|By SANDY MACDONALD
It’s an armchair angel’s dream come true. If you’re willing to take your chances – admittedly slim – with standby, you might be able to partake of the ultimate set of backers’ auditions: the 24th Annual Festival of New Musicals at New World Stages, October 11-12.
The eight 45-minute samplers – geared to National Alliance for Musical Theatre members, an elite cadre of 150 producers from around the nation and the globe – attract the crème de la crème of stage talent, and for good reason: It's a win-win. Who wouldn’t want to be attached, early on, to projects of such promise? Not to mention the perk of performing for people with the power to make things happen. NAMT has a showcase-to-show track record of over 75 percent. Broadway breakouts to date include Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Drowsy Chaperone.
And of course the ultimate winners are the audience, who get to see the hits of tomorrow. This season’s lineup is a pip:
Billed as a “wickedly demented, post-apocalyptic fairy tale,” Bleeding Love (book by Jason Schafer, music by Arthur Lafrentz Bacon, lyrics by Harris Doran) concerns a sheltered teen cellist (William Ryall of Chaplin) reaching out to a punk neighbor (Sarah Stiles of Into the Woods).
A “dark comedic caper” sparked by Britain’s Guy Fawkes-led rebellion of 1605, Bonfire Night (book, music and lyrics by Justin Levine) features a dozen Catholic firebrands, including Andre De Shields, Santino Fontana (soon to appear in Cinderella) and Bryce Pinkham (Ghost).
Sutton Foster (the ultimate Broadway baby, defected to TV-land with Buns) stars in The Circus in Winter (music and lyrics by Ben Clark, book by Beth Turcotte), based on Cathy Day’s decades-spanning story collection set in the Midwest off-season.
Kerry Butler (delicious as an ambitious political wife in The Best Man) plays one of the attitudinous urban fairies in Funked Up Fairy Tales (book, music and lyrics by Kirsten Childs, creator of a previous NAMT hit, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin).
Nobody Loves You (book and lyrics by Itamar Moses, music and lyrics by Gaby Alter) is a romantic comedy about a philosophy grad student (Adam Kantor of the Broadway Rent revival) braving the bizarre behind-the-scenes “reality” of a dating show.
Rachel Sheinking struck gold with the book for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, so the prognosis is good for Sleeping Beauty Wakes (music by Brendan Milburn, lyrics by Valerie Vigoda), set in a sleep disorder clinic whose habitués include Tonya Pinkins and Peter Friedman.
Annette O’Toole and Jeff McCarthy reprise their off-off-Broadway roles in Southern Comfort (book and lyrics by Dan Collins, music by Julianne Wick Davis), based on Kate Davis’s touching 2000 documentary about a group of transgendered friends living in rural Georgia.
Triangle (music by Curtis Moore; lyrics by Thomas Mizer; book by Mizer, Moore and Joshua Scher) takes its inspiration from the tragic 1911 fire of that name, jumping forward a century to weave in a same-sex romance. The cast includes Carrie Cimma, who burned up the stage in the 2010 NAMT offering (and OOB hit) Lizzie Borden.
Just one last cautionary note: One’s odds of getting into the Festival on standby may be about as good as a tyro’s chance of scoring a Broadway role. However, if you’re a pro with “a vested interest in and passion for musical theatre” and have the credits to show for it, you might qualify as an associate member, at a cost of $350 per year. The networking opps could prove invaluable.