Festival Shows in the News


Festival Show Update: NOBODY LOVES YOU

An interview with Itamar Moses, one of the writers (along with Gaby Alter) of 2012 Festival Show Nobody Loves You, about the show’s path so far and what to expect as it heads Off Broadway this summer to Second Stage. The show is a past recipient of a Project Development Grant from our National Fund for New Musicals for its development at The Old Globe.

The new musical comedy Nobody Loves You follows a philosophy grad student who auditions for—and surprisingly finds himself cast on—a reality TV dating show, all in an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend. But when an unexpected on-set love connection threatens to ruin his plan, manufactured drama collides with real emotion in this original new musical.

What was the industry’s response to your show at the Festival?  
Whole-hearted praise. Worship really. It was mayhem. The ghost of Oscar Hammerstein rose from the grave and placed a mantle labeled ‘The Future of Musical Theatre’ on my and Gaby’s shoulders. Or, whatever, people seemed to like it okay.

What has changed with the show since being at The Old Globe last year and being at the Festival?
We came away from The Old Globe wanting to replace some songs, clarify and sharpen certain elements of the story, improve some jokes, and take some time off the show. That process had already begun by the time we did the Festival, so we got to hear some new versions of scenes and try out one of our new songs. We’re even farther along in that process now. A bunch of stuff has been rewritten, we’ve replaced two songs and cut two others entirely, on top of streamlining certain aspects of the book. Musicals are very, very tricky and I expect we’ll be working right up until they make us stop.
The show is about to premiere Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre this summer. How has your approach to the show changed going from an in-the-round space in San Diego to a traditional proscenium in New York?

This is really a question for our director and designers. But generally speaking, the approach is always just about figuring out how to use the space you’re in to support and enhance the storytelling and themes. I’ve premiered three shows in that in-the-round space at The Old Globe, and every time I think, “How are we gonna do this in the round?” And every time it forces solutions that are very cool and that I almost miss when it’s time to do it in a proscenium even though that’s usually how I envision things in the first place. Certainly doing this show in a proscenium allows you to have more stuff, to render the backstage world of the TV show more vividly. In the round, you really can’t have much in the way of set. You can’t even have any walls!

What are you guys most excited about for this summer production? Any surprises in store?  
Getting to see the show with all the improvements on the page back up on its feet. And getting to see these characters come to life again, I’ve developed a genuine affection for them. As for the second part of your question, if we answered that, they wouldn’t be surprises anymore, would they? Or, I guess: “Yes.”

Why should people head to Second Stage this summer to see Nobody Loves You?
Because it’s going to be a cultural moment of earth-shattering importance. But if you like to miss out on that kind of thing, by all means, skip it.

For more information about Nobody Loves You, please visit

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FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Making the most of rehearsals

A guest blog entry from Itamar Moses, one of the writers of Nobody Loves You, about the secret blessings of only have 25 hours to put together your show for the Festival. 

There’s a possibly apocryphal story that I’m too lazy to verify right now about a Russian director who was asked how long he wanted to rehearse a production of Chekhov. He said, “Two years.” When he was told that that was impossible he said, “In that case, two days.”

Actors will often tell you that their best performance in rehearsal is at the first read-through and that they spend the remainder of the rehearsal process gradually working their way back there, hopefully arriving by opening night.

All this came to mind when I sat down to write a blog post on the subject of presenting a musical with only a few days to rehearse, which is what you have to do when your lucky enough to have your musical in NAMT. Because having only twenty-some-odd hours of rehearsal is, in a way, not as big a burden as one might imagine. There’s a spontaneity, an instinctive tendency towards surprising and daring choices, to which performers often have access early in a process that actually becomes more difficult (for a while) as those initial impulses are gradually complicated by the questions and alternatives that inevitably arise when you start to live with material for weeks or months instead of days. And while all of that exploration leads (ideally) to deeper and more nuanced performances on the other side, there’s a long slog through the desert of murky confusion in between in the midst of which it’s probably best not to make an audience sit through what you’ve got. That’s why the (possibly fictional) Russian director’s second choice after having all the time in the world was to have almost no time at all.

All of which is to say that there’s something clarifying, simplifying, even useful, about having just enough time to learn the songs, run the scenes, and make a few very basic decisions about how best to tell a story, before you put it in front of an audience. You may not have enough time to plumb your piece to its deepest depths but you also don’t have enough time to get in your way. Put another way: unless the middle of your process is going to be long enough, you might be better off having a process with only a beginning and an end.

