Jesus & Johnny Appleweed's Holy Rollin' Family Christmas (2023)

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Scott Miller
Original Orchestrations by John Gerdes

Nov. 30-Dec. 16, 2023
Grandel Theatre
Show Webpage
Production Photos
Purchase the vocal selections here.
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THE CAST
Harry Goodson – Terrell Thompson
Bess Goodson/Johnny Appleweed – Kay Love
Tammy Goodson/Sandra Dee – Marlee Wenski
Chip Goodson/Jesus – Tony L. Marr Jr./Shane Rudolph
Uncle Hugh/Gerry – Tawaine Noah
Carolers – Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Stephanie Merritt, Lauren Tenenbaum

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Mallory Golden
Bass – John Gerdes
Reeds – Joseph Hendricks
Reeds – Alex Macke
Percussion – Brad Martin
Guitar – Adam Rugo

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Tony L. Marr Jr.
Choreographer – Tony L. Marr Jr.
Music Director – Mallory Golden
Stage Manager – Emily Floyd
Technical Director – Matt Stuckel
Costume Designer – Lauren Smith Bearden
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Scenic Designer – Dr. Rob Lippert
Lighting Designer – Matt Stuckel
Props Master –Erin Goodenough
Master Electrician – Stephanie Robinson
Scenic Crew – Corey Anderson, Richard Brown, Stephanie Robinson, Bill Stuckel
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS

“Christmas gets a wacky, if pungent, new look in Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas, a musical comedy having its world premiere at The Grandel Theatre in St. Louis. New Line Theatre producer and co-director Scott Miller wrote the very pro-marijuana show, with musical orchestrations by John Gerdes. And it features an impressive range of Mr. Miller’s original songs, many of which fall into a ravishing ‘cool jazz’ style. Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s ... is a story that manages to feel revolutionary, with some arch, comical family conflict. But it also gets us surprisingly high on the Christmas spirit, without a trace of second-hand smoke. . . and when the power of the singing matches the subtle ‘50s jazziness of the music, the show floats giddily along. . . It’s funny that you can take this much-less traveled road to guaranteed Christmas cheer, and get there all the same. The original music is very impressive, blending with sometimes pointed satire for a snarky (and oddly charming) holiday event.” – Richard Green, Talkin’ Broadway

“What if Seth Rogen, Charles Dickens, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cheech and Chong, Christopher Hitchens, Hunter S. Thompson, and John Waters decided to have a baby? If you placed their DNA in some sort of invitro Vitamix and hit the frappe button, one of the resulting octuplets might become Scott Miller, artistic director of New Line Theatre, who goes on to write the book, music and lyrics for the mildly subversive Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas. . . a welcome – if salty – palate cleanser from some of the holiday season’s other truly family-friendly options.” – CB Adams, KDHX

“A hilarious trip. Holiday revelers and partiers looking to take their celebrations to new highs should plan to pop into The Grandel Theatre for New Line Theatre’s original holiday musical spoof Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas. . . . The show is not for everyone, and is definitely not for children. However, it’s an upbeat musical spoof with a plethora of pointed satire underneath the holiday haze. For those looking for abundant laughs that gently but consistently poke fun at the season and social norms, Jesus and Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas is a great choice.” – Tina Farmer, The Riverfront Times

“New Line Theatre’s new musical, Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas, is a pot-laced Dickensian-Cheech & Chong-esque Holiday spoof that is reminiscent of when Saturday Night Live was in its heyday and was actually funny. . . It’s an irreverent musical comedy chock-full of laughs. While most of the jokes are related to changing times 7-decades ago, you don’t have to be a baby boomer to understand and appreciate Miller’s hysterical script. If you’re looking for funny, adult-themed holiday entertainment that is a complete diversion from more traditional holiday fare, Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas will certainly add some laughs to your holiday entertainment.” – James Lindhorst BroadwayWorld

“Founder and artistic director Scott Miller reprises his Johnny Appleweed character in the world premiere of his new musical romp, Jesus & Johnny Appleweed's Holy Rollin' Family Christmas, a fun-filled lampoon of Christianity, middle America and the straight-laced culture of the 1950s. . . This isn’t your family’s traditional Christmas story, if your family is that 'heteronormative' type described in the show’s second number. It’s likely however to become a New Line favorite.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“At first glance, the daffy Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas takes us back to the fuddy-duddy ‘50s, with the on-stage stylings of TV sitcom land when dads ruled the roost and moms vacuumed wearing pearls. But it’s far more subversive than that. . . As a tongue-in-cheek response to the War on Drugs and the Culture Wars, writer Scott Miller uses clever cultural references to make it clear how the bygone era, complete with hearty laugh-track type guffaws, was a white-bread wonderland where a middle-class suburban family has blinders on regarding diversity, inclusion, and sexual orientation. . . this resembles the audacious dark comedy material that John Waters and Charles Busch specialize in.” – Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL

“New Line is a theatre company that’s not afraid of taking risks. They’ve staged some excellent, smaller-scaled productions of musicals from the well-known to the obscure, and occasionally, like with their latest production, original works. Their latest production, written and co-directed by New Line’s artistic director Scott Miller, is a holiday show with a twist. . . Jesus & Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas isn’t a perfect show, but it’s new and it has a good deal of potential. The cast members seem to be enjoying themselves a great deal, and there are some memorable moments and an excellent sense of theme. If you like crass humor, and especially stoner jokes, this show should be a fun ‘alternative’ holiday production.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

AUTHOR'S NOTES

I was sitting on my couch, stoned out of my mind and watching Law and Order. I can watch the entire franchise over and over because I always watch it stoned and so I never remember any of the episodes when I see them again. I was in deeply contented couch-lock, as Jesus passed me the pipe and lighter and said, “Hey, why don’t you write another musical about us? It’s been seventeen years since Johnny Appleweed!”

I took a drag and passed it to Johnny who was now neck deep in the Wild West of profound stoner thought. “Have you guys ever seen Fantastic Voyage, where they put the heroes in a submarine and shrink them down really small and inject them into this guy’s body to fix some shit in his brain? We should totally do a stoner musical version of that!”

Johnny’s sentences are often really long.

We were all pretty sure we’d seen Fantastic Voyage but none of us could remember. The pipe returned to Jesus for a re-load and he said, “Well, don’t forget at the end of Johnny Appleweed, I ran for President. There’s your sequel!”

As I accepted the holy bud, it hit me. “Wait. Even better! I should write a stoner Christmas musical!”

“Holy shit!” Jesus smiled. “How did I not think of that?” And we all laughed. For a long time. A really, really long time, until none of us could remember what we were laughing at, so we loaded another bowl and sat in silence for a while.

Johnny said, “How ‘bout A Reefer Madness Christmas Carol?”

Jesus nodded, then, “A Reefer Madness Christmas is better.”

As I sparked up the bud, I said, “No, you guys, we can’t use that title. Those dicks who wrote Reefer Madness the Musical have trademarked the phrase ‘Reefer Madness’.”

Jesus exhaled a great big cloud of smoke and stoner-smiled. “Ah, fuck ‘em!” And we all laughed again.

My stoner gears were turning now. “A Holy Rollin’ Christmas.”

