New Work in Progress: Life After

Next, we chatted with Barry Edelstein, the Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director at NAMT member The Old Globe in San Diego, CA about the company’s upcoming US premiere of Life After by Britta Johnson. Life After was previously co-produced by NAMT members The Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals. The Old Globe production is produced by special arragement with Yonge Street Theatricals.

Grieving the recent loss of her famous father, 16-year-old Alice begins to question the events surrounding his death and sets out to uncover what really happened on the night that changed her family forever. Britta Johnson’s Life After is a bittersweet, witty and life-affirming new musical that explores the mess and beauty of loss and love. Through the vivid imagination of a young woman looking for the facts, we find a more complicated truth instead. 


Can you tell us a little bit about how Life After first found its way to The Old Globe, and what inspired you to produce the US premiere?
Given the Globe’s prominence as a producer of new musical theatre, my desk always has superb musicals coming across it. Most are by US writers but increasingly international projects are seeking development here, and in particular there’s a great boom in Canadian musical theatre now—remarkable talent, audacity, and creativity are in beautiful emergence. We’d heard about the success of Life After in Toronto. When the terrific producers at NAMT member Yonge Street Theatricals proposed that it take its next step here, we realized immediately that its wit, emotional sweep and originality made it a perfect fit for this theatre.

What has the developmental process looked like as you’ve worked with the writers to prepare for this new production?
The show played in a small theatre in Toronto: I think 250 seats. We wanted to see if we could scale it bigger and help it breathe in a large proscenium house. This happened alongside the normal play development conversations about clarifying story, deepening character and focusing tone. I had a series of meetings with Britta, including a face-to-face retreat in New York for a few days. She generated a bunch of changes, which we then workshopped in a two-week lab in New York. Another new draft followed that, which we’ve continued to refine and sharpen in rehearsal. As always there are many steps, each with their own deadlines and conversations and meditations.

What makes The Old Globe a great partner for the piece, and why are your audiences the perfect fit for this show?
Our track record over the years of starting shows onto long trajectories of success has created an open and eager audience that loves new musicals, and they are our secret ingredient. We offer them work in many genres. But Britta’s score is really in the Globe’s sweet spot. It’s highly original: sweeping and romantic one moment, cheeky the next, fierce and rhythmically virtuosic the next, and full of witty nods to various musical styles. It’s a great—and in my experience, rare—combination of high craft and immediate accessibility.

Why should folks plan a trip to San Diego to see the show this spring?
The story deals with loss and grief in a very personal and idiosyncratic way. Britta understands the extremely close proximity of despair and hilarity. The show is disarmingly funny, which makes it even more touching in the end. Anyone who has lost someone they love will be moved by the show, and lovers of musical theatre will thrill to Britta’s distinctive new voice. She’s a major talent, and that this is the first chance that US audiences will have to get to know her is so exciting for all of us at the Globe.

For more information about Life After, and to buy your tickets today, visit The Old Globe’s website.

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