In the case of our show Nobody Loves You in particular we’re in a slightly different situation in that five of the eight members of our cast have played these roles before, in the musical’s world premiere at The Old Globe in San Diego. But even in a case like this the principle applies. Our three new cast members are having to dive right in with nothing but the few hours of rehearsal we’ve got and, in turn, our returning cast members have only these few hours of rehearsal to incorporate and respond to the new energy this adds to the piece.

So as you watch all the great musicals at NAMT this year and you want to think to yourself, “This acting and singing is amazing! I can’t believe they had only a few days to rehearse!” instead think to yourself, “This acting and singing is amazing! They’re so lucky they didn’t have more time to rehearse!”

It’s like that Malcolm Gladwell book BLINK. Which I didn’t read but which when I think about it for a second think I have a pretty good what it says.

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“On The Road To NAMT” will be a special sub-series of the Festival Countdown featuring blogs from Tom Mizer (Book & Lyrics of TRIANGLE) that will also be featured as part of his blog The Broadway Blog.  This is Tom’s second entry in the series. 

William Ryall, Robin de Jesus, Sarah Stiles, Damon Daunno, Nancy Opel & Nicolette Hart rehearsing “Bleeding Love”. Photo by Jason Schafer.

Writing musicals can be a lonely business. Most of the time it’s just you and a collaborator in a room together. So when I was presented with the chance to talk with a few of my fellow writers presenting shows at NAMT this year, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else, it would be like group therapy. But rhymed.
Just over a week ago, I sat down with two amazing writers: Gaby Alter, composer and co-lyricist of the recent Old Globe hit Nobody Loves You; and Harris Doran, lyricist for the post-apocalyptic fairy taleBleeding Love. With presentation preparations hitting high gear, we took a brief moment to breathe, talk about our inspirations and discuss the best part of writing versus acting in a musical (hint: booze).

Gaby Alter. Photo by Stephen Mallon.

When did you get the bug to write music theater because…how old are you?
GABY: Old.
HARRIS: I’m younger.
GABY: Usually people are younger than me.
HARRIS: You look younger.
GABY: Well, thank you.
And I’m the oldest one in the room so shut up.
HARRIS: But you look younger than me.
That’s staying in the final interview.
My point is that when I look back and think about when I was in high school and college, music theater was not popular. There’s a renaissance right now…
HARRIS: Is there? Because of Glee?
When I talk to an 18 year-old or a 22 year-old, within a certain segment, they think music theater is cool.
HARRIS: True. There are musical movies now and Glee and something else…
And Smash. There are certainly now people wanting to get into the field. An excitement. And that wasn’t so much the case when I was that age. So how did you start?
GABY: It was sort of an accidental thing, a convergence of stuff that I did. It was after high school and I had a friend who wrote plays. He was like, “Want to write a musical?” It was over the summer. Neither of us were musical fans. It’s not like I hated musicals, I just knew very little about them except what I knew as kid. I knew the Rogers and Hammerstein stuff. He said, “Do you want to write a rock musical?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” But I thought it was a ridiculous idea.
GABY: I also didn’t think we were going to do it. Especially when you’re 17 or 18, you say so but…actually he had a whole plan and he was very organized. He came over the next day and had some lyrics.
HARRIS: Oh wow.
GABY: So we ended up doing it over that summer. And it was the high of doing it. “Let’s get our friends who were actors in high school and involve everybody.” And you invite your family and you feel really cool because you’re all of a sudden on stage. I hadn’t had that experience except in a band. But it was easier for me to write stuff in that format. I was writing with him. “You do this and I’ll do that.” There are clear guidelines. Like fun homework. I really responded to collaborating and working as a group… Later I came to appreciate musicals and how difficult writing the really good ones is.

We can all second that.
HARRIS: I had no idea.
GABY: What about you guys?

Harris Doran. Photo by Chris Pereira.