Johnny took the pipe and nodded. “But maybe it should be Johnny Appleweed and Jesus’ Holy Rollin’ Christmas. Since it’s a sequel.”

Jesus agreed. “Yeah, but do we really want to deal with that apostrophe after Jesus, and whether or not there’s another S after that, am I right? So maybe it should be Jesus and Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Christmas. You know, to keep it simple.”

Robert opened his eyes. “Put family in the title. Everything’s funnier with family.”

I tried it out loud, “Jesus and Johnny Appleweed’s Holy Rollin’ Family Christmas. Yeah, that is funnier.” We all agreed and loaded another bowl. After a few minutes, Robert started laughing and then we all did and we didn’t stop for about an hour.

Law and Order
is awesome.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2023)

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart
Based on the Roman comedies of Plautus

June 1-24, 2023
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Pseudolus – Kent Coffel
Hysterium – Chris Moore
Hero – Ian McCreary
Philia – Sarah Wilkinson
Senex – Robert Doyle
Domina – Ann Hier Brown
Marcus Lycus – Jason Blackburn
Miles Gloriosus – Danny Brown
Erronius – Gary Cox
Proteans – Nathan Hakenewerth, Brittany Kohl Hester, Aarin Kamphoefner

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Matthew Kauzlarich
Reeds – Kelly Austermann
Trumpet – Ron Foster
Brass – John Gerdes
Trombone – Adam Levin
Percussion – Clancy Newell

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Chris Kernan
Choreographer – Chris Kernan
Music Director – Joe Simpson
Stage Manager – Chelsie Johnston
Technical Director – Matt Stuckel
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Costume Designer – Eileen Engel
Scenic Designer – Dr. Rob Lippert
Lighting Designer – Matt Stuckel
Props Master – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Artists – Mallory Golden, Matt Stuckel
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Patrick Donnigan, Bill Stuckel
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS

“Producer and co-director Scott Miller embraces the later, greater Sondheim, in spite of the chronology, to reimagine a new Forum. And as if by magic, or science, a musical lineage from shows like Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods seems to lead us backward into Forum – almost as if Mr. Miller and co-director/choreographer Chris Kernan were predicting all the great plays to come, from an earlier, less highly regarded musical. Mr. Miller once again finds the full clarity and complexity of Sondheim’s music and musings, and that, as they say, turns out to be the ‘star’ of our show in this particular case. . . Their efforts pay off in the immaculate clarity of music and lyrics, in songs we can suddenly recognize as true to the overall legacy.” – Richard Green, Talkin’ Broadway

“Since 1991 Scott Miller’s New Line Theatre has been pumping out brilliant productions of edgy, mostly very modern musicals. Occasionally they’ll revive a grand old classic (e.g., Anything Goes, from the ‘30s). But now they’re going way, way back. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum premiered in 1962. And it reaches back twenty-two centuries! Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart picked juicy plot devices and characters from the Roman playwright Plautus. Plautus himself stole from what the earlier Greeks called ‘New Comedy’. To us it looks a lot like the old Borscht Belt and Vaudeville comic sketches. This is truly time-tested comedy. And at New Line it’s still dazzlingly funny! . . . The entire cast is strong. . . It’s another bright success for directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan.” – Steve Callahan, KDHX

“New Line Theatre’s production A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum succeeds due to Scott Miller’s directorial vision and the comedic timing of Miller’s strong cast. There are plenty of laughs in the First Act, but the second act builds to a crescendo of complete hilarity. . . downright madcap. . . keeps the audience laughing nonstop . . . big laughs throughout the show.” – James Lindhorst, BroadwayWorld

Co-director Scott Miller, founder and artistic director of New Line Theatre, does justice to his musical muse, Stephen Sondheim, with this well-paced, often hilarious and downright entertaining presentation of one of Sondheim’s earliest successes. . . New Line’s two-act, two-hour version delivers steady doses of comedy, with liberal sprinklings of delightful tunes. . . ‘Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight’ sing Pseudolus and company at the show’s opening, and comedy they deliver with hearty flair.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“It does have its dated elements, but at New Line, as usual, there are some new perspectives that emerge. For the most part, this is a show that revels in its humor, and at New Line, the focus is on the strong singing of Stephen Sondheim’s memorable score. . . New Line has become adept at scaling shows down for its venue, as well as bringing out nuances in stories that bigger productions can gloss over. . . New Line’s production is a lot of fun, with its small scale again working in its favor. It’s an enjoyable production especially for fans of Stephen Sondheim, goofy comedy, and great singing.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“Even with his reduced forces, Miller has made the climactic chase scene as funny and convincing as I have ever seen it. I don’t know a musical comedy that has more wild and crazy joy in it than this one. . . Thanks to the work of all New Line’s artists of the theatre, I once again had a lovely time at A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” – Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle

“In New Line’s new iteration, solid performances, a cartoonishly fitting stage design and exaggerated direction by Scott Miller embrace the sometimes cheesy, sometimes cheeky script and score, ensuring the show is entertaining in a nostalgic way. . . Thankfully, the jovial tone, over-the-top characterizations, dad jokes and much of the vaudevillian humor still work, ensuring New Line Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a recognizable nod to the original show.” – Tina Famer, The Riverfront Times

DIRECTOR'S NOTES

The Second Century BC Roman playwright Plautus wrote dozens of farces, skewering politics and politicians, the cultural elite, and other public figures. His satire was razor sharp, so when Burt Shevelove thought of combining some of Plautus’ plays and adapting them for the musical stage, that new adaptation would inevitably be just as ruthlessly funny, particularly coming as it did, right at the pivot point between the cultural conformity of the 1950s and the explosions and explorations of the 1960s.

In his book Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus, Erich Segal writes, “Of all the Greek and Roman playwrights, Titus Maccius Plautus is the least admired and the most imitated.” Plautus wrote more plays than Euripides, almost twice as many as Aristophanes, and three times as many as Terrence. Greek literature professor Moses Hadas wrote about Plautus’ characters, “They are like characters in Rabelais, not Cervantes; like the Marx Brothers, not Charlie Chaplin.”

As Plautus mocked the people and culture of his time, Shevelove and his eventual collaborators would likewise mock the culture of the early 1960s. Once adapted and musicalized, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum would be a stinging satire of the way American culture views women. Right there at the beginning of the Sexual Revolution, the show revealed American’s complex relationship with sexuality, both seeking sex and fearing it at the same time. Notably, one of Plautus’ favorite plot elements was the damnosa libido, the dangerous sex drive.

Co-bookwriter Larry Gelbart later said, “What treasure we found in his plays! There they were, running wild, appearing for the first time anywhere: the wily slave, the senile skirt-chaser, the henpecked husband, the domineering matron, the courtesan with the hair and heart of gold; page after page of mistaken identity and double meanings.”

Some of the critics really understood the Forum experiment underway. The music critic for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, wrote about Stephen Sondheim’s score, “For all the talk of Forum harking back to the days of good, clean farce; theatrically, it is an experimental work. It completely subverts the heritage of what is called the book show, handed down by Rodgers and Hammerstein, where the songs emerge from the plot. In Forum, the songs purposely interrupt the farcical plot, giving the audience a needed break from the madcap hysterics.”

