Larissa
“Sorry-Grateful” (from Company) – Keith, Joel
“Poor Child” (from The Wild Party) – Deborah, Rey, Kimi, Jeff
“Dear One” (from Kiss of the Spider Woman) – Nikki, Dowdy, Larissa, Ryan
“Ballad of Floyd Collins” (from Floyd Collins) – Colin (on guitar), Kimi, Zak, Anna
“Fight for Me” (from Heathers) – Anna
“The Stuff” (from Reefer Madness) – Nikki
“There Are Worse Things I Could Do” (from Grease) – Sarah
“Worse Things” (from Attempting the Absurd) – Larissa, Company

“Misery” (from Cry-Baby) – Ryan, Taylor, Zak, Sarah, Kimi, Lindsey, Company
“The Tale of Zachary Church” (from In the Blood) – Zak
“The I Love You Song” (from Spelling Bee) – Anna, Zak, Deborah
“Wicked Little Town” (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch) – Rey
“The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” (from The Nervous Set) – Lindsey
“Used to Be” (from Hands on a Hardbody) – Keith, Jeff, Ryan, Nikki, Anna, Taylor, Joel
“Deeper in the Woods” (from The Robber Bridegroom) – Dowdy, Company
“Moments in the Woods” (from Into the Woods) – Deborah
“This Plum is Too Ripe” (from The Fantasticks) – Taylor, Ryan, Joel, Dowdy
“You Don’t Know”/“I Am the One” (from Next to Normal) – Kimi, Jeff, Ryan
“A Great Big Cloud of Smoke” (from Johnny Appleweed) – Rey, Joel, Company
“The Hills of Tomorrow” (from Extreme Sondheim) – Full Company

Heathers (2015)

book, music, and lyrics by
Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
based on the film by Daniel Waters
October 1-24, 2015
Marcelle Theater

Veronica Sawyer – Anna Skidis
J.D. – Evan Fornachon
Heather Chandler – Sicily Mathenia
Heather Duke – Cameisha Cotton
Heather McNamara – Larissa White
Martha Dunnstock – Grace Seidel
Ram Sweeney – Omega Jones
Kurt Kelly – Clayton Humburg
Young Republicanette – Brenda Bass
Preppy Stud – Kevin Corpus
Hipster Dork – Colin Dowd
Beleaguered Geek – Alex Glow
Kurt’s Dad/Veronica’s Dad/Principal Gowan – Joel Hackbarth
Ms. Fleming/Veronica’s Mom – Lindsey Jones
Ram’s Dad/Big Bud Dean/Coach Ripper – Chris Kernan
Stoner Chick – Victoria Valentine

Conductor/Piano – Sue Goldford
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Bass – Andrew Gurney
Violin – Twinda Murry
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Reeds – Harrison Rich
Trumpet – Patrick Swan

Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy
Directing Intern – Jeremy Hyatt
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Choreographer – Robin Michelle Berger
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Gabe Taylor
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Kathleen Dwyer, Melanie Kozak, Gary Karasek, Kate Wilkerson
Box Office Manager – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy's witty, and at times beautiful, show goes deeper into the mindset of heartthrob killer J.D. than the film does. The original's dark and subversive edge is still present – hoo-boy, is it present – but there is also a tenderness that wasn't really possible in Reagan's America. In New Line Theatre's production (the show's regional premiere), directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy nurture that tenderness without shying away from the darkness. The result is a show that is sharp and unflinchingly honest in its depiction of high school killers, even with the remove afforded by satire. It is as entertaining as it is terrifying.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“Now you can see Heathers in all its pitch black glory with New Line Theatre's amazing production, which opens their 25th season. Not only is it a fantastic and edgy show, but it also marks their first presentation in their new venue, the Marcelle Theater (lovingly designed by Rob Lippert). This is a dazzling and intense show that features a smartly crafted book and score, courtesy of Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy, as well as an excellent cast and expert direction. This is beyond must-see entertainment. This is an accomplishment you absolutely have to check out. You'll be dazzled by its brilliance, and completely floored by the wonderful performances you'll be witness to.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“A racy rock score drives 120 mph into the dark, libidinous story with a narrative intelligence reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan on coke. This deeply disturbing story of bullying and the pressures of forced teen adulthood unfolds with truth and consequences, authentic sadness, and eventually, more hope than the movie was ever able to muster. . . This quirky, seductive rock operetta, with satiric teeth, tasteful tongue-and-cheek titillation and societal timeliness, is performed with musical intelligence and dramatic enthusiasm by a robust cast, many of whom seemed fresh and new to St. Louis.” – Chris Limber, Buzz On Stage

