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...

Cry-Baby (2019)

Book by Mark O'Donnell & Thomas Meehan
Songs by David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
Based on the film written and directed by John Waters

Sept. 26-Oct. 19, 2019
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker – Caleb Miofsky
Allison Vernon-Williams – Grace Langford
Mrs. Cordelia Vernon-Williams – Margeau Steinau
Baldwin Blandish – Jake Blonstein
Pepper Walker – Reagan Deschaine
Wanda Woodward – Jaclyn Amber
Mona “Hatchet-Face” Malnorowski – Sarah Gene Dowling
Dupree W. Dupree – Marshall Jennings
Lenora Frigid – Aj Surrell
The Whiffles – Stephen Henley, Ian McCreary, Christopher Strawhun
Square Girls/Drape Girls – Grace Minnis, Maggie Nold
Judge Stone, DJ, Father Officer O’Brien, et al. – Todd Micali

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Nicolas Valdez
Lead Guitar – Jake Heberlie
Guitar Aaron Doerr
Reeds – Joseph Hendricks
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergoss

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Directors – Nicolas Valdez, Marc Vincent
Choreographer – Michelle Sauer
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Colene Fornachon, Evan Fornachon
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan, Paul Troyke
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“I think it's important to mention upfront that New Line Theatre's current production of Cry-Baby is one of the most flat-out entertaining musicals you're ever likely to see. In fact, it's such a rambunctious good time that it's easy to overlook its sharper points about the dangers of blindly following the rules, the perils of failing to question why things are the way they are and the absolute mortal peril of settling for a stable sort of unhappiness when you could have true joy. That's a great deal of very serious subtext for a show that is essentially about a greaser and a good boy fighting over the same girl. New Line Theatre has been doing this exact sort of musical for 29 years, and if you think co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor can't hide any number of satirical razor blades inside a delicious caramel apple, you haven't been paying attention. New Line's Cry-Baby is as intelligent as it is beautiful.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“It is a smart and ridiculous comedy, well-executed by its talented cast and crew, under the expert direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor. . . It is ludicrous, supremely entertaining, and leaves the entire audience laughing. But in case you didn't get your fill of humor, the New Line Band throws in a little extra cleverness as the audience exits. . . What Miller and Dowdy-Windsor are doing at New Line Theatre is something special to be sure. They are known for breaking the rules of musical theatre, for being the bad boys, and the result is a fresh, progressive theatre experience. If you like art that is in-your-face, not shy, and politically provocative, you'll want to invest your time and resources supporting their work.” – Tanya Seale, BroadwayWorld