Gelbart said, “Our goal was to construct a show based on Plautus, who, borrowing from the Greeks, taught amphitheater audiences up and down the original Caesar’s circuit to laugh for the first time at character and situation instead of those old staples they found so amusing – bloodshed and tragedy.”

Nine (2023)

Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Book by Arhtur Kopit
Based on the film written & directed by Federico Fellini
Adapted from the Italian by Mario Fratti

March 2-25, 2023
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Guido Contini – Cole Gutmann
Luisa Contini – Lisa Karpowicz
Carla Albanese – Sarah Wilkinson
Claudia Nardi – Ann Hier Brown
Liliane LaFleur – Kimmie Kidd-Booker
Diana – Kat Bailey
Mama Maddelena / Annabella – Kathleen Dwyer
Juliette / Voice of Little Guido – Brittany Kohl Hester
Renata – Chelsie Johnston
Our Lady of the Spa – Kay Love
Saraghina – Sarah Lueken
Guido’s Mother – Stephanie Merritt
Lina Darling / Olga – Julia Monsey
Stephanie Necrophorus – Gillian Pieper

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Jenna Lee Moore
Cello – Tyler Davis
Brass – John Gerdes
Reeds – Lea Gerdes
Violin – Mallory Golden
Reeds – Joseph Hendricks
Percussion – Clancy Newell

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Chris Kernan
Music Director – Dr. Jenna Lee Moore
Choreographer – Chris Kernan
Stage Manager – Cat Draney
Dance Captain – Stephanie Merritt
Technical Director – Matt Stuckel
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Lighting Designer – Matt Stuckel
Props Master – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan, Bill Stuckel
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS

“A powerful journey of self-exploration and introspection through the mind of an artist. . . The entire cast is truly fantastic. . . Nine is a fascinating look inside the mind of an artist, and both the inspiration and demons they face throughout their career. Filled with wonderful melodies and terrific performances, it’s an entertaining introspective that will keep audiences engaged from start to finish. You don’t have to see the original film to enjoy it, but chances are that you will want to by the end of the show.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“A spare but beautifully done stage musical revival in St. Louis, directed by New Line Theatre’s brainiac founder Scott Miller and energetic co-director and choreographer Chris Kernan. As you’d expect from New Line, it’s all lavishly sung, with a Cinemascopic eye for the period style, at the Marcelle Theatre. Sly and seductive, with all the psychological complexity you could ask for, this Nine is a lot more fun than I’d ever figured on. . . it’s flirty and confident and fun. In the beginning of Nine, Guido is the maestro, conducting the women. But by the end of this smart, spirited musical, it’s pretty clear these women have turned the tables on him.” – Richard Green, Talkin’ Broadway

“Thankfully, New Line Theatre has now given me and others the chance to see this unusual, fascinating show, which is ideal for this theatre company, known for its bold choices and excellent production quality, and especially great singing. . . There is also some of the best, most intricate ensemble singing I have heard at New Line, and with this company, that’s saying something. . . it’s staged and sung so well as to make audiences want to pay attention, and to ponder the issues being dealt with here. There’s drama, occasionally raunchy humor, intensity, and reflection. As is frequent for New Line, it’s a production that is simultaneously simple and complex, bringing out the truth of the material through authentic, credible performances and thoughtful staging. It’s a fantastic production.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Nine is a neglected show even though it received the Tony Award for best musical in 1982 and another Tony in 2003 for best revival of a musical. It should be no surprise that the local company addressing the neglect is New Line Theatre. The show’s rarity is reason enough to see New Line’s production. An even better reason is the excellence of the score and the staging.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

“New Line Theatre has made the story its own. . . a vocally gorgeous evening of songs that explore the vagaries of love, attraction and imagination.” – Tina Farmer, The Riverfront Times

“The singing is stellar, the story is satisfying and the New Line Theatre production of Maury Yeston’s and Arthur Kopit’s musical Nine is charming and intriguing throughout. . . Yeston generously spreads the musical numbers to many members of the show’s cast. In the case of New Line’s production, that’s a positive, since directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan have assembled a cast of performers who really know how to turn a tune.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“New Line’s production is passionate, compelling and enjoyable. Directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan have assembled a female company of thirteen powerful female voices that meld magnificently and make this score come alive. . . New Line Theatre has again put together an overall performance that is entertaining and enjoyable. This production of Nine succeeds because of the quality performances of every member of the cast and their ability to deliver strong vocals.” – James Lindhorst, BroadwayWorld

“The crème de la crème of local female vocal talent displays why they have earned those reputations in a lusty version of Nine, an exotic Felliniesque musical being presented by New Line Theatre. . . New Line’s glamorous production has a cast of 13 females who are connected to celebrated director Guido Contini, a womanizer going through a midlife personal and professional crisis.” – Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL

DIRECTOR'S NOTES

Federico Fellini's 1963 film is one of a handful of quirky, semi-fictional artistic autobiographies, by and about a genius. The others in that category are Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George; Stew’s musical Passing Strange; Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz; Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories; and in an ironic, smartass kinda way, also John Water’s Cecil B. Demented.

And in a manner that can only be called Felliniesque, the original film and its adaptations now form a wonderful kind of strange loop. The film was adapted for the musical stage in the early 1980s, retitled Nine, won tons of awards, and became an instant classic of musical theatre, originally directed, choreographed, and shaped by the great Tommy Tune. Then Rob Marshall adapted the musical for the screen. But Marshall made a film adaptation of both the original Fellini film and its stage adaptation. Marshall transformed the stage musical into a new Fellini film, as if Fellini himself were making a film version of the stage musical Nine.

I've been wanting to work on Nine since I first heard the thrilling cast recording in 1982. And I've always thought that it would be both a perfect New Line show and an incredible showcase for our incredibly talented and versatile local women actors. It turns out I’m right.

I remember the first time I saw , it was like I had never really seen all that movies were capable of before that moment, and for the first time I saw how much more film could do than what we routinely get from Hollywood. I felt like Dorothy Gale emerging from the sepia and into Technicolor. I've watched the Fellini film several times over the years, and each time I find more richness in it – and more sly comedy. I love it so much that it moved me to start exploring other Fellini films, each one of them wondrous and mind-blowing, in all the best ways.

Fellini gave his film its title as a meta joke: his lead character (and avatar) is so blocked artistically that his story doesn’t even get a real title (its first working title was La Bella Confusione); it just gets a number. Fellini had already directed six full-length films and one short, and he had co-directed two films, so was number eight-and-a-half.

Both the film and stage musical tell the story of genius filmmaker Guido Contini (i.e., Fellini) going through a very painful midlife crisis, an artistic crisis, and a complete emotional collapse – and all presented as a wildly entertaining, surrealistic comic romp, all happening inside the mind of this troubled, brilliant, creative man. The challenge for Guido is to recognize his toxic behavior and his terrible treatment of the women in his life, all of which has been tolerated by those around him, and finally, at age forty, to Grow Up. It’s a journey we all have to take.

Guido’s is just more fun.