“It is an overwhelming experience—admirably put forth, but ruthlessly intense in the final twenty minutes or so. . . In the upside-down world of teenagers, where belonging is more important than almost anything else, the wicked girls' entrance is greeted with a heavenly choir of harmonies from the rest of the ensemble. Their overall musicianship, and the various forms of artistry that blossom throughout this Heathers, may be the greatest achievement of all. . . a rarely produced show that's challenging, lovingly produced and bitchy fun, as fans of New Line Theatre have come to expect.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“New Line Theatre kicks off its season, the first at their new home in the smartly renovated Marcelle Theater on the east end of Grand Center, with a bang. A little poison and a big bomb are also included in the dark comedy, but it's the heart, and a prescient message about teen isolation, mental health and violence, that may stay with audiences. . . The most surprising aspect of New Line Theatre's excellent production of Heathers may in fact be the insidious way the show cheerfully turns from dark humor to intense pathos – the story is affecting and the storytelling completely effective. The result is a spectacular production, with a breakout performance by Anna Skidis, that celebrates the company's 25th anniversary and new home.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“In New Line Theatre’s bold regional premiere, a fearless cast and crew is able to achieve a balance in tone that transcends vulgar lyrics and shock-value scenarios. . . co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy frame this jagged little pill in Reagan-Era Me Decade ephemera and infuse the characters with plenty of attitude. They understand that in order for the dark material to mean more than a typical coming-of-age flashback, the characters can’t be caricatures, and consciously steer away from camp. That gives the youngsters more emotional depth than initially drawn, resulting in dynamic performances and a show that doesn’t only entertain. The pair have harmoniously collaborated on a number of neglected musicals that needed New Line’s nurturing to thrive, and with their astonishing attention to detail, polish Heathers into a bright-colored gem. . . it’s indeed one of the standouts of the year.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

Heathers The Musical is an amazing way to kick off New Line Theatre’s 25th season. Once again, they’ve taken a diamond in the rough and polished it into a magnificent gem for the audience to behold. The show is packed with serious topics and thought provoking subject matter, but also manages to provide us with laughs and plenty of catchy tunes. The entire cast is overflowing with talent, ne’er a weak point to be found. This is one show that you do not want to miss while you have the chance.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“With sparkling performances by Anna Skidis and Evan Fornachon in the primary roles of Veronica and J.D., New Line’s Heathers continues the company’s rich history of bringing challenging musical theater to St. Louis audiences. . . Heathers is a good production of an offbeat little musical that typifies New Line Theatre’s strength: Offering a new look at established works or an introduction to little-seen gems that are revived with Miller’s innate insight.” – Mark Bretz Ladue News

“New Line Theatre kicks off its 25th anniversary in its new space at the Marcelle Theater with the premiere of the wickedly morbid and hysterical musical Heathers. Based on the 1989 cult film of the same name, this show has all the elements that theater-goers have come to expect from artistic director, Scott Miller: provocative themes, pathos, dynamic performances from its cast, and a cheeky sense of fun. . . Heathers is hysterically funny and outrageous and is a strong indicator that although the venue for New Line Theater has changed, its vision of entertaining and challenging audiences remains the same.” – Donald Miller, Alton Telegraph

