Lizzie (2017)

music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
lyrics and original concept by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
book and additional music by Tim Maner
additional lyrics and orchestrations by Alan Stevens Hewitt
Sept. 28-Oct. 21, 2017
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Lizzie Borden – Anna Skidis Vargas
Bridget Sullivan – Kimi Short
Alice Russell – Larissa White
Emma Borden – Marcy Wiegert

Conductor/Piano – Sarah Nelson
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Bass – Jake Heberlie
Cello – Emily Trista Lane
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Keyboard/Guitar – Jake Stergos

Director – Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Music Director – Sarah Nelson
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Props Master – Alison Helmer
Scenic Artists – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Kate Wilkerson
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

Lizzie explodes on the stage with a ferocious, hard rock energy that suits the murderous tale. New Line Theatre takes a boisterous swing at the legend of Lizzie Borden with Lizzie, a rock ‘n’ roll musical that’s one part horror story, one part rock opera, and all riot grrrl fury. The all-female cast attacks the concept with zeal and the result is hard rocking storytelling that grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go until the final chord. . . Theatergoers who enjoy a driving beat, insistent melodies, and powerful vocals will find the show easy to embrace and a lot of fun to experience. From the haunting opening notes to the final anthemic rendition of ‘40 Whacks,’ New Line Theatre’s Lizzie grabs your attention and compels you to listen. “ – Tina Farmer, KDHX

Lizzie is a unique musical experience, and I was absolutely blown away by it. . . New Line Theatre has put together a production that’s like the coolest rock concert ever, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. . . New Line Theatre’s production of Lizzie is a creative and imaginative juggernaut that is led by a stellar creative team, and some magnificently talented actresses and musicians. I say it all the time with New Line shows, but this one rocks especially hard. Get out and see it, repeatedly!” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“Director Mike Dowdy-Windsor helms this raucous production, which fuses a punk rock attitude with slashing, guitar-driven rock. . . All four power the second act to its conclusion, which hints at happiness but ultimately implies that Lizzie Borden’s life was forever shadowed by the events of that day. The final song is an audience singalong of the playground ditty ‘Forty Whacks.’ It’s a solemn reminder that a woman can get away with murder, but she can never escape society’s judgment.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“A stylish, engrossing two-act show. Through director Mike Dowdy-Windsor’s new staging of Lizzie at the Marcelle Theatre, the 1892 mystery gets a great rock-opera treatment – but one that’s also drenched in psychological pathos – with a lot of fine visual and musical elements, and (more importantly) with New Line Theatre’s trademark soaring singing harmonies, from four first-rate actresses. . . It’s very compelling in this intimate setting, with a six-person band and lots of colorful, smoky rays of light pouring down, helping fill out the rock-concert motif. And it all becomes a great moral cause for for the audience, as a psychologically wounded Lizzie takes justice into her own hands – in a pounding, exciting, and beautifully assembled musical production, with lots of surprisingly good rock anthems and ballads.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“‘A sizzling, sensational rendition of a rock musical built around the infamous 19th century murder case that became a cause celebre and part of American folklore. . . Lizzie is full of energy, lively and extremely likable music and a quartet of engaging, appealing performances by its players. Add Lizzie to the rich artistic trove of adaptations and interpretations of one of America’s enduring criminal stories.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“New Line Theatre’s Lizzie Is The Rock Musical At Its Absolute Best. . . if the cast of New Line Theatre’s hard rock musical Lizzie was an actual band they’d be number one with a bullet...or more accurately a hatchet. . . The fun is in watching these four supremely talented actresses pour everything they have into a collection of original songs. . .Director Mike Dowdy-Windsor has put together a hit show that will be talked about for years to come by anyone who sees it. Memorable songs belted out by four voices that would make ‘The Red Rocker’ Sammy Hagar green with envy makes this production the must see event of the fall in St. Louis. Get your tickets now because I predict that the entire run of Lizzie will sell out as the buzz makes its way through St. Louis’ ever-expanding theatre scene.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“Take one lurid unsolved mystery – the notorious Lizzie Borden case. Smash conventions. Add four fearless females with punk rock energy, raging hormones and righteous anger, and the result is the bold, bewitching headbangers’ ball Lizzie. These rebels with a cause are a fierce force, and grab hold with gusto from the start. They feel these roles in every molecule of their being, unleashing fury and outrage as oppressed women who discover their own voices. . . Don’t think for a second that Lizzie is one note. It has surprising depth, and that’s a credit to the well-rounded skills of its cast. Four of my favorite actresses in town seize the night, and own that stage. New Line Theatre resists any attempt to go for gimmicks, instead presenting passionate performances that ring true.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