HARRIS: I’m an actor. I’ve done musicals over the course of my career. But mostly I’ve done plays and more recently films. I’ve always written, even as a little kid, I wrote poetry. It was recommended to me that I go to BMI (Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop) and I was like, “I don’t know.” I ended up having the interview for BMI and still hadn’t written anything so I spent the night before writing some stuff…
HARRIS: I went in there with my lyrics and I acted them out for them and I got accepted. I thought, “OK, I guess I’ll do that.” I didn’t take it seriously. Got some good feedback but still couldn’t care less and then I was assigned to Arthur, who is still my writing partner, and we were paired up to write an assignment on It’s a Wonderful Life. We wrote this rock song. I went through and thought, “This movie is so boring.”
HARRIS: But there was this one tertiary character who’s got this idea, “You’ve got to have plastic.” And he comes back all rich at the end so we wrote this song called “Plastic is Fantastic” which was killer and I thought, “Maybe I can do this.” And I kept going.
You saw you could come at musicals from a different angle.
HARRIS: Exactly.
Same thing for you, Gaby, coming at it from a rock/pop angle.
HARRIS: Over time, it has given me something else to put my energy into. If I’m not acting, I’m writing. And I usually forget that I do the other while I’m doing the one. I say I’m an actor and I feel like I’m a liar. Then I’m writing and I feel like a liar because I’m an actor.
Didn’t you find that, because I was at a similar fork in the road, that writing is something I can do wherever, whenever I want. No one has to hire me as a writer. And I loved that I could go home and be creative.
I mean, I could go home and do my monologues but the roommates don’t really want to hear you doing that Brighton Beach Memoirs monologue again.
HARRIS: (in perfect Simon accent) “Two up, bases are loaded…”

Harris Doran in “Brighton Beach Memoirs”. Image via the Pioneer Theatre Company.

I played a lot of young Jewish boys. Look at me. How that happened I have no idea. But in the Midwest…
HARRIS: …this is as close as it gets.
Gaby, you spoke of R&H. Is there some show of theirs that you are able to look at now, with experience, and you do see it as a goal?
GABY: I went to Tisch; the graduate musical theater program there is really good. It got me thinking about the classic musicals and why are they classic. And then I saw South Pacific at Lincoln Center and I remember thinking I was very skeptical about it. I know their stuff is good but…it seems a little bit schmaltzy and dated. But it wasn’t those things. It was a romantic musical but it wasn’t cheesy. It looks at racism and it looks at death. And they were great songwriters… I wouldn’t write like them now but you can see the things that were at stake.
HARRIS: Did you see that Carousel revival? Lincoln Center years ago?
GABY: It was good?

Lincoln Center revival of “Carousel”. Photo by Joan Marcus.

HARRIS: Oh yeah! There might be a video at Lincoln Center library. If you liked that South Pacific revival, thatCarousel was unbelievable.
What blew me away was…you think of all those songs that you’ve heard, but the way they are woven through scenes is so modern. They don’t stop to just sing one of those pretty songs; they flow through the scenes. I hadn’t realized…
HARRIS: And those shows were written very quickly. Now we spend years and years writing and developing with everyone’s opinions. We actually wrote this musical [Bleeding Love] in less than a year. We talked a lot about The King and I, which I guess they had the entire structure worked out but started rehearsals without a second act and they wrote the second act while they were rehearsing. If you take the time to focus on the structure before you write a word then you save yourself a lot of rewrites later…
That sounds like heaven.
HARRIS: If you write a show without everything figured out ahead of time, you write a song and you’re like, “Wait, that song is 5 degrees off.” It’s not like it’s the wrong song. It’s almost…but you’re f*cked…oh…
You can say f*cked, it’s fine.
HARRIS: If that little wrong is the core of the song, then you’re screwed.
GABY: It’s true. Figuring out structure is smart… But sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what it is. The last few musicals I’ve worked on we didn’t know. It’s sort of developing its own tone and world as you write. The one I’m working on now with Itamar, he’s very good at structure, but structure also changes or in this case changed as we did it.
Harris, would you ever want to act in your own stuff?
HARRIS: (beat) I don’t really want to do musicals.
And why is that?
HARRIS: You can’t drink.
HARRIS: It’s a lot of worrying about your voice. It’s a lot of work.
They work hard.
HARRIS: They work hard.
HARRIS: I don’t love doing musicals. I love the idea of musicals. I love watching them.
Which music theater performers do you look at — do you think have the acting chops and the musical talent to pull it off?
HARRIS: Vicki Clark. I thought that Alice Ripley was amazing in Next to Normal. Tanya Pinkins inCaroline or Change… I like a performer that is risky. I like the cast that we’ve got [for Bleeding Love]. They’re a bunch of quirky, interesting performers. It took us a while to find these people because we were like, “No, much quirkier, much weirder.”
HARRIS: We wanted people who would jump at it and bring it to life… You guys have had workshops and productions?

Adam Kantor and Old Globe Cast of “Nobody Loves You”. Photo by Henry DiRocco.