“On Friday night, New Line Theatre celebrated its 25th anniversary in ideal fashion: It opened a smart new show, Heathers, in its sleek new theater, the Marcelle. . . Heathers – a hideous and hilarious musical inspired by the 1989 cult movie of the same name – continues New Line’s long look at kids in some kind of trouble: emotional, social, political, sexual. In shows such as Hair, Grease, bare, Passing Strange, Cry-Baby and Rent, New Line has explored musicals about teens and young adults trying to figure out how, or even why, to live.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“New Line’s anniversary kicks off with what they do best – providing hilarious, daring, sometimes unsettling, but always unflinching, insightful looks at the world we live in, and those on the fringes. Go see it.”—Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

“Tightly directed by Miller and Mike Dowdy, and interlaced with choreographer Robin Michelle Berger's work, it fits together like Lycra. Scenic design by Rob Lippert and costumes from Sarah Porter make it feel pretty authentic. Very funny despite some of the subject matter, it's a great opening show, well crafted and well cast, for the brand-new Marcelle Theater.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“It’s a dark, sometimes brutal show, but with a surprisingly hopeful ending, and it takes the high school movie genre and examines it in intriguing ways. It’s a spectacular production, highlighting the always excellent singing that New Line is known for, as well as some strong characterization and a great use of New Line’s new theatre space. Heathers the Musical is a hit.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“If Heathers makes you squirm a little, that’s good – it means they’re doing it right. . . Yes, Heathers – movie and musical alike – are shocking. They’re also cautionary tales about conformity, and morality plays about doing the right thing even if it makes you less popular. . . In many ways Heathers is more relevant now than it was in the late 80s.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

Heathers is quite a feather is New Line’s cap.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

Heathers is about selfishness, and the moral and emotional damage that come from it, maybe the inevitable result of the 1980s Me-First Reagan Revolution, a reaction to the turmoil and cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s. If the hippies believed in community, then community must be suspect. If the hippies condemned greed, then greed must be good.

Heathers is about the breakdown of institutions in 1980s America – the family, the community, the government, the educational system – as Reagan convinced many Americans to distrust our institutions, as he successfully turned government into a dirty word. Americans had always believed that We the People are the government, but Reagan changed that, portraying our system of government – our collective act of democratic self-governance – as a massive, scary giant who’s out to get us, in the process all but severing the sacred connection between The People are their government.

With no trust in our government, no trust in community, and a growing suspicion of The Other, Reagan turned individualism into a cult and delegitimized the responsibility to community that had always been such a cornerstone of American life. The myth of “rugged individualism” that played such a role in the settling of our continent was revived and deified, partly in response to the communalism of the 60s and the universal distrust Reagan nurtured in his followers.

Can we blame the kids in Heathers for being self-centered? Look at the world surrounding them, clueless teachers, ineffectual and/or absent parents, no role models, no responsibility to others, no empathy. This is the world J.D. wants to destroy, a cold, callous, selfish time and place that could produce the Heathers.

Most teen comedies are about conforming. If the lead character is unable to conform, they have to be “removed” from the community. But in Grease, Cry-Baby, and Heathers, it works in the opposite direction. In these stories, the protagonist goes from insider to outsider; but also at the same time, from outsider to insider, because both Grease and Cry-Baby present two conflicting communities. In Heathers, Veronica goes from outsider to insider, and then back to outsider again. Because in the world of Westerberg High, it turns out that being an outsider is way better than being an insider.

In the conforming 80s, much of our storytelling was about all this – to conform or not to conform – and after the turmoil of the 60s and 70s, many people were choosing conformity. Heathers is a cautionary tale about the dark side of “fitting in,” arguing that “fitting in” is an inherently selfish act. Veronica goes from being empathetic (which is the whole point of the first part of the opening number, “Beautiful”) to being callous and selfish, then finally back to empathetic again.

Today, as many in our culture continue to demonize The Other, Heathers is a blunt reminder to take care how we treat those Others…