“Now and then, the sequel (or the remake) is better than the original: in the case of Cry-Baby the Musical, much better. Drop everything and go see New Line Theatre's return to Cry-Baby, the unmistakably John Waters musical, for a prime example of something that's vastly improved with age. . . This new production is a pitch-perfect comedy from start to finish. It ripples with laughter and pulses with exciting songs. . . Somehow, all the subtle cues of a John Waters film are lovingly reincarnated into this grand stage production.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“Despite its slyly simplistic conflict and Happy Days vibe you may find yourself pondering the surprising depth of this show long after you’ve left the Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center. That squeaky clean veneer hides a relevant allegory of modern America, where the truth is obscured at all cost, where people who are a little different from the accepted norm are marginalized or shunned, and where the worst offenders are the ones who have claimed responsibility for upholding and protecting the moral fabric or our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our nation, for protecting the truths we hold self-evident while doing everything they can to deny some slice of the great American pie chart their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Look at those people through the Cry-Baby lens and you’ll realize just how many Baldwin Blandishes there are in positions of power, and how exceedingly rare a Wade Walker-style rebel truly is. I bet most folks think John Waters is just a dapper fellow with a pencil-thin mustache who writes funny little films, but don’t let him fool you. He knows. He deftly painted the fundamental truth of his tale over with broad strokes of comedy, knowing that most people will be satisfied with a few good laughs and a happy ending. I think he also invites you to look deeper, if you dare. Look no further to see for yourself why New Line Theatre’s presentation of Cry-Baby should not be missed, whether you’re a contented theatre fan or a dedicate truth-seeker.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“High-spirited and hilariously engaging . . . Cry-Baby rocks. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor apply the trademark, lightheartedly irreverent New Line touch to the show, which the company first produced in 2012. And they elicit spot-on performances — particularly from Caleb Miofsky and Grace Langford, who play off each other wonderfully. Also contributing significantly to the show’s success are the choreography by Michelle Sauer and the music direction by Nicolas Valdez and Marc Vincent. Some musicals enter the theatrical canon — a shortlist might include Cabaret, Oklahoma! and West Side Story. Others merely aspire to leave audiences smiling, and on that level Cry-Baby the Musical delivers.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“New Line Theatre brings John Waters’ quirkily appealing movie from screen to stage in an energetic production that features a clash between cultures – social and musical – that points out, in not so subtle ways, that the more things change, the more things stay the same. The production bristles with energy and hormonal frenzy that’s played for laughs, but delivers plenty of commentary on everything from classism to our definition of beauty.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“New Line Theatre gets its 29th season of adult, alternative musical theatre off to a smart, high-stepping start with the return of its delightful 2012 regional premiere of the rockabilly musical, Cry-Baby. . . Fast times in Baltimore and the clashing of cultures rule the day in this high-spirited, joyful romp of a musical. You’ll shed nary a tear for Cry-Baby but likely instead laugh and tap along in unison with its appealing music.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“Once again, directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have put together a youthful cast that sparkles with energy as they sing and dance their way through one hilarious song after another. The last time that New Line staged Cry-Baby in 2012, I wrote that you’ll laugh too hard to catch all the clever lyrics. That’s still true. . . . If you go for smart fun with a contemporary edge, this is the musical for you.” – Judy Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

“A rousing, fun new production. It’s one of those shows that seems made for this company, and the excellent cast of veteran New Liners and talented newcomers makes the most of every moment. . . .Overall, this is a great looking and sounding show with a satirically upbeat 50s flavor and broadly comic tone. With some truly great performances and a memorable score, Cry-Baby is a hit. It’s another example of a show that works better at New Line than it probably would (and did) on Broadway. It’s also (if I haven’t mentioned this before) a whole lot of fun!” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Cry-Baby offers a fresh take on the cult classic film that translates wonderfully to the musical stage. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor do what they do best, and breathe fresh life into a show that was taken from Broadway far too soon. The show will have you laughing non-stop, with terrific performances and great songs that are sure to stick in your head.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

"Boy, is it fun. . . This all sounds relatively wholesome except for the sideburns and leather jacket. But it’s John Waters, so be assured that it’s not. The songs range from the opening number “The Anti-Polio Picnic” to “Girl, Can I Kiss You with Tongue?”. (And this is before the MeToo era, very responsible of him to ask.) Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor’s direction gives quite a bit more than a generous amount of very wet osculation, making this pretty much a not-for-little kids show, no surprise at New Line. . . A delightful piece of work, escapism in a very fine form.” – Ann Pollock, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
Cry-Baby opened on Broadway in 2007 and closed less than two months later. New Line snagged the rights in 2012, and we mounted the first regional production after New York, to rave reviews and sold-out houses. So why bring back a show we've already produced?

With its themes of class and injustice, Cry-Baby is even more relevant now than it was when John Waters' original film was released in 1990 or when the musical debuted. Today in 2019, issues of class and injustice are more in the news and on our minds than they have been in a long time. Sometimes it even feels like we're moving backwards...

Cry-Baby is worth bringing back because this show seems more relevant than ever, socially, politically, and artistically, as we sit here, now well into this new Golden Age of musical theatre, and as our society stumbles awkwardly into the Information Age.

Under the surface of the narrative, this show charts a battle between Show Tunes vs. Rock and Roll. The Drapes sing rock and roll, and the Squares sing show tunes. And by the end, after an evening-long and surprisingly subtle sing-off, rock and roll wins.

This is interesting artistically because the musical theatre as an art form is having that same battle, which has been going on since the mid-1990s; and in the real world too, rock and roll is winning. Rock is becoming the default language of the American musical theatre. And now (at least, most of the time), the use of old-school show tunes is ironic, a device that tells us something about the character or story.