GABY: We had a production in May in San Diego.
HARRIS: And you applied to NAMT?
GABY: We applied because we didn’t know what was going to happen after the production. These days, unless you have a producer signed on, as I’m sure you know, it’s up to you to find the next thing. Depending on how it works out, we wanted other people to see it and we didn’t know if they’d come out to the West Coast. We found out we got in [to NAMT] during the production and we thought, “Well, good!” How about you, guys?
Our [journey] is harder to describe. Triangle is at an earlier stage because we haven’t had a production yet. Basically, the show existed for a while [with drafts in 2005 and 2006] then it went on a shelf because of a bookwriter issue. [After a number of years], the show became ours to work on again and we did a reading of it at Northwestern last year, testing a completely new half of the story. The modern half of the story we totally rewrote. We thought, “this can work,” so we started applying for stuff to do this year. We applied to NAMT and got into TheatreWorks at the same time. We did a two-week workshop at TheatreWorks [in August]; you do a reading, rewrite for a few days, do a reading, rewrite and reading. It’s sort of a natural progression to be here now…
HARRIS: We’ve never even had a reading of our musical, other than me and the bookwriter. We were pretty good, though.
GABY: Awesome.
That first presentation is going to be so exciting.
HARRIS: Monday [the first rehearsal] is going to be exciting when we have actors.
You’ve never had actors read it?
HARRIS: No one. The only actor that’s ever read it is me. It’s going to be so exciting to have an amazing cast do the first reading.
What’s your favorite part of the process when you’re writing, from the moment the idea comes up to presenting to an audience?
HARRIS: When it’s being performed.
You like that? I find it maddening.
HARRIS: Really, why? Because you feel like it’s not being interpreted how you intended?
No. No. Because I want to be involved — maybe because I was an actor at one point – and that’s the part I have to sit back and twiddle my thumbs. I get so nervous.
HARRIS: I’m really excited about what an actor can bring.
Oh, I totally get that.
HARRIS: I get a feeling of pride, not in my work, but in them. Look at them shine. I really like that.
Gaby, what’s your favorite step?
GABY: God, I don’t know. The cocaine.
The party after.
HARRIS: The money.
(sustained laughter)
GABY: No. It sort of depends. I had done a production with Band Geeks but somehow with Nobody Loves You it felt more…no they were both momentous. Make or break. I was terrified. I was sh*tting myself. We’ve worked on this for five years… you’ve crawled over broken glass to get there and actually this might go wrong… I don’t think that part is fun. You know, it might be when you are in rehearsal and everyone’s all in to it and you stage a number for the first time and you’re like, “Oh my god, that’s so much better than I would have imagined.” And the actors are like, “Yeah, that’s awesome!” And there’s no audience there to say, “What is this sh*t?”
We’ll find out how those presentations go, harrowing or triumphant, this Thursday and Friday in New York City. 

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FROM THE ROAD: A Coast to Coast Summer

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting the chance to visit our members around the country.  There is no better way to take the pulse of the industry and help discover new ways for us to serve our members than to meet them on their home turf, see their shows and meet their staffs.  Summer is the busiest travel time for the NAMT staff because it is when the number of shows skyrocket in our member theatres.  My summer was filled with 10 productions (7 of them premieres),  2 workshops and 6 readings from New York to California, from Vermont to Tennessee.  We a few Festival shows and National Fund for New Musicals (NFNM) grant recipients along the way.

Here is the quick rundown (NAMT member theatres and Festival shows are bolded blue):


Los Angeles, CA- World premiere of Los Otros at Center Theatre Group 
San Diego, CA- World premiere of Nobody Loves You (NAMT Fest ’12, past NFNM Project Development Grant) and Scottsboro Boys at The Old Globe, world premiere of Hands on a Hardbody at La Jolla Playhouseand the chance to sit in on a rehearsal for Harmony, Kansas (NFNM Production Grant, past Writers Residency Grant) at Diversionary Theatre.
New York, NY- World premiere of February House (past NFNM Project Development Grant) at The Public Theater, reading of Suprema (NFNM Writers Residency Grant) at Ars Nova and Speargrove Presents (NFNM Writers Residency Grant) at New York Theatre Barn

Connecticut- Readings of When We Met and String at The O’Neill Theatre Center, production of Mame at Goodspeed Musicals

New York, NY- Production of Triassic Parq (by Festival alumnus Marshall Pailet) produced by Amas Musical Theatre and New Musical Development Foundation at SoHo Rep  
East Haddam, CT- Final dress of Carousel at Goodspeed Musicals
Poughkeepsie, NY- Workshop of Murder Ballad (by Fest alumna Julia Jordan) at Vassar Powerhouse


