Back to the 23rd Annual Festival of New Musicals


2011 Festival

Steven Cosson

Liz Callaway, Ryan Duncan, John Treacy Egan, Trent Armand Kendall, Ken Marks, Emily Rossell and Pearl Sun

Number of Acts: 1
Number of Principals (Male): 1
Number of Principals (Female): 1
Preferred Ensemble Size: 6
Total Cast Size: 8
Orchestra Breakdown:

rock band, piano

Genre & Style:

Search Set & Costume Registry


Watt?!? is a balls-out rock musical telling the heroic true story of James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, who opened millions of acres of federal land for exploitation, banned the Beach Boys from July 4th festivities, and was ultimately fired for referring to a five-person panel as “a black, two Jews, a woman and a cripple. ”

Development History

Much of Watt?!? was written during a one-week writers’ retreat in 2007 at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA, under the guidance of Julianne Boyd. BSC then staged a reading of the show, under the direction of Jonathan Bernstein, in spring 2008.

Festival Successes

Workshop at Trinty Repertory Theatre (RI) in 2012. Developmental production at The Village Theatre (WA) in 2013.

5 Things You Should Know

  1. All major and most minor incidents and details in the show are entirely true. They are based largely on newspaper accounts, Ron Arnold’s James Watt and the Environmentalists, and Caught in the Crossfire, a memoir written by James’s wife Leilani in 1984, shortly after his resignation.
  2. The show is not dependent on any prior familiarity with the career of James Watt, as the authors were determined to make theatergoers of all generations equally uncomfortable.
  3. The subject of this musical is alive and well and only 71 years old. He lives in Arizona and Wyoming. It is unclear whether or not he is spending his retirement filing unfounded but publicity-generating lawsuits against musicals written about him.
  4. Brendan Milburn is not currently involved in this presentation of WATT?!? due to other priorities.
  5. The capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa.