Wednesday, February 7, 2018

REVIEW: Sneak Peek at Underscore Theatre Company's CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL Through February 16th

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
This is NOT Your Parents' Musical Theatre Fest

Underscore Theatre Company Presents
The 4th Annual
February 6 – 16, 2018 at Greenhouse Theater Center

 Liberators-2 (pictured) The cast of LIBERATORS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL, part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

It was my great pleasure to catch the press “Sneak Preview,” featuring a sampling of songs from the 2018 Festival. The diverse offerings for 2018 range from impassioned immigrant stories and historical sagas to irreverently raunchy gay dating comedies. Several of the shows have unusual personifications and one even features sock puppets. All in all, this is NOT your parents' musical theatre fest. These new shows all push the traditional boundaries of the genre in exciting ways. Standouts from the medley of offerings in the press preview were THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE -- a vaudeville adventure with fun potential, GRINDR The Opera-- a high energy ribald parody that left us wanting more, MUSICAL THERAPY-- a clever premise full of sock puppets and psychology, and finally haunting vocals of “TRU”. Do note, this run of TRU is already completely sold out.

Some of our favorite full productions from the past year, like CiviliTy of Albert Cashier': A stunningly spectacular true tale about a trans soldier, sprung from past years of the fest. Since its inception in 2014, the CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL has brought 35 new musical to Chicago stages! Come check out these fledgeling forays into new musical territory so you can claim you saw it first. 

 Discount tickets available at Chicago Theatre Week! Check it out. 

The 4th annual Festival takes place during the League of Chicago Theatres’ annual Chicago Theatre Week, with discounted tickets available to all Theatre Week performances!

Underscore Theatre Company is pleased to present its 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL, created to showcase and support the growing field of musical theatre creators from Chicago and beyond. This year’s Festival, featuring full productions of seven new musicals plus two staged readings, will play February 6 – 16, 2018 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Each full production will receive at least four performances during the Festival. Single tickets are currently available at 

The festival provides much-needed artistic resources for emerging composer/lyricist teams to have their work supported, explored and most importantly – performed!

Production Schedule & Tickets:

Curtain times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8 pm; Fridays at 7:30 pm & 10 pm; Saturdays at 12 pm, 3 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 12 pm, 3 pm & 6 pm. For a detailed scheduled of productions, please visit

Tickets: $20 ($15 during Chicago Theatre Week). Tickets are currently available at

The full line-up for the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL includes:

(left to right) Vi Tran, Michael Van Pham, Carolyn Plurad and Diana Lee in THE BUTCHER'S SON, part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

Book, Music & Lyrics by Vi Nhan H. Tran
Directed by Mackenzie Goodwin Tran, Music Direction by Ben Byard 
Cast: Todd Aulwurm, Jennifer Cheung, Carolyn Plurad, Diana Lee, Vi Tran and Michael Van Pham

(left to right) Carolyn Plurad and Vi Tran in THE BUTCHER'S SON, part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

Born in Vietnam and raised in southwestern Kansas, Vi Nhan H. Tran is torn between the mysterious secrets of his heritage and the waving wheat fields of his adopted home. A poignant and humorous folk musical memoir, The Butcher’s Son chronicles the Tran family’s escape from Vietnam, imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge and resettlement in the cattle country of America. Tran weaves a thrilling refugee story and All-American tale of how family stories become family lore and where one family's search for a home ends.

GRINDR The Opera
Book, Music and Lyrics by Erik Ransom
Directed by Rachel Klein, Music Direction by Oliver Townsend
Choreography by Rachel Klein and Shawn Quinlan
Cast: Connor Baty and Nathan Cooper. Additional casting to be announced.

Four gay men, seeking different types of connection, intersect to hilarious and calamitous results in this sung-through musical parody that puts the notorious gay hook-up app into the exaggerated world of opera. With musical styles ranging from contemporary pop to baroque, GRINDR The Opera is a daring, humorous look at the changing landscape of gay relationships, and the greatest catalyst for the shift: GRINDR.

Book by Liz Falstreau, Lyrics by Liz Falstreau and Ashley Flanagan, Music by Ashley Flanagan, Orchestration by Asher Carlson
Directed by Chris Causer, Choreography by Kira Christoforidis
Cast: Rena Ahmed, Luciana Bonifazi, Raymond Cleveland, Dylan Connelley, Casey Daniel, Liz Falstreau, Josh Greiveldinger, Tim Huggenberger, Josiah Robinson, Carly Sue Skankey, Maiko Terazawa and Elliot Watts

Set during the years following the American Civil War, Iron Irene tells the story of two sisters and their fight for family, equality and a better world. Upon the death of their parents, Cassie DeLanie is sent from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to live in southwestern Wyoming with her sister, Irene. Together, the sisters must learn to adjust to this new world while still attempting to maintain the beliefs and identities of their childhood. Their adventures will lead them to Wyoming’s shining moment: being the first U.S. territory to grant women’s suffrage.