I’ve realized that every second of Cry-Baby is ironic. Even the music is ironic. The choreography is ironic. Literally everything about the show is ironic. The show opens with what seems on the surface to be a traditional, musical comedy “Happy Villagers” song, where the community introduces itself and sets up the environment for the story. (That kind of song is going extinct, though, since so few musicals today have a big chorus representing the community.) But in Cry-Baby’s world, the Happy Villagers are suburban snobs celebrating conformity.

In older musicals, the story often balanced on a question of whether the hero will be assimilated into the mainstream community or be banished from it. But in the case of Cry-Baby, this community isn't one you’d want to join. We're rooting for Allison to abandon the mainstream community to assimilate into the non-mainstream community.

The whole show is full of that kind of rich, deceptively meaningful comedy. On one level, this story is about seeing beyond the surface of people and things, but unfortunately, Broadway wasn't able to see past the surface of this script and score. We are. It's been such fun returning to this incredibly funny, incredibly rich material. Enjoy the crazy ride!

Be More Chill (2019)

Book by Joe Tracz
Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis
Orchestrations by Charlie Rosen
Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini

May 30-June 22, 2019
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Jeremy – Jayde Mitchell
Michael – Kevin Corpuz
The Squip – Dominic Dowdy-Windsor
Christine – Grace Langford
Jeremy’s Dad, et al. – Zachary Allen Farmer
Rich – Evan Fornachon
Jenna – Isabel Cecilia Garcia
Brooke – Melissa Felps
Jake – Ian McCreary
Chloe – Laura Renfro

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Keyboard – Marc Vincent
Guitar – Jake Heberlie
Reeds/Keyboard – Joseph Hendricks
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergoss

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Mike Dowdy-Windsor, Scott Miller
Music Director – Nicolas Valdez
Asst. Music Director – Marc Vincent
Choreographers – Michelle Sauer, Sara Rae Womack
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Crew – Joseph Brown, Grace Brunstein, Judy Brunstein, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan, Kathleen Dwyer, Paul Troyke
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“One of the coolest, freshest comedic musicals in years!. . . what makes Be More Chill work stunningly (stunningly, I tell you) is that it is wholly relatable to a new generation of theatre patrons. It includes edgy, modern pop references and sharp humor that extends all the way to Sarah Porter’s fantastic costuming and Kimi Short’s spot-on props. It features modern-day teen characters who speak modern-day lingo, who dress in modern-day fashion, and who cleverly and intriguingly use modern-day technology onstage. . . And really there are so many juicy, poignant, and truly funny moments in this fast-moving musical, you’ll want to lean in and listen hard so you won’t miss a single line. . . I can’t even begin to convey just how refreshing it was to see an audience respond so enthusiastically to musical theatre. It was almost as if the teenagers in the house were calling out, ‘Thank you! You see us!’ Productions like this are exactly what contemporary theatre needs to cultivate new audiences and Be More Chill certainly delivers on that tall order.” – Tanya Seale, BroadwayWorld

Be More Chill is the perfect show for New Line. It has the rock spirit of American Idiot, and the high school drama of Heathers – two shows they have staged incredible productions of in the past. Throw in some sci-fi and technological elements, and you have a kick-ass rock musical about growing up in modern times. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – Artistic Director Scott Miller has a seemingly supernatural ability to find the best shows and bring them into the spotlight. In the case of Be More Chill, it was already rediscovered – but not before Scott got his hands on it. With Mike Dowdy-Windsor, who he co-directed the musical with, they staged one of their best productions in recent history.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“Under Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller’s bright direction, New Line’s Be More Chill is a startlingly fresh musical that avoids cliche to tell an exciting and at times very funny story about modern teenagers with a sci-fi twist. . . . As good as Joe Iconis’ songs are (and the New Line band, led by Marc Vincent, plays them very well indeed), Joe Tracz’ book is equally compelling. An off-hand factoid about stagnating human evolution dovetails quite tidily with the Squip’s motivations for disseminating more of itself through the school. This is the real menace of life lived by remote control, and everything in Be More Chill hinges on someone ‘just saying no’ to technology-laced drugs. For all its charms and honesty about the bad decision-making of high schoolers, Be More Chill’s gripping conclusion proves that not everyone takes the easy way out. It takes only one brave teen armed with a fondness for retro ‘90s culture to stop the madness. Uncoolness never looked so good.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