Rhinebeck, NY- Reception for Beatsville (NAMT Fest ’08) at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat
Palo Alto, CA- TheatreWorks Festival of New Works with readings of Being Earnest and Triangle (NAMT Fest ’12) and a developmental production of The Trouble With Doug (NAMT Fest ’10)


New York, NY- Reading of notes to MariAnne (NAMT Fest ’11) at New York Theatre Workshop
Weston, VT- World premiere of Pregnancy Pact (NAMT Fest ’11) at Weston Playhouse Theatre Co.  
Crossville, TN- Regional premiere of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge (NAMT Fest ’11) at Cumberland County Playhouse
New York, NY- Broadway Bound concert at Merkin Hall featuring songs from Watt?!? and The Dogs of Pripyat, both from the 2011 Festival 

And I am pretty sure I am missing a few.

I got a lot more out of these trips than a wallet full of receipts and slight confusion as to my time zone.  I was fortified in my belief that our members and alumni are creating, producing and exploring the best musical theatre in the country.  They are continually engaging, challenging and building audiences through their great work.  They are not resting on their laurels but pushing forward.

It is very hard to find a show today that does not have the NAMT stamp somewhere on it…and that makes me very proud to be just a small part of any show that adds to the crazy tapestry of musicals across the country.  The great work continues all over the country, and I’m the lucky one who gets to take in at least a fraction of it.

Branden Huldeen
New Works Director

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A guest blog entry from writer Gaby Alter, from Nobody Loves You, about promoting readings and shows to the industry.  Gaby was recently in the Festival with his show Band Geeks! in 2009.  

A demo recording for a musical is an odd thing. So much of the impact of a song in a musical depends on it being experienced live. The facial expressions of the actor often provide the subtext, or fight the subtext of the song. And hearing a score played live under the actor is one of the electrifying things about theater. It lets us know that the art is being created, in part, in front of us. It begs our active participation in imagining the story.

The fact is, however, that a demo recording is now critical to the fate of any musical. It represents the show to a producer, or a literary manager or artistic director, who are too busy to come to a reading (which can only happen in a blue moon anyway, given the resources it takes); or who live outside New York. If it’s good, a demo will  transmit the piece’s musical world and vocabulary. It will get people excited to see how the musical would look on stage.

For good or ill, the difference between a good quality demo and a so-so one is usually a large factor in a piece’s perception. And, in an escalating arms race of quality, demos are now usually expected to be fully produced, often near-album quality pieces with vocal and instrumental arrangements, mixing, EQ-ing, etc.  As the need for a high-quality demo continues to rise, and the level of quality expected, so too does the cost, which generally falls on the artists.

To help this situation, NAMT has started a RocketHub campaign to help cover the costs of printing the demos of its musicals. Supporters of a specific musical, and those who care more broadly about the development of new musicals, can donate towards this cost, knowing that they are helping with a critical step in the process of realizing our shows onstage. With hundreds of CDs to give away to industry professionals, a musical’s chance of finding its backers at NAMT and after it have risen greatly.

A small note: NAMT is the one festival where all costs related to the reading are covered. Once you’re in, you’re in–there are no rental fees, production costs, actors’ stipends to pay. However, there still remains the cost of the demo, which is technically not part of the reading. And even at NAMT, not everyone can make it to every reading; many will still need to hear a recording. And those who do see a show they love still need to go back home and sell the show they loved to the rest of their staff.
So the demo remains an indispensable tool at NAMT.

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We are so excited to welcome many of this year’s directors and musical directors for the Festival!  
Bonfire Night will be directed by Sam Buntrock (Tony nominated for the revival of Sunday in the Park with George) with music direction by Kimberly Grigsby (Spring Awakening).
Funked Up Fairy Tales will be directed by Jerry Dixon (who directed Red Clay in ’10 and Barnstormer in ’08 for us) with music direction by Steve Marzullo.
Nobody Loves You will be directed by Michelle Tattenbaum who directed its premiere at The Old Globe.
Sleeping Beauty Wakes will again be directed by Rebecca Taichman, who also helmed the McCarter Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse productions.
Southern Comfort will be reunited with the director and music director from their CAP21 workshop production last fall, Tom Caruso and Emily Otto, respectively.
Triangle will be directed by Meredith McDonough, who is directing a reading of it this weekend at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.
The rest of the directors and music directors will be announced in the coming weeks.
Click here to read’s article about our creative teams.  
It is so great to have so many people returning to the Festival and to welcome many new faces as well!

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