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 – TiĆ©lere 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.