Be More Chill, the nonstop hilarious musical. . . is a perfect match for the playfully exuberant New Line style. Co-directors Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller establish and explore a groove in which the energetic songs and irreverent humor create an atmosphere of sheer exhilaration. And the cast is outstanding. . . Teen angst has rarely been so entertainingly outrageous.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Every generation has a musical that captures the zeitgeist of the moment, that speaks to them in a special way. My generation of Baby Boomers had Hair, Gen X had Rent, Millennials had Spring Awakening and now Generation Z has the current cultural sensation Be More Chill. It’s fierce, fun and frisky. . . The well-cast ensemble, playing 11 characters, sparkles. Each one has taken this show to heart with so much enthusiasm that it carries over to the audience, which included many young fans expressing their delight at every opportunity on opening night. Their joyous embrace of a show that defines how they feel, look and act is refreshing. The powerful connection between actors and theatergoers is electric and palpable. The performers feel every word and the audience responds in kind. . . Be More Chill is fresh and funny, and not in a jaded ‘we’re so clever and smart’ way, but with real heart, and that may be the most important aspect – the emphasis on real. The musical, in lyrics and book, speaks to us in a captivating way that transcends labels and genres. It targets our humanity. To make people feel less alone in this world is a remarkable thing.” – Lynn Venhaus, St. Louis Limelight

“New Line Theatre takes on teen angst and social anxiety with a spectacular production of Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz musical interpretation of the novel Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini. Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have assembled a phenomenal cast, headed by Jayde Mitchell, Kevin Corpuz and Grace Langford, and ensure that every detail supports the compelling story. Musical director Nicolas Valdez and conductor Marc Vincent provide driving arrangements that keep the pace quick while complementing the individual voices and shared harmonies. Though the plot trajectory is familiar, the results are relatable, funny and thoroughly captivating. . . . The energetic musical rides through the highs and lows of teenage emotion like a multistory roller coaster through a dense forest – you’re never 100% certain which way the story’s going to twist and it might fall off the rails at any moment, but the ride is a total blast.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

Be More Chill is a compelling excoriation if you’re young, and a sort of vintage/antique shop of the mind if you’re old, as we all struggle to understand this brave new world. . . . Be More Chill is built around the classic conflict of individualism and the pressure to conform to a group identity, which seemed to delight the younger members of the audience opening night. And the struggle between those two forces becomes unexpectedly wrenching and dark near the end....” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“This is a perfect New Line show, and how Scott Miller managed to present it so soon after its Broadway opening (in March) is a wonder. Once again, Miller and co-director Mike Dowdy-Windsor have pulled together a young, talented cast, still scratchy around their rough edges, to tell a story almost anybody who went to high school can appreciate. . . the intimate, bare-bones style of New Line’s production truly suits a show about a situation that everybody goes through but that each of us has to experience alone.” – Judith Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

Be More Chill should be on everybody’s radar. I am sure a lot of other local theatre groups will be performing it over the next few years, but the regional premiere run at New Line is truly special.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast


La Cage aux Folles (2019)

Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Based on the play by Jean Poiret

Feb. 28-March 23, 2019
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Albin / Zaza – Zachary Allen Farmer
Georges – Robert Doyle
Jean-Michel – Kevin Corpuz
Jacob – Tiélere Cheatem
M. Dindon / M. Renaud – Kent Coffel
Mme. Dindon / Mme. Renaud – Mara Bollini
Anne – Zora Vredeveld
Jacqueline – Lindsey Jones
Francis – Joel Hackbarth
Les Cagelles
Angelique – Jake Blonstein
Chantal – Dominic Dowdy-Windsor
Hanna – Evan Fornachon
Bitelle – Tim Kaniecki
Phaedra – Clayton Humburg
Mercedes – Ian McCreary

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Piano – Nicolas Valdez
Reeds – Kelly Austermann / JD Talman
Trumpet – Ron Foster
Trombone – Tom Hanson
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – Jake Stergos