Something Rotten! (2022)

Music and Lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick
Book by Karey Kirkpatrick & John O'Farrell
Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick

Sept. 22 -Oct. 13, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Nick Bottom – Chris Kernan
Nigel Bottom – Marshall Jennings
Bea Bottom – Carrie Wenos
Portia – Melissa Felps
Nostradamus – Jeffrey Izquierdo-Malon
Will Shakespeare – Clayton Humburg
Brother Jeremiah – Jason Blackburn
Shylock/Lord Clapham – Robert Doyle
Minstrel/Peter Quince – Chris Moore
Francis Flute – Mara Bollini
Robin Starveling – Kent Coffel
John Snug – Brittany Kohl Hester
Tom Snout – Ian McCreary
Helena/Psychic – Maggie Nold
Miranda/Astrologer – Alyssa Wolf

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Mallory Golden
Trumpet – Joe Akers
Guitar – Jack Catalanotto, Adam Rugo
Bass – John Gerdes
Reeds – Joe Hendricks
Percussion – Des Jones

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director – Scott Miller
Music Director – Mallory Golden
Choreographer – Alyssa Wolf
Technical Director – Matt Stuckel
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Lighting Designer – Matt Stuckel
Props Master – Todd Schaefer
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan, Luca Pritchett
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
Something Rotten! gets a delightful regional premier at the Marcelle Theatre in St. Louis this month, under the ebullient direction of New Line Theatre founder Scott Miller. . . I felt like a changed man after two hours and fifteen minutes packed with silly laughter and beautifully sung tunes. Unexpectedly, a lot of Mr. Miller’s usual background players seize the spotlight this time, and the sense of discovery is doubled – it’s not just a new musical to me, but a chance to see entirely different leading men and women telling the tale with fresh wit and emotion. . . If there were a prescription for joy, it would come with this show in the bottle. . . I often fail to capture in words how beautiful the singing is at New Line Theatre, and once again it’s one glorious solo after another.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“The playwright’s the thing in New Lines Theatre’s high-energy and highly entertaining production of Something Rotten! . . . The show is always a good time and New Line’s captivating, fast-paced production doubles the pleasure. . . Director Scott Miller hits the bull’s eye with less over-the-top slapstick and more interconnected and relatable humor in this production. . . New Line Theatre’s smartly interpreted Something’s Rotten! puts the emphasis on the natural humor and empathy that lies in the relationships, old and new, at the center of the play. The approach works marvelously well in the intimate Marcelle theater. . . Well-directed, well-rehearsed performers ensure the many humorously familiar lines and references flow naturally, with just an eyebrow or two raised in confirmation. The show is great fun for all ages with catchy songs, likeable characters and plenty of laughs from clever, relatable humor.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“This production of Something Rotten! is terrific. New Line Theatre's production delivers a robust number of laughs from a script filled with nonsense musical theatre references. Director Scott Miller has taken a big, overblown musical and effectively shrunk the performance to a smaller stage with a simple set. . . The entire ensemble delivers exceptional vocals and animated performances. Everyone in this company is first rate. . . New Line’s production of Something Rotten! is an exceptional reimagination of this asset. It illustrates how a smartly written comedy, in the hands of the right director and technical theater professionals, can effectively make the transition to any size stage.” – James Lindhorst, BroadwayWorld

“No matter if it’s a big Broadway show or a promising tryout that flew under the radar, St. Louis audiences know they can expect great productions from New Line Theatre. In the case of Something Rotten!, they’ve taken the hit musical comedy and turned it into an intimate evening of song, dance, and lots of laughs. . . Something Rotten! is one of the funniest shows of all time. The premise alone is hilarious, with a book full of witty dialogue and clever anachronisms. And the songs are fantastic, with memorable numbers coming one after another. . . Director Scott Miller has another winner on his hands, as audiences get to see one of the funniest, cleverest, and more original musicals of the past decade.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“New Line’s terrific production increased my admiration for the 2015 hit Broadway musical. . . Miller’s encyclopedic knowledge and boundless love of musicals make him an ideal interpreter of Something Rotten! His insightful program notes draw attention to the show’s warning that the pursuit of commercial success can be at the expense of personal and artistic success. Also, Miller points out that Something Rotten! uses the traditional form of the musical comedy in a modern, self-referential way. Miller gets the metatheatrical humor and knows how to put it across to the audience. New Line’s cast is splendid.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

Something Rotten! is a humdinger of a regional professional theater premiere from New Line Theatre. . . Fresh, funny, and frisky, the cast accepts their mission to have fun with the fluff, and the tight-knit ensemble is downright giddy frolicking in some of the most original show tunes in the past decade. . . Something Rotten! is a must-see comedic gem, a well-cast, well-staged show that’s a bright spot in local theater this fall.” – Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL

“New Line has proved over and over that they know how to take Broadway shows and find more substance while focusing on the characters, often by scaling down to fit their smaller company and performance space. Their latest production, Something Rotten! is another example of this concentrated approach, and for the most part, it’s a resounding success. With thoughtful direction and a great cast, and toned-down production values, this show succeeds in managing to find the heart of its story while maintaining the crackling humor and fun meta tone of the piece. . . It was big and flashy in its Broadway version, but director Scott Miller has impressively toned it down here, making it seem less derivative of the slapsticky tone of the works of Mel Brooks and Monty Python and more like a just as hilarious but also more character-focused story in its own right. With this toned-down approach, all the jokes still land, but the message and the heart ring even more true. . . Overall, Something Rotten! is a real treat. At New Line, it’s not big or flashy, but it looks great, and it distills the story down to its essential elements – music, comedy, truth, and heart. It’s a remarkable example of the idea that sometimes, less really is more.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
Sometimes, people think that because New Line produces only smart, socially and politically relevant, adult musical theatre, that we don’t do comedy. But we do a lot of comedy. As Aristophanes knew well, it’s much easier to deal with serious issues through comedy. It’s the “Spoonful of Sugar” theory. So though Something Rotten! is outrageously wacky and transgressive, it also deals with one of the most important questions in our society in the twenty-first century – what is success?

This story is all about defining commercial success, personal success, and artistic success – and realizing that they are not all the same thing, that they are in fact often in opposition. It’s the central conflict between our fictional brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom.

A few years back, I got to interview the real world Kirkpatrick brothers for my Stage Grok podcast when the show first came to the Fox on tour. They are two-thirds of the Something Rotten! writing team, along with John O’Farrell. They told me the idea of the show started with a wonderful What If that’s not only very funny, but unexpectedly resonant in a dozen different ways:

What if Shakespeare’s London operated like today’s Hollywood?

The extra insightful part of this juxtaposition is that Shakespeare’s theatre scene was a commercially competitive world, and Will made his living as a writer; so mashing up these two worlds reveals so much that the two share, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we see that Bottom’s mistakes all come from chasing that false god of commercial success.

One thing I’ve realized about the show as we’ve worked – in so many ways, it’s a perfectly constructed 1950s musical comedy, but so meta. It uses the tools and devices and construction of old school musical comedy, but it also acknowledges and undermines all those things at the same time. It’s exactly the kind of show I invented the “neo musical comedy” label for, using all those tools inherited from George M. Cohan and George Abbott, but for very different agendas, social, political, artistic, satirical, etc. Something Rotten! is a meta-musical, a show that acknowledges in various ways that it’s a show, referencing not just the show’s story but the act of performing of it as well.

