INSIDE THE 2016 FESTIVAL: Returning to the Festival

A guest post from Anthony Drewe, lyricist and librettist for this year’s show Soho Cinders, written with George Stiles and Elliot Davis. This is Anthony and George’s third time returning to the Festival, previously being featured with their shows Honk! (Fest ’99) and The Three Little Pigs (Fest ’13). George also had a second show featured in the 1999 Festival, The Three Musketeers

My first experience of NAMT was in 1993 when I attended the Festival of New Musicals as a delegate. I was impressed that such an organization existed for new writers and that so many regional theatres shared such a strong interest in new musical theatre. At the time, I wished that such an organisation existed in the UK and, as a Brit, never dreamt that we would one day have a show of our own in the NAMT Festival.

In 1999, between us we were lucky enough to have not only one but two musicals accepted as part of the festival: Honk! and, for George, The Three Musketeers. As a result of their appearance at the festival, there have been innumerable productions of Honk! in theatres, colleges and schools across the States. We ourselves have been directly involved with productions of Honk! at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Centre in Nyack, North Shore Music Theatre and the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, and George likewise has been involved with productions of The Three Musketeers at the San Jose Music Theatre, North Shore and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The appearance of both shows at NAMT made a huge difference to us as writers and again, we never dreamt we would be asked back. However, in 2013, our children’s musical The Three Little Pigs was accepted as a ‘bonus’ 9th show which was very well-received. As a direct result the show has been seen in several productions across America, as well as on mainland China and Russia (in each case produced by delegates who attended the 2013 Festival).

Now three years on, we are back again for our third festival with Soho Cinders, a musical which we felt was so acutely British that it may not appeal to American audiences. However, so many of the themes are of a universal nature, we’re delighted that the panel has selected the show, and we very much hope that as a result of our participation this year, Soho Cinders may follow the other shows on to enjoy productions in some of the amazing and forward-thinking regional theatres you have here in the States.

One of the marvellous things about NAMT is that it is about the profile of the shows, rather than the profile of the writers, and each experience has been different, and hugely beneficial, for that reason. Our current consultant, Elise Dewsberry, has made such astute observations that already Elliot and I have incorporated some of her suggestions, not only in the 45-minute version presented in the Festival, but also in the full script of the show. Having a fresh set of eyes, particularly from a different country, looking at our material can be very insightful. Elise’s comments came with no foreknowledge, or baggage – they were purely observations made as a first time “audience” member.

The other great thing about the Festival is the camaraderie, mutual respect, and support that develops among the writing teams. As overseas writers it has been great for us to have been welcomed into the writing community in New York. Who knows…maybe we’ll be back again.

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