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Director – Nicolas Valdez
Choreographers – Michelle Sauer, Sara Rae Womack
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Props Master – Erin Goodenough
Carpentry and Scenic Artists – Richard Brown, Paul Troyke, Melanie Kozak, Nick Brunstein
Scenic Crew – Joseph Brown, Atticus Bruner, Grace Brunstein, Judy Brunstein, Kathleen Dwyer, Timmy Folsom, Gary Karasek, Sam Pickering, Kayla Walker
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“La Cage aux Folles can be presented as simply a frothy, weightless farce, but here, directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor opt to show how love deepens over time, which gives their La Cage both weight and depth. That depth burnishes the laughs and sweetens the froth immeasurably. . . It’s no mistake that the strongest family in the show remains the aging gay couple who get their groove back, even as the man who stands for ‘family, morality and tradition’ gets his comeuppance.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“Stylish, spirited and spectacular, La Cage aux Folles is the kind of show at which New Line Theatre excels. Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor elicit laughs and whip up an atmosphere of barely controlled hysteria without shortchanging the more poignant moments in the book by Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots) and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!). And music director Nicolas Valdez and choreographers Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack are thoroughly in sync with the show’s madcap demands. . . La Cage aux Folles premiered on Broadway in 1983. Decades later, the show continues to thrill and delight – and hasn’t aged a bit.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“This was my first time seeing La Cage aux Folles, and I was blown away. There is so much packed into this show – singing, dancing, romance, humor, emphasis on family and being yourself. And La Cage never ceases to entertain while developing these complex characters and their compelling story. . . Directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor do what they do best here, which is take an already brilliant show and somehow make it even better. The staging is perfect, with great casting and direction which makes these characters come to life in a lovable and believable fashion. I’ve seen several versions of this story now, but I have certainly found my favorite one at New Line.” – Kevin Brackett, Review STL

“When New Line Theatre sets aside its Sondheim and puts on a bright and florid Jerry Herman show like 1983’s La Cage aux Folles, director Scott Miller’s expertise tempers the entire project – underpinning a delirious drag fantasia with moments that can be heartbreakingly grim, and which are deeply authentic. And by making the lows so resonant, the high moments gain an almost crystalline clarity. Thanks to music director Nicolas Valdez, choreographers Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, and the back-up singers (Les Cagelles) on stage, La Cage still sings and dances and shrieks like mad.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“One the one hand, La Cage aux Folles is a celebration of being who you are and finding someone you love enough to want to grow old together, no matter gender or age difference or political background. On the other, it’s a night at a swanky music club, complete with a big band, led by Nicolas Valdez, and belted out show tunes all dressed up in sparkle and big hair. . . .Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor keep the focus on delivering entertaining big numbers and touching scenes driven by deep love and affection – both for the show and its quirky, heartwarming characters.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“I’ve seen Zachary Farmer in many New Line productions and have always been impressed. His voice is simply sublime: rich and smooth as warm cream, with a power that never seems even to approach its limits. A rather portly, slightly balding gent of middle years, he was perfect six years ago in the role of Charles Bukowski, the drunken derelict ‘poet laureate of low-life’. How could such a man become an icon of real feminine glamour? How could Farmer be ‘Zaza’? Amazingly he triumphs in it! Sensationally gowned and wigged, with quite superb make-up and just a pinch of corsetry, he attains that strong-jawed Joan Crawford beauty – but instead of the hard cruelty of Crawford, Mr. Farmer fills Zaza with deep love and genuine emotion. He’s stunning. He makes La Cage aux Folles belong to Zaza as much as Gypsy belongs to Mama Rose – but unlike Mama Rose, Zaza is a character we can readily love.” – Steve Callahan, BroadwayWorld

“Years ago, New Line founder and artistic director Scott Miller branded his troupe ‘the bad boy of musical theatre.’ Miller co-directed La Cage aux Folles with Mike Dowdy-Windsor, and in its way it’s just as surprising as some of the more subversive works the troupe has presented: It’s probably the least-queer show in the New Line canon. . . Why see it again? Because New Line’s production at the Marcelle gives La Cage an intimacy that seems just right for a little family story. And because it gives a performer with a lot of New Line fans a role they had never imagined for him. It’s a treat all around.” – Judith Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