“There are lots of musicals that deal with disturbing subject matter, and New Line Theatre makes it its business to track them down. But Lizzie is in a class by itself – a hard-rocking, riot-grrrl explosion of rage, nerve and the best goth/steampunk/rollerchic costumes ever flaunted on a St. Louis stage.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“The story still captivates more than a century later, and New Line Theatre seems a fitting company to stage this defiant, mostly sung-through musical inspired by her, told in the language of unchecked rebellion – straight-up rock. . . No one will ever know precisely what went down in the House of Borden back in 1892, but this heady retelling will force any condemnation to the back seat. Basking in the glow of Lizzie’s liberation is much more gratifying. Don’t walk, run to see it.” – Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

Lizzie Slashes Its Way Across The New Line Stage With Powerful Performances. . .Now, four wonderful performances by four stunning ladies brings that story to life. . . Lizzie is more than a musical; it’s an event of epic proportions. These four women simply hew their way through a rock-perfect score and strike fear, terror and a bit of humor through the audience. This one is a no-brainer – you must see it and savor it.” – Steve Allen, St. Louis Stage Door

“A narrative of gory murder, burlesque costuming, and musings on gender and class are not all that Lizzie provides its audience, however. Despite or (depending on how much you love the horror genre) perhaps because of, its thematic and narrative darkness, it is, above all, fun. Backed by a hard-rocking, talented band, the cast seem to have enjoyed themselves as much as the audience did. . . A punk musical that draws as much on horror movie tropes of family dynamics gone horribly wrong as it does on the Victorian news story that helped usher in our contemporary fascination with media accounts of domestic murder and the trials that follow, Lizzie may not appeal to everyone. It is unapologetically feminist in an all-but-academic way, and those who think feminism is still a dirty word might want to go elsewhere. But for the rest of us, Lizzie gives us 90 minutes of heart (and Heart), style, and high-energy, darkly funny (and sad and angry) entertainment just in time for Halloween.” – Rachel Lewis, The Scene Shop

“It works. It actually does. . . There actually is something rather Gothic, in the earlier sense of the word, about all this. Nevertheless, seeing it in visual contemporary Goth, is invigorating. Is the play historically accurate? Well, since we had no forensics teams then, there are few absolute answers. Authors Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt do utilize several intriguing, yea, even titillating theories that have been floated over the years. . . Director Mike Dowdy-Windsor has done a superb job of casting.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats & Drinks

“That is a hard-rocking, badass dark comedy. . . I love rock operas. I love rock music. And clearly I am a fan of musicals. This show has everything that I could ever ask for. The cast, comprised of only four extremely talented actors, are so strong in their roles. Not only can they sing and act, obvious prerequisites for starring in a musical, but they can rock! At times I wasn’t sure if I was in a play, or a rock concert. And I loved every minute of it. Not rocking out to the show, and shaking the row of chairs I was seated in, was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve had to do at a theatrical performance.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“What’s given here is a concert of relationships, finely crafted, shockingly portrayed, and effectively humanized, played with energy, grit, and magnetism by the first-rate New Line cast. . .You think you know what you’re getting – the Lizzie Borden story with rock music – and that is what New Line presents, but there is a lot more to it than that simple premise describes. The format here is a particular strength in that it takes subject matter that’s been talked about and presented in many different ways before, and brings it to the audience in a way that at once sets it apart and makes it more accessible. This Lizzie is loud, but it’s also incisive. The story is old, but it’s also new. It’s a story that’s been told, but not in this way. It’s New Line at its bold, brash, thought-provoking best.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Out on Broadway: The Third Coming (2017)

conceived and directed by Scott Miller
August 3-19, 2017
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Dominic Dowdy-Windsor
Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Ken Haller
Sean Michael
Keith Thompson

Nate Jackson on piano

Director – Scott Miller
Music Director – Nate Jackson
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic & Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Box Office Manager – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“New Line Theatre loves setting convention on its ear, so this selection of brassy, sassy, tender, and touching songs is a refreshing summer tonic, a valentine to ‘Love is Love is Love’.” – Lynn Venhaus, OnSTL

“The return of Out on Broadway is a rewarding opportunity to reflect on social progress.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

“Somehow, under the direction of New Line founder Scott Miller, we end up teetering on the brink of some new discovery, as yet unknown, with a silvery-voiced anthem of unity and understanding. . . Outside of a revue like this, how often are you going to get to hear all these great, obscure songs performed live? New Line hasn’t done a wise, searching sampler like this, filled with amazing pieces, in 17 years. So if you've ever been in love with musicals, don't miss this show. ... It's a thoughtful and kind evening of rare songs and fine performances—with a lot of unexpected hilarity thrown in.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“Director Scott Miller has once again put together a show that transcends simply good music and talented performers. The most important takeaway is that love is universal, and no matter who the songs were written for – they all apply to people in love. Never does a number fail to work because of the casting – forget that they are all talented – but that they are all male. It doesn’t matter, and never does a song not feel right because it was originally performed between a man and a woman. And that is a perfect example of how love works between all people. The humanity of the show shines throughout, and it is a wonderful evening of musical theater for all to enjoy.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“It’s as stripped down to the bone as a New Line production will likely ever get, and that’s perfectly fine, because the music is pretty great. . . As a straight man, there were no moments lost on me because I don’t ‘get’ gay culture. That’s the biggest takeaway from Out on Broadway: The Third Coming – there really isn’t that much difference between hetero or gay couples in love. Love is just love. That’s why you can pick songs from all over the musical map and still feel the relevance and the emotion even if they’re sung by or to a different gender than originally performed. If anything, I’d say this production would appeal mostly to well-versed fans of musical theatre as much as appealing to your romantic preferences.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