There is a whole smorgasbord of crazy, wild, smart, transgressive, meta-theatrical stuff in Something Rotten! Cynical but idealistic, smartass but big-hearted, steeped in musical comedy tradition and also happily dismantling it. 1595, but also 2022. This is my kind of ride.

Urinetown (2022)

Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis

June 2-25, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Bobby Strong – Kevin Corpuz
Hope Cladwell – Melissa Felps, Grace Langford
Officer Lockstock – Kent Coffel
Little Sally – Jennelle Gilreath
Caldwell B. Cladwell – Todd Schaefer
Penelope Pennywise – Sarah Gene Dowling
Officer Barrel – Marshall Jennings
Mr. McQueen – Clayton Humburg, Chris Moore
Senator Fipp – Colin Dowd
Josephine Strong – Mara Bollini
Joseph Strong / Hot Blades Harry – Zachary Allen Farmer
Little Becky Two Shoes – Grace Langford, Jessica Winingham
Tiny Tom – Ian McCreary
Billy Boy Bill – Chris Moore
Robbie the Stockfish – Christopher Strawhun
Soupy Sue – Jessica Winingham

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Tim Clark
Reeds – Kelly Austermann
Trombone – Tom Hanson
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – John Gerdes

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Chris Kernan
Music Director – Tim Clark
Choreographer – Chris Kernan
Scenic Designer – Todd Schaefer
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“Was there ever a show like Urinetown, showing off this month with a jazzy new gloss at New Line Theatre? It’s a fantasy of a nightmare of a concept of a dream. And it barrels right at you, at a hundred miles an hour. New Line founder Scott Miller co-directs, along with choreographer Chris Kernan, and the crazy audacity of it just flies out of them both, with an outstanding cast and a very fine band. . . This is one of New Line’s strongest shows, where the company’s whole three decades of gritty, can’t-turn-away entertainments come to hard-driving, satirical fruition.” – Richard Green, Talkin Broadway

“New Line Theatre concludes its 30th-anniversary season with a boisterous, energetic presentation of Urinetown, still a witty and scathing satire on much that’s wrong with society more than twenty years after its Off-Broadway debut. . . With the declining state of politics today, Urinetown is as prescient as ever. This is not heavy-handed satire, though. Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann and their characters, Officer Lockstock and Little Sally, wink and nod at the audience directly throughout its two witty acts and two hours of smoothly paced running time in this version directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

Urinetown is smart, sassy, and relentlessly metatheatrical – that is, it calls attention to the fact that it is theater piece. These qualities put the musical in the wheelhouse of New Line Theatre, whose current staging of Urinetown is a thorough delight. . . Under codirectors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, the splendid New Line cast displays a sure grip on the style required to bring out the cheeky spirit of the book by Greg Kotis and the lyrics by Kotis and Mark Hollmann, who wrote the music.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

Urinetown is the meta, satirical musical we need right now. . . Right from the start, it’s clear that we are in for something special. Conventional musical rules are thrown out the window, and the show’s self-awareness leads to a fun and unique experience throughout the show. . . Urinetown is packed full of funny moments and memorable musical numbers, while at the same time begging the audience to think about how close some of the absurdity resembles the current state of the world. A biting satire and social commentary that never ceases to entertain, the show is non-stop fun that also seems more important than ever.” – Kevin Brackett, Review STL

“In the capable hands of directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, the talented cast of Urinetown gives audiences an exceptional and witty production that resonates with uncomfortable truth. . . Urinetown is a delightful and bouncy bummer of a comic musical. Poppy songs, potty humor, and funny double takes help deliver serious concerns about global warming as well as corporate greed and political corruption. Strong performances, pointed direction and an abundance of comedy ensure New Line Theatre succeeds in giving audiences an entertaining show with a thought-provoking edge.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“If Urinetown isn’t the best show that Scott Miller’s New Line Theatre has ever produced, the distinction is too fine to matter. This show – brainy, incisive, and so funny that it makes you choose between laughing and breathing – stands at the very pinnacle of New Line’s achievements. . . About the laughing and breathing thing – that’s no exaggeration. Should you hold your breath to make sure you hear the next hilarious line? Or should you just give in and laugh your head off? Both approaches have their advantages. Personally, I think it’s simplest to go to see it twice. . . This is wonderful grist for our Miller. With its neon political message and its unabashed love for the art of musical theater, Urinetown has in Miller a director whose own sensibility is perfectly in tune with the show’s material. It’s a love match.” – Judy Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

“Zeitgeist, meet Urinetown. In this Twilight Zone reality we seem to live in now in the 21st century, the subversive Urinetown the musical has never seemed timelier. Or funnier. Or scarier. What once was merely laugh-out-loud outrageous 20 years ago has morphed into a gasp-filled hit-nail-on-head satire where sleazebag politicians are even slimier, greedy corporate bastards are more cruel, ecological disaster seems more imminent and cries of revolution are not far-fetched but absolutely necessary. . . This cast has the vocal chops to entertain in lively fashion, and with nimble comic timing, hits the sweet spot between exaggerated naivete and cheeky irreverence. . . Co-directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan’s fresh take goes darker, which suits the capricious winds of an ever-evolving global pandemic that we have lived through for 27 months. Not to mention clinging to a democracy with fascist and authoritarian threats very much present. And hello, global warming.” – Lynn Venhaus, Pop Life STL

“It’s a dark comedy and a sharp satire, and at New Line, it’s a memorable experience with an especially strong cast, insightful direction, and a striking aesthetic. . . It’s a strong ensemble all around, with loads of cynical energy and strong vocals. There’s also excellent stylized choreography by Chris Kernan. This is a demanding show in terms of style, pacing, and overall theming, and all that is done remarkably well at New Line, under the direction of Scott Miller and Kernan. . . At New Line, Urinetown challenges, provokes, and ultimately entertains with a superb cast of local actors and singers. It may not be a happy musical, but it’s certainly a memorable one.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
When Urinetown opened on Broadway in 2001, it broke the musical comedy. In a good way. In a perverse way, it was the most honest musical to be written in decades.

The evil musical theatre geniuses Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann (also creators of the amazing Yeast Nation) took the long-perfected machinery of the American musical comedy, passed down to us from George M. Cohan through George Abbott, and they threw several big wrenches into that machine, pulled out some of its gears, smeared peanut butter on a few of the belts.

Even the weirder experiments of the past never broke it. They may have used that machinery for subversive and/or outrageous purposes (Little Shop, anyone?), and in the case of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, he ran the machine backwards. But everybody always kept the machine running.

Kotis and Hollmann broke it. In a good way. And in the process, they helped birth the neo musical comedy, shows that uses the tools and conventions of old-school musical comedy for darker, more political, more cynical purposes.

The opening number of Urinetown violates every rule of musical theatre openings – except for one, maybe the most important, Sondheim's Ten Minute Rule, which requires laying out all the ground rules for the evening in the first ten minutes of the show, ideally in the first song. (Think of Into the Woods, Company, Hamilton, High Fidelity, Next to Normal, Bat Boy, Be More Chill, Heathers, and so many other great shows.) Urinetown does in fact set up all the rules for the evening in the first song, but these are really different rules.