“New Line Theatre has staged another remarkable production with their rendition of the modern classic musical La Cage aux Folles. As often happens at New Line, this production distills the essence of the show and brings out its human drama, emphasizing character and relationships, along with the excellent singing that I’ve come to expect from this company. In addition, it’s also sparkly and dazzling, with a strong ensemble and a truly stunning performance from one of New Line’s most recognizable players. . . I hadn’t seen it on stage until New Line brought it to the stage with its usual insightful, inventive style. This is a fun show with a lot of flash, but it’s also a very human show, with poignancy and wit and charm. It’s another winning production from New Line.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“New Line Theatre offers its take on the venerable, Tony Award-winning musical by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman, delivering a crowd-pleasing rendition led by Zachary Allen Farmer in a triumphant performance as the charming and resilient Albin/Zaza. . . La Cage aux Folles can be both naughty and nice. New Line’s presentation, under Miller’s and Mike Dowdy-Windsor’s studied direction, succeeds at both.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“La Cage Aux Folles remains timely, and important, and most importantly, fun. As always, La Cage boldly stands up to hypocrisy, ignorance and self-righteous prigs with sharp social commentary wrapped in light-hearted comedy and hummable music. This delectable confection as a crowd-pleaser is a brilliant offense, and Fierstein’s smart script is redolent with both zingers and heartfelt moments. But this cast emphasizes it with their own perceptible feeling of family, that intangible quality that sells the show, and underlined by the confident directors. . . There is an obvious joy and compassion in this work, and because everyone involved is having such a good time, it carries over to the audience. After all, love is love is love is love. None of us need permission to be who we are, but La Cage Aux Folles reminds us that we are all free to be you and me. And that’s mighty fine any time.” – Lynn Venhaus, St. Louis Limelight

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
“We are what we are, 
And what we are 
Is an illusion.”

That’s the first lyric in La Cage aux Folles, and though on the surface, it’s talking about drag, it’s saying way more than that. Just like the show it introduces. Those few lines encapsulate the entire story and all its themes.

It’s a statement of purpose.

It introduces us to two ideas that will permeate every moment of the show. First, there’s “we are what we are” – in other words, we accept and embrace ourselves for who we are, without judgment or regret, without wanting to be someone or something else, and we’re not changing. It’s such a declarative statement. Particularly as sung by performers in drag, it’s a statement of defiance and dignity. And that dignity will be greatly challenged throughout this story.

But the second phrase tells something just as important – “and what we are is an illusion.” That’s literally true of the men singing these words (St. Louis male actors playing French male performers playing female characters), but it’s also universally true for all of us. We all wear masks of various kinds in our everyday lives; we all “perform” various roles in our lives. In other words, life’s a drag. This whole show is a deceptively serious story about identity and masks, reality and illusion. Albin is living as a man, performing onstage as a woman, husband to Georges, “mother” to Jean-Michel, tragic diva to Jacob. When Albin shows up at the dinner party, it’s funny to us because we know he’s about to cause all kinds of chaos, but we also register (maybe subconsciously) that this mask is “true.” So is it a deception?

Yes and no, both. Like the whole show. Like all of our lives.

As crazy as it is, Geroges and Albin’s world has an equilibrium as our story begins. It’s a world of crisis and chaos, but it’s also a world of family and ritual and commitment and a weird kind of stability.

People translate the title of La Cage aux Folles in various ways, but the one that seems most right to me is “The Cage of Madwomen.” The word folles is French for crazy or wild, but if you speak French, you’ll notice that it’s the feminine form of the word. And on top of that, folles is also French slang for effeminate gay men. When you know all that, the name of the show – and the name of the club above which the whole story takes place – becomes a slyly subversive, multi-layered joke.

Maybe they’re crazy, but you’ll pay to see them... so who’s really crazy? We all are.