Out on Broadway: The Third Coming lights up The Marcelle with music and love. . . The show loosely traces the progression of love, beginning with the idea of loving and accepting oneself before loving others, but there's nothing heavy handed or preachy in the message. The selected songs, primarily lesser known musical gems that deserve a listen, complement each other well while adding humor and genuine pathos to the evening. For the 2017 edition of the revue, company artistic director Scott Miller added numbers from recent shows that prove a surprising fit. . . the men interpret every song well, with intention and perspective that's clear, genuinely expressive, and uniformly well performed.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“If you didn't catch it you really missed an exceptional theatrical cabaret of sorts, which was truly wonderful, and which I hope sparks a fourth coming! . . . New Line Theatre’s Out On Broadway: The Third Coming was filled with shimmering and beautiful tunes from shows, many of which New Line produced over the years.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

Out on Broadway: The Third Coming is a pleasant little evening that puts the focus – albeit from a different angle – on a collection of songs which underscore the ever-changing musical vitality of Broadway.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“Scott Miller and Nate Jackson, the pianist and music director, give the show an easygoing mood, favoring sophistication over splash. Out on Broadway: The Third Coming feels as if it could have played a supper club, but of course it could not have existed in the days when supper clubs flourished. The Marcelle makes a good alternative.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“There’s a great collection of songs here, and seeing them presented in a new context, and with the overall theme of the lives and loves of gay men in America in 2017 is an illuminating experience. This being ‘part 3,’ I found myself watching the show this time wishing I could have seen parts 1 and 2, especially considering how much culture has changed in the last 20 years. Overall, Out On Broadway: The Third Coming is a great opportunity to hear from these talented men and see life through their eyes, and hear it through their voices. And what impressive voices they are, as well.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Out On Broadway: The Third Coming, which runs through August 19th at The Marcelle Theatre is not only a whole new experience with brand new Broadway hits, but also has added a jewel in its crown thanks to the premiere of the original new song, 'Hope' by Jason Robert Brown. . . The charm of the production is how Scott Miller bends and shapes some songs that are otherwise sung by females in their original shows, to being sung by the men in the company, giving a whole new meaning to the experience. . . Out On Broadway: The Third Coming comes together thanks to the well-disciplined velvety voices of the cast, which includes Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Mike Dowdy-Windsor, Ken Haller, Sean Michael and Keith Thompson, who all sang their hearts out for a very appreciative audience, especially those who have had the joy of experiencing all three incarnations of the production.” – Keaton Treece, St. Louis Limelight

Out on Broadway: The Third Coming is the third installment of something I never expected to have even a second installment.

Back in 1996, I put together an evening of theatre songs to be sung from a gay perspective, and we called it Out on Broadway (OOB, for short.) Without rewriting anything, we gave songs like "We Kiss in a Shadow" from The King and I, and "In My Own Lifetime" from The Rothschilds, entirely new context and new resonance. The show had very little staging, no “costumes” really, just a stage with a piano and a couple stools. Looking back, I think my model was the original Side by Side by Sondheim.

The show sold out the run in March, so we brought it back for another sold-out run in August, with just a couple tweaks to the song list.

A few years later, our cast album for the original OOB was finally being released (yes, you read that right, we made a cast album!), and it occurred to me that a second edition would be fun, so we created Out on Broadway 2000, quickly dubbed by us OOB2K. This time we did a few songs from the first show, but found a lot of new ones.

Then last year, talking about New Line's season, our associate artistic director Mike Dowdy-Windsor mentioned Out on Broadway – could we do another one? The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Twenty-one years after the first one debuted, we need Out on Broadway right now more than thought we would.

We’ve brought back some of our favorite songs from the other two editions, and we’ve added new songs that weren't even written yet in 2000. Though our show explores a bunch of issues, the main agenda for the evening is just to take a look at gay lives and gay relationships – more than anything, to reveal how much like our straight friends we are.

When we did the original OOB in 1996, Will & Grace wasn't on the air yet, and in fact, the odious, Orwellian-named Defense of Marriage Act was passed just a month after we brought OOB back for its encore run. Even for our second edition in 2000, gay Americans still didn't have equal marriage rights anywhere in the country. It's a different world now. But it's still a world that needs to hear our voices, maybe right now more than ever in these tumultuous times.

We've put together a terrific song list for you. If you've seen the last two editions, you'll love what we've kept, and you'll also love the new gems we've found. If you’re new to OOB, welcome!

Enjoy the ride!

Sweet Smell of Success (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma! this ain't.

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

Enjoy the ride!

Zorba (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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