While most stories weave the central theme subtly throughout the story, Urinetown bludgeons us repeatedly all night with water and pee imagery. This world is familiar to us, but also different from ours, like a funhouse mirror of our real world, distorted, but still a mirror. We can count on certain things making sense, but not all things, and we can sort of see our own reflection. The storytelling seems unnervingly serious and perversely literal. The heightened style of acting mashes together the high formality of Classical Theatre with a gleefully silly plot and ridiculous characters and dialogue.

In some ways, Urinetown asks actors to actively go against their best instincts. But I've seen this weird alchemy work. I saw it on Broadway, and I directed the show for New Line fifteen years ago, with a fearless cast. It's been a blast to return to this upside-down world again.

Head Over Heels (2022)

Conceived by and Original Book by Jeff Whitty
Adapted by James Magruder
Music and Lyrics by The Go-Go's
Based on the 16th-century novel The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney

March 2-25, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Princess Pamela – Grace Langford
Musidorus – Clayton Humburg
Princess Philoclea – Melissa Felps
Mopsa – Dawn Schmid
King Basilius – Zachary Allen Farmer
Queen Gynecia – Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer
Pythio – Tiélere Cheatem
Dametas – Colin Dowd
Arcadians – Kevin Corpuz, Evan Fornachon,
Chris Kernan, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold,
Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf, Sara Rae Womack

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Nicolas Valdez
Lead Guitar – Aaron Rugo
Guitar – Jaylen Edwards
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – John Gerdes

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director – Scott Miller
Music Director – Nicolas Valdez
Choreographers – Michelle Sauer, Sara Rae Womack
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Courtney Gibson, Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan,
Patrick Donnigan, Kathleen Dwyer, Gary Karasek,
Luca Pritchett, Paul Troyke, Victoria Xu
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
"Head Over Heels thoroughly entertains. The themes and story are charmingly comic and completely relevant. The book’s light touch ensures its messages about love and acceptance are easy to embrace, even in flyover country. Miller’s engaging direction keeps the musical comedy upbeat and the audience involved through both uncertain and declarative moments. Most importantly, exceptional performances have the audience cheering for the characters and for love to conquer all while the infectious songs of The Go-Go’s perfectly hit the mark." – Tina Farmer, KDHX

"New Line Theatre, which was forced to close its hit production of the musical Head Over Heels with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, revives the show with an even better version this March. If the infectious music of the Go-Go’s and a witty, clever script are your choices of entertainment, you’ll be delighted with New Line’s effervescent presentation of this agreeable romp. . . The zesty, exuberant choreography created by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack is better and tighter in this new presentation than in the 2020 version." – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

"Two years later, Head Over Heels is back at New Line. The original production was splendid. So is the revival. . . The perceptive stage direction by Scott Miller in complete sympathy with the show. The score sounds wonderful thanks to New Line band under Miller’s musical direction. The dance numbers sparkle in the exuberant choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack." – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

“Exactly two years ago, when COVID-19 was about to cast the live theater world into a kind of suspended animation, New Line Theatre put on a dazzling regional premier of the Go-Go's inspired stage musical Head Over Heels. . . it's still a thrill to watch and to get caught up in the swirl of it. Head Over Heels' vocal and dance magic remains in excellent working order. . . It's a jukebox musical that transcends the category, reshuffling the popular 1980s girl group's songbook into a 16th century smash hit poem, complete with Day-Glo doublet and hose, and some very up to date gender pronouns.” – Richard Green, Talkin Broadway

"There’s a (near-riotous) party going on at New Line Theatre. Scott Miller and his merry band have unleashed Head Over Heels. Unleashed again, that is. Their first production was stopped in its tracks two years ago this month by the pandemic. Celebrate by heading to The Marcelle Theater and settling in for an evening of fun. . . And then there’s the choreography from Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, dazzling and athletic and in-your-face. . . Miller directed this, and he’s hit it out of the park. It’s a good example of the whole new world of musical theatre." – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

"Two years ago, New Line opened exactly the kind of show that makes this oddball company a treasure of St. Louis theater: hip, zesty and largely unknown. New Line founder Scott Miller has an uncanny gift for discovering these gems; I call it Playdar. . . Here’s the great news: New Line has mounted it again, in a hilarious production that involves nearly all the same actors and artists. . . A masterful, genre-crossing, achronological mashup." – Judy Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
WELCOME BACK! Can you believe it’s been two years?

We live in an age of mashup, the art of combining forms and content that shouldn't go together, to form something new and wonderful. Head Over Heels is one of the most interesting mashups I've yet encountered, slamming 16th-century Elizabethan language and morality up against 1980s punk-pop, and slamming them both up against the sexual and gender politics of America right now. It's a heady brew.

The result is breathtaking – funny, shocking, ironic, surprising, ridiculous, revealing, smart, insightful, and deliciously goofy. This show follows Stephen Sondheim's Cardinal Rule, that Content Dictates Form. In this world, love doesn't follow any normal rules, so neither does the show. Gender is nearly irrelevant here, and along with the royal family, we in the audience find many of our preconceptions and assumptions turned gleefully upside-down. But though sexuality permeates the plot, this isn't a story about sex; it's a story about connection and self-awareness, and how one requires the other.

Only after these characters are able to achieve some self-awareness are they able to connect meaningfully. And the road to that self-awareness is very painful for them and very funny for us. We can laugh at them partly because this show swims in 21st century irony, and that gives us some emotional distance, but also because we can all see ourselves and our own ridiculous romantic blunders in these characters and events on stage. And in that recognition, we in the audience also come to some amount of self-awareness and connection, along with the characters.

Every assumption we have is up for grabs in this world. Our usual ideas about gay and straight, male and female, love and lust, beauty and attraction, are all enthusiastically upended. And that often revealing dissonance between the real world and the world of Head Over Heels is the source of lots of rich, insightful, human comedy. We never know what's coming next in this modern fairy tale because this world operates so differently from ours. And that's the crazy fun of this adventure. It's never safe to assume anything in this world. Anything.

It wasn't all that long ago that catalog musicals (or jukebox musicals, as some folks call them) were just a punch line. At their best, those shows were guilty pleasures. But Jersey Boys showed us a catalog musical can be well-structured, well-written, and ultimately, really powerful musical theatre. Then Michael Mayer became the Hal Prince of the catalog musical, as he expanded and enlivened the form with the brilliant American Idiot, Head Over Heels, and Jagged Little Pill. Since we already produced American Idiot in 2016, it's been huge fun working on this show again, seeing how this rich sub-sub-genre is evolving...