The Zombies of Penzance (2018)

Book and Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert and Scott Miller
Music by Arthur Sullivan and John Gerdes
Orchestrations by John Gerdes

Sept. 27-Oct. 20, 2018
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Frederic – Sean Michael
Mabel – Melissa Felps
Major-General Stanley – Zachary Allen Farmer
Zombie King – Dominic Dowdy-Windsor
Zombie Sam – Kent Coffel
Edith – Christina Rios
Isabel – Kimi Short
Kate – Lindsey Jones
More Daughters – Mara Bollini, Melanie Kozak, Sarah Porter
More Zombies – Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Tim Kaniecki, Kyle Kelesoma

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Piano – Nicolas Valdez
French Horn – John Gerdes
Reeds – Lea Gerdes
Bassoon – Joseph Hendricks
Cello – Emily Trista Lane
Violin – Twinda Murry
Reeds – Kelly Austermann / Hope Walker

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Director – Nicolas Valdez
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Props Master – Kimi Short
Carpentry and Scenic Artists – Richard Brown, Paul Troyke, Patrick Donnigan, Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson, Nick Brunstein, Judy Brunstein, Grace Brunstein, Scenic Painters, Kathleen Dwyer, Tamar Crump, Karla Suazo, Gary Karasek
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
The Zombies of Penzance may be the funniest show that New Line Theatre has ever mounted – and, among its original offerings, the one with the brightest future. . . Truly, you have never seen anything like this. That’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact.” – Judy Newmark, All The World’s a Stage

“New Line Theatre’s The Zombies of Penzance adds a dark tinge of horror to Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic operetta of jolly pirates raiding the upper class, and the result is both a nightmare and a delight – let’s call it a ‘delightmare.’ The songs are ripping, the performances are outstanding and the philosophical questions raised by the undead’s increasing dominance are chilling.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“It’s amazing just how effective the changes are, while still paying tribute to the classic text. And Arthur Sullivan’s fantastic music is left unharmed, while meshing perfectly with the updated lyrics. . . The Zombies of Penzance is absolutely hilarious right from the start. It’s the juxtaposition of zombies singing opera (and quite beautifully, I might add), and the subtle changes in dialogue which make it impossible not to crack a smile. The reworked plot is so absurd, but in the best way possible. Because of how the adaptation is handled with such care, the show is able to tell a just as entertaining and compelling story as the original. And I can honestly say I enjoyed it even more. . . New Line Theatre has chosen the perfect musical for the Halloween season, after carefully incubating it with love for several years until it was ready to make its debut. The Zombies of Penzance will change the way you think about the music and characters forever, as its updated message of female empowerment and inclusivity is undeniably relevant today. The show is so much fun, and there is much to be appreciated by both fans of Gilbert and Sullivan’s original work and newcomers to this fresh new story.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“We are swept away in a wonderful whirlwind of apocalyptic delight that is both fresh and familiar. . . With smart dialogue, clever lyrics, and rapid-fire jabs at conservative Christianity, I dare you to keep up with the pace here. This show is wholly entertaining starting with the first overture notes from the New Line Band and continuing until the very last hysterical twist as the lights go dim at the end. This wild, wonderful adaptation closely mimics the original, only this version is darker, edgier, weirder, and paradoxically funnier. Plus, there are dancing zombies! . . . It’s charming. It’s cheeky. It’s a super fun pre-Halloween show for those looking to laugh, or for anyone who enjoys The Pirates of Penzance. Trust me on this one. Gilbert and Sullivan would be amused.” – Tanya Seale, BroadwayWorld

