Back to the 28th Annual Festival of New Musicals

Benny & Joon

2016 Festival

Jack Cummings III

Music Director
Charity Wicks

Hannah Elless, Colin Hanlon, Andrew Kober, Mamie Parris, Zak Resnick, Andrew Samonsky, Tally Sessions and Natalie Toro

Contact for Rights

Bruce Ostler, Bret Adams, LTD:

Number of Acts: 2
Number of Principals (Male): 2
Number of Principals (Female): 2
Preferred Ensemble Size: 5
Total Cast Size: 9
Orchestra Breakdown:

8-12, as follows: 1-2 Keyboards, 1 Electric Guitar, 1 Bass Guitar, 1 Drums / Percussion, 1-2 Violins, 1 -2 Reed 1 (e.g. flute / clarinet), Reed 2 (e.g. clarinet/saxophone), Trumpet, (Trombone), (French Horn). The parenthesis is meant to indicate optionality.

Casting Notes:

The ideal is somewhere between 8-12 actors with doubling; it is also possible not to double and have a small ensemble to fill out group scenes. Female chorus could range from 1 to 3 and male chorus could range from 3 to 4.

Genre & Style:

Search Set & Costume Registry


Benny has taken care of his sister Joon since their parents died over a decade ago. Now in his early 30s and Joon in her early 20s – not much has changed. A mechanic with his own garage, Benny feels he is a master at managing the life they’ve ended up with, including Joon’s psychological troubles. But when they take in a strange young man named Sam, everything changes. This musical based on the MGM movie explores the challenge of navigating life and love in an imperfect world.

The committee was struck by the strong character writing in this adaptation of the MGM film, and by the sensitivity with which the authors have expanded on its themes of mental health. We appreciate how Benny & Joon manages to deepen and update its source, even as it honors the spirit of the original.

- Festival Committee

Development History

Benny & Joon first received a private developmental 29-hour reading in January, 2013 (Ripley Grier Studios, New York), followed by a two additional private developmental 29-hour readings in February and November, 2014 (Pearl Studios, New York). A private, developmental lab was held at the Transport Group in September, 2015.  Further development occurred at the Running Deer Musical Theater Lab (June 2014) and at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Writer’s Retreat (January 2016).

Festival Successes

World Premiere production in Fall 2017 at The Old Globe (CA). Production at Paper Mill Playhouse (NJ) in April 2019.

5 Things You Should Know

  1. Our artistic journey started with Nolan, who was invited to choose a title from a list of MGM movies they wanted to make into musicals; he chose Benny & Joon, drawn to its quirky characters and heart-pulling story. Mindi and Kirsten joined soon after, equally enchanted by this unique tale of a brother and a sister making their way in 1990s Spokane, Washington.
  2. The tricky thing in adapting a movie to musical theater form is what to keep and what to change from the original story details, and filling in all those wordless close-ups with songs that reveal the complicated emotions they suggest.
  3. The character of Sam, who comes into the story and changes the lives of Benny and Joon, is a movie buff—obsessed in particular with silent movies and Buster Keaton—so it has been fun finding a way to translate that cinematic impulse to theatrical life.
  4. We were very excited when Jack Cummings III agreed to become our director, as his own idiosyncratic sensibility coupled with a lightning sense of pathos and comedy, has really upped the ante for us.
  5. We’ve had a few developmental presentations and now, NAMT; what excites us most right now is the thought of seeing the show fully staged before a live audience.