The Story of My Life (2021)

Book by Brian Hill
Music and Lyrics by Neil Bartram

Sept. 30-Oct. 16, 2021
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Alvin – Chris Kernan
Thomas – Jeffrey M. Wright

THE NEW LINE PANDEMIC BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Scott Miller

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director & Music Director – Scott Miller
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designers – Chris Kernan, Jeffrey M. Wright
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein,
Kathleen Dwyer, Paul Troyke
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“Emerging from the pandemic for their 30th season, New Line Theatre is welcoming audiences back to live theater with The Story of My Life, an emotionally powerful two-hander about memory, friendship, individualism and, the power of words. . . Filled with moments of whimsy, innocence, laughter, melancholy, and loss, this sterling production stars Chris Kernan as Alvin alongside Jeffrey M. Wright as the uptight Thomas with artistic director Scott Miller framing the drama on keyboards. Watching Kernan and Wright feed off of each other is mesmerizing. Onstage their symbiotically linked performances overwhelm anything in their path. Working in tandem, each delivers a powerhouse performance. . . The Story of My Life is a profoundly moving and simply stunning work of theater.” – Rob Levy, BroadwayWorld

“If Scott Miller has a superpower, it surely would be finding the potential in shows that had too short a life on or around Broadway. The Story of My Life is another winner, so beautiful and moving – that you will find yourself thinking back to past relationships of your own and making sure you remember their stories. Jeffrey M. Wright and Chris Kernan turn in a pair of mesmerizing performances that will have you hooked until the very end.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“The 90-minute show by Brian Hill, with clever words and music by Neil Bartram, is short on overhead but long on life, with engrossing, storytelling songs. . . It's Chris Kernan's show as Alvin, the gleeful inspiration for all of Tom's stories. And composer Neil Bartram keeps the mood playful between the usual dark and painful memories of growing up. But Jeffrey Wright's performance, as Tom, suggests a psychological counter-melody: does one simply neglect a relationship to death; or (on some level) has he methodically set about to kill it? The question of abandonment looms larger, though the question of who's to blame remains tantalizingly in doubt.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“New Line Theatre opens its 30th anniversary season with a sparkling production of a two-hand musical ideally suited for a presentation in pandemic times – intimate and poignantly effective under artistic director Scott Miller. . . Miller has a knack for finding little gems and fully realizing their individual charms, as he’s done here with The Story of My Life. Kernan and Wright join him in ensuring that New Line’s return for its 30th season is a successful and rewarding one.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“For a story about death, centered on a eulogy, the show delivers a lot of joy and gratitude. The small, stage, designed by Rob Lippert, with lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, layers on the comforting vibes. And the nuanced, personal performances by Jeffrey M. Wright and Chris Kernan pay tribute to friendships and the shared experiences that form the stories of our lives. Affectionate and reflective The Story of My Life invites you in to Tom’s heart then wraps you in warmth like that first hug from a good friend you miss.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“The show’s rich emotional depth effectively builds to a heart-tugging conclusion. . . An outstanding collaboration by all involved, The Story of My Life has a lot to say. . . Holiday time or not, this show is a gift to theatergoers eager to feel 'the feels' that only live theater can provide. And a reminder about humanity in a time of great uncertainty and division. It could not be more timely – and timeless.” – Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL

The Story of My Life is a bit like jazz — a certain open-mindedness is probably necessary to appreciate it. But the show has a lot to say about embracing the moment and cherishing life. And it benefits from heartfelt performances that are splendidly complemented by Rob Lippert's scenic design and Kenneth Zinkl's lighting. . . Anyone who's coped with a difficult friendship — or reluctantly come to the conclusion that such a friendship simply wasn't worth the effort — should have no trouble relating to The Story of My Life. It might even be a good idea to bring a friend along.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“At New Line, this simply staged show displays a great deal of complexity in its characters and their relationship, and even though it might not be ‘big’ in the sense of size, it’s message is of profound importance. This is a very human show, with joy, with a very human heart.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“It was a daring move for New Line Theatre to open this season, of all years, with a play about someone writing a eulogy. Too many of us have had to do that, too many of us have thought we might have to do that, too many of us have thought, Oh, God, please don’t ask me to do that. It’s been a stinking couple of years, but the fact that someone was brave enough to think it was material for a play, two someones in this case, book by Brian Hill, music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, is impressive. Scott Miller, New Line’s founder and artistic director, is well known for his fearless approach to what he stages, and once again we have him grabbing life, giving it a good shake and holding it up for inspection.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“Scott Miller and New Line Theatre are easing themselves into the Reduced Pandemic Era with a small, pleasant production of a small, pleasant musical, The Story of My Life, with two actors and an accompanist. And while the production is not elaborate, the usual suspects are putting it all together with their usual skill and taste. . . Neil Bartram’s music and lyrics enrich the emotions in Brian Hill’s book . . . it is skillfully shaped to tell the stories of two lives.” – Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle


DIRECTOR'S NOTES
Welcome to Tom Weaver’s head. Tom is a writer, and the action of The Story of My Life takes place entirely inside his head. We meet his best friend Alvin, but since we’re in Tom’s head, this is Tom’s conception of Alvin, his impression of his best friend, more than the real thing.

You’d be surprised how many musicals take place inside the hero’s head – Company, Pippin, A Strange Loop, most of A New Brain, much of Kiss of the Spider Woman, much of Lady in the Dark, the title song of Jesus Christ Superstar, almost all the songs in High Fidelity. You’d probably be less surprised at how much that changes the story, when the hero’s subconscious is making the storytelling rules, instead of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

With The Story of My Life, Tom starts out trying to tell Alvin’s story, but by the end of the show, we see that it’s so much more complicated than that. Instead of laying out the story of their lifelong friendship in chronological order, this story is more like stream-of-consciousness. Rather than taking us down a direct narrative path, the structure of the show – like the structure of Tom’s brain – is more like a jigsaw puzzle. Tom and Alvin (who’s really Tom, right?) offer up one puzzle piece at a time, and when the last pieces are put in place, we see the full picture. And the show’s title becomes more meaningful.

This is an adult musical. It’s not R-rated, like New Line’s Bukowsical, Jerry Springer the Opera, I Love My Wife, American Idiot, or bare. This is a story about being an adult, about the adult world, about the endless complexities and maddening nuances of adult human relationships, and the messy, nagging question marks that sometimes remain.

This is a story about stories, the foundation of all human communication, what they are, where they come from, what we do with them, why we need them, and how they can define a life. This is also a story about the Butterfly Effect, the idea that a tiny, seemingly trivial change can create a chain of events that results in massive consequences.

In terms of narrative structure, that Butterfly Effect is essentially what some writers call the Obligatory Moment, that moment toward which everything before it leads; and from which everything after it results. Think of it as a “hinge” moment that divides the story into Before and After. (Like in West Side Story when Tony and Maria see each other at the dance; or in Rocky Horror when Brad and Janet decide to walk back to that castle.) Take out that Obligatory Moment and there’s no story.

You’ll see that moment just a couple scenes into The Story of My Life, and with it, I think you’ll recognize the Butterfly Effect in your own life, that one special teacher who said that one inspiring thing, or that consequential choice you once made. It’s a universal human truth. We all have Obligatory Moments in our lives. Which is why this makes such a great story and why we connect to it so powerfully.