“This new version of The Pirates of Penzance, titled The Zombies of Penzance, comes beautifully alive. . . All of a sudden it’s a modern show, but with an incredibly lush musical sound we scarcely deserve, here in this modern, profane age. . . So thank God (and George Romero) for The Zombies of Penzance. . . I really feared it was going to be a one-joke show. But it’s deliciously rich, and a great tribute to the original—skewering the zombie genre and subtly reviving the bygone art of light operatic romance in the bargain. . . it’s undeniably the perfect marriage of creative minds, across more than a century. And with all those brilliant choristers on stage, you just can’t kill it.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“If you’re in the mood for theater that will make you laugh while still delivering the pleasure of a high quality score, you won’t want to miss New Line Theatre’s latest production. Reverently irreverent and witty, Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Zombies of Penzance, or At Night Come the Flesh-Eaters is a rollicking good time of a zombie musical. . .New Line hits all the right notes with an abundance of sharp, insidious comedy and a touch of political commentary. The world premiere combines the efforts of W.S. Gilbert and Scott Miller on book and lyrics and Arthur Sullivan and John Gerdes on music, with orchestrations by Gerdes. The clever show is a fast-paced satire that’s at times adroitly bookish and at times total fanboy – of Gilbert and Sullivan… and Romero. George A. Romero that is, the acknowledged patriarch of the modern zombie canon. . . a delightfully fun, pointedly funny musical.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“It’s a rollicking musical filled with mirthful mayhem, just in time for Halloween. . . Miller and Dowdy-Windsor keep the show moving at a sprightly pace under their careful direction, pretty much guaranteeing a jolly good time for all. A pinch of Gilbert & Sullivan humor along with a sprinkling of Romero shivers blend well for a Halloween holiday treat.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“Another triumph for New Line, a theater company with a disarming sense of fun. . . it’s a hilariously inspired joke, and just what theatergoers need in these often troubling times.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“If you’re looking for an uproarious way to spend a couple of hours, Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Zombies of Penzance or At Night Come the Flesh Eaters is a no-brainer!” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“Another example of the excellent casting and top-notch singing that’s come to be expected from New Line. It’s also a whole lot of fun to watch, but especially so if you like zombie stories, Gilbert and Sullivan, or both. . . In terms of humor and sheer musicality, it’s remarkable. Ultimately, though, this show is a witty, hilarious show that has a lot of fun with its concept and features a first-rate, enthusiastic cast. It’s not ‘traditional’ Gilbert and Sullivan, but that’s really the point. It’s another excellent, thought-provoking show from New Line.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“Let the wackiness ensue with Miller’s smart book and quick-witted lyrics, using Gilbert’s template. Listen carefully for laugh-out-loud humor, utilizing contemporary snarkiness. . . These zombies might not terrify, after all, but they certainly provide a fun, frothy look in a lighter vein – at both vintage opera and the horror archetypes who proliferate this time of year. Barbara, they are coming, only armed with songs, dances and feelings. One can’t resist the pull of brainy and talented people who set out for a road not taken before.” – Lynn Venhaus, St. Louis Limelight

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
New Line Theatre has shocked the music and theatre worlds by discovering a controversial, long-lost first draft by the legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, who together wrote 14 comic operas from 1871 to 1896.

One of the team's best known works, The Pirates of Penzance, originally debuted in New York in 1879, and was revived to great success in the early 1980s with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, and Rex Smith. What we now know is that there was an earlier, stranger draft of the show, with most of the same characters but a somewhat different plot.

In Gilbert & Sullivan's never-before seen original draft, dated December 1878 and titled The Zombies of Penzance (with the unwieldy subtitle, At Night Come the Flesh Eaters), Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn't want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance, for obvious reasons. According to documents found with the manuscripts, Gilbert and Sullivan finished work on The Zombies of Penzance in early 1879, but their producer Richard D’Oyly-Carte refused to produce it, calling it vulgar, impolitic, and unchristian, and in one particularly pointed letter, “an operatic abomination, an obscene foray into the darkest of the occult arts.” In a letter to his cousin, Gilbert expressed his deep disappointment, writing “I fear the living dead shall be the end of me yet.”

Until now, music scholars had been baffled by that reference.

After a battle that almost ended the partnership, the team reluctantly agreed to rewrite their show, and in December 1879, D'Oyly-Carte debuted the more conventional, revised show, The Pirates of Penzance. As he had agreed, Gilbert eliminated all references to zombism.

In 2013, New Line artistic director Scott Miller discovered the original manuscripts for The Zombies of Penzance in the second sub-basement of the Judson Memorial Church in New York, hidden beneath some moldy band parts from Rockabye Hamlet and Shogun the Musical, and Miller set about reconstructing the bizarre original show as its creators intended. Gilbert's living dead and their Zombie King now make their long-delayed world premiere. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form, filling in the gaps with educated guesses based on other G&S shows and drafts. St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes has reconstructed Sullivan's music. Now, for the first time, audiences will be able to see and hear the comic, flesh-eating insanity Gilbert & Sullivan originally wrought.