Head Over Heels (2020)

Conceived by and Original Book by Jeff Whitty
Adapted by James Magruder
Music and Lyrics by The Go-Go's
Based on the 16th-century novel The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney

March 5-14, 2020 (closed early)
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Princess Pamela – Grace Langford
Musidorus – Clayton Humburg
Princess Philoclea – Melissa Felps
Mopsa – Jaclyn Amber
King Basilius – Zachary Allen Farmer
Queen Gynecia – Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer
Pythio – Tiélere Cheatem
Dametas – Aaron Allen
Arcadians – Kevin Corpuz, Evan Fornachon,
Chris Kernan, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold,
Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf, Sara Rae Womack

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Nicolas Valdez
Lead Guitar – Jake Heberlie
Guitar – Aaron Brown
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergos

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Directors – Nicolas Valdez
Asst. Music Director – Cullen Curth
Choreographers – Michelle Sauer, Sara Rae Womack
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Courtney Gibson, Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan,
Patrick Donnigan, Kathleen Dwyer, Gary Karasek,
Luca Pritchett, Paul Troyke, Victoria Xu
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“Could this be the greatest show New Line Theatre has ever put on stage? It is, in its brash, tight dance numbers, along with a dozen shimmering vocal solos. Highly professional dance and beautifully sung '80s pop music drive Head Over Heels like a fury. It's a stagey whirlwind, with an ultra-thin layer of Elizabethan style, in which a riot of candy-colored doublet and hose is wedded to the equally colorful modern music of The Go-Go's. . . Maybe it's just the smoothest, most relentlessly ‘Broadway’ musical they've ever done. Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor co-direct with genuine humor and sensitivity. But they're steamrollered by their own hard-charging chorus: a virtually flawless army of energetic singers and dancers, perfectly choreographed by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“A triumphant romp of musical theater. . . Guiding things from the serious to the surreal, directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have created a totally rad mashup that explores the themes of gender, compassion, political diplomacy that delights in not taking itself too seriously. Groovy to the max.” – Rob Levy, BroadwayWorld

“It’s hard to imagine a more joyful swirl of activity than theatergoers are treated to in Head Over Heels – a show improbably set to the music of the Go-Go’s. . . . Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor bring a freewheeling spirit to the proceedings, spinning a fantastical tale of romance that plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream fueled by controlled substances. . . Choreographers Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack apply inspired movement to Tom Kitt’s arrangements of Go-Go’s songs, and the New Line Band – led by music director and keyboardist Nicolas Valdez — lends the show an in-the-moment electricity. . . Head Over Heels occasionally succumbs to silliness, but the show is engagingly and relentlessly upbeat. It’s a party you won’t want to leave.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A wild and mind bending mix of cultures delights at New Line Theatre as the recent Broadway smash musical Head Over Heels keeps the audience rocking and laughing. . . Special props to the mind boggling choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack who also are part of the eight person chorus. Not only is the dancing complicated and dazzling, but is executed so well by this talented cast that it really makes you take special notice. . . Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have brought this trippy mix of the 16th and 20th century together in fine fashion with action, comedy and a group of actors who can pull off both with one of the strongest sung shows you’ll ever see or hear. And, of course, a nod to the powerful New Line Band under the direction of Nicolas Valdez who manage to keep up with the incredible nonsense swirling around on stage. Not to be missed, Head Over Heels is one of the best shows you’re likely to see all year (and it’s only March!). Get thee to New Line Theatre.” – Steve Allen, StageDoorSTL

“Who better to pick up a wildly fun show like this than New Line? . . . Head Over Heels is a plethora of riches for the senses. There is so much to take in at all times, and it’s an absolute blast. The bright and colorful costumes are beautifully designed by the talented Courtney Gibson and Sarah Porter – some of their best work yet. The music, as mentioned previously, is sensational – thanks to the New Line Band, lead by Nicolas Valdez and Cullen Curth. And Rob Lippert’s scenic design is terrific as always – complete with great pillars and a cave of skeletons who were once unlucky explorers. And the choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack is probably the best I have ever seen from the company” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“As is to be expected at New Line, the casting is strong, and the singing is especially impressive. Everyone from the leads to the ensemble puts in a winning, energetic performance, . . Overall, the look and feel of this production is in keeping with the catchy, bright pop score and the general comic tone that blends the classical and the modern in a cleverly inventive way. Head Over Heels is another example of one of those shows that seems to fit better in a smaller setting like New Line than on Broadway. Staged at New Line’s home base, the Marcelle Theater, this show makes the most of the space and the closeness to the audience, who are seated on either side of the performance area here. It’s a fun, colorful, energetic and thoroughly winning production that marks another success for New Line Theatre.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“New Line Theatre's current production Head Over Heels, directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, is a winning show about love, forgiveness and finding one's true self in a non-binary world. It also shows just how good the Go-Go's were as songwriters, as the New Line Band delivers absolutely crackling versions of the score's seventeen songs.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“New Line Theatre's hilarious Head Over Heels should not be missed! . . It’s flat out great – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup great – the highest form of flattery one can give a mash-up product like this . . . Head Over Heels features a tremendous cast from top to bottom. . . this might be the best choreographed production New Line has done yet.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“The music of the ‘80s all-girl rock group The Go-Go’s is joyfully incorporated into this offbeat jukebox musical given an endearing interpretation in its current incarnation at New Line Theatre. . . it’s definitely a good time, indeed.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
We live in an age of mashup, the art of combining forms and content that shouldn't go together, to form something new that reveals interesting truths. Head Over Heels is one of the most interesting mashups I've yet encountered, slamming 16th-century Elizabethan language up against 1980s punk-pop, and slamming them both up against the sexual and gender politics of today. It's a heady brew.

The result is breathtaking – funny, shocking, ironic, surprising, ridiculous, revealing, smart, insightful, and deliciously goofy. This show follows Sondheim's Cardinal Rule, that Content Dictates Form. In this world, love doesn't follow any normal rules, so neither does the show. Gender is nearly irrelevant here, and along with the royal family, we in the audience find many of our preconceptions and assumptions turned gleefully upside-down.

But though sexuality permeates the plot, this isn't a story about sex; it's a story about connection and self-awareness – and how one requires the other.

Only after these characters are able to achieve some self-awareness are they able to connect meaningfully. And the road to that self-awareness is very painful for them and very funny for us. We can laugh at them partly because this show swims in irony, and that gives us some emotional distance, but also because we can all see ourselves and our own ridiculous blunders in the characters and events on stage. And in that recognition, we in the audience also achieve some amount of self-awareness and connection, along with the characters.

Every assumption we have is up for grabs in this world. Our usual ideas about gay and straight, male and female, love and lust, beauty and attraction, are all enthusiastically upended. And that often delicious dissonance between the real world and the world of Head Over Heels is the source of lots of rich, insightful, human comedy. We never know what's coming next in this show because this world operates so differently from ours. And that's the crazy fun of this adventure. It's never safe to assume anything in this world. Anything.

It wasn't all that long ago that catalog musicals (or jukebox musicals, as some folks call them) were just a punch line. At their best, those shows were guilty pleasures. But Jersey Boys showed us a catalog musical can be well-structured, well-written, and ultimately, really great musical theatre. Then Michael Mayer sort of became the Hal Prince of the catalog musical, as he expanded and enlivened the form with the brilliant American Idiot, Head Over Heels, and Jagged Little Pill. Since we already produced American Idiot in 2016, it's been huge fun working on this show now, seeing how this rich sub-sub-genre is evolving...