(pictured) The cast of LIBERATORS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL, part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

Book and Lyrics by Eric C. Jones, Music by Bradley Dean Whyte and Alex Winkler,
Orchestrations by Nate Weil
Directed by Allison Heinz, Music Direction by Samantha Westlake
Choreography by Jaime Raglow
Cast: Isabel Breanahan, Caitlin Dobbins, Shelby Edwards, Chris Furrer, Luke Halpren, Alex Iacobucci, Jillian Jocson, Kate Jordan, Natalie Kreft, Lynette Li, Cari Meixner, Emily Moon, Mike Movidio, Gage Peterson, Christopher Ratliff, Colton Schied, Kati Schwaber, Allison Taylor, Thomas Tong and Evan Wilhelm

(left to right) Caitlin Dobbins and Luke Halpern in LIBERATORS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL, part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

(pictured) The cast of LIBERATORS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL, part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

A powerful rock musical about forgiveness, restoration, the power of friendship and what it means to be a family. This moving tale intersects and moves back and forth throughout 70 years and tells the story through the viewpoints of three unlikely men from different religious and ethnic backgrounds who are connected through a priceless family heirloom: a gold pocket watch. From the start of WWII to post-911 America, the lives of these characters will forever be changed during the historic liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau. Liberators: An American Musical encourages you to believe that even the most unlikely person can make a difference.

Music and Lyrics by Joey Katsiroubas, Book by Dan Hass
Directed by Madison Smith, Music Direction by Joey Katsiroubas
Choreography by Katelyn Stoss
Cast: James Bleecker Jr., Kirby Gibson, Matt Lamson, Alex Madda, Tommy Ross, Sophie Scanlon and Ashlyn Seehafer

Theresa is a young, single couples’ counselor in Chicago. While she’s great (well, okay) at keeping couples together, she can’t seem to lock down a guy for herself. And the fact that she tends to get attached (well, neurotic) after just one date doesn’t help either. Cut to Mr. Wonderful moving into the office next door: beautiful, bulgy-biceped Will. It’s obsession at first sight, and no obstacle or girlfriend is going to keep Theresa from being with him. She’ll ruin relationships, sabotage dates, push people out of the closet – mixing and matching her clients until it’s just Wonderful and her. Forever. And ever. 

Book by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier and Seth Macchi, Music and Lyrics by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther, Arrangements and Music Direction by Ryan McCall
Cast: Ben Auxier, Molly Denninghoff, Ryan Hruza, Brian Huther, Nellie Maple, Mike Ott, Shea Pender and Elise Poehling

Set in the 1920s during the decline of Vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood, The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe tracks the journey of an ultra-sharp but down-on-their-luck comedy duo as they navigate the rapidly changing world of entertainment. With a cast of eight portraying nearly fifty characters, audiences will quickly lose themselves in this absurd and delightful comic world and leave with smiles on their faces.

(left to right) Meredith Kochan and Chuckie Benson in “TRU,” part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

Book, Music, and Lyrics by David Gosz and Leo Fotos
Directed by Max Cervantes, Music Direction by Erik Pearson
Cast: Bradley Atkinson, Chuckie Benson, Kiko Laureano, Nic Mains, Hannon McEldowney, Meredith Kochan, Randolph Johnson, Marssie Mencotti, Marissa Pattullo and Marco Tzunux

(front, l to r) Marissa Pattullo, Bradley Atkinson and Kiko Laureano with the cast of “TRU,” part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

TRU-3 (pictured) The cast of “TRU,” part of the 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. Photo by Evan Hanover.

Through intricate characters and intimate music, “TRU” paints a picture of how hauntingly beautiful life can be. “TRU” explores the joys and challenges of the many relationships that are formed throughout one’s life, testing the various forms of love – between a man and his father, between a granddaughter and her grandmother, between a woman and her art, between a student and his teacher, between a man and himself. Walking hand in hand with reality, “TRU” toes the line between what is unbelievable and what is true.

Workshop Productions:

Monday, February 12 at 8 pm
Book by Tommy Jamerson, Music and Lyrics by Mark Contorno

Jacob Freeman seems to have it all; a thriving career, a bestselling novel, and an adoring wife. But when his past comes to haunt him in the form of his estranged seventeen year old daughter, Jacob’s perfect life is suddenly turned on its head and secrets long since buried begin to rise to the surface yet again.

Monday, February 19 at 8 pm
Book, Music and Lyrics by Annabelle Revak

Joe Loula departs war-torn Bohemia for Chicago in 1917 seeking a new job and a new independence. He quickly befriends Charlie, Nora and Olivia at Williams’ Custom Pianos. As the foursome become inseparable, the U.S. plunges into the World War I: businesses, relationships and pride are put to the test. A true story set to a jazz score, Notes and Letters chronicles the attempt to find an even beat in a world where the meter is constantly shifting. 

Are you a die-hard musicals fan? Do you want to see some terrific new shows and get invited to some exclusive events? Buy a festival pass and save!

What do I get?

1 ticket to all 7 festival full-length shows
Save 25% on your tickets, with no single-ticket fees
Exclusive invite to our February 5th press preview night to get a sneak-peek at all of this year's shows
Exclusive invite to our closing awards ceremony on February 25th
Stand at the FRONT of the line for every show, to make sure you get the best seats in the house

How much does it cost?
A 7-show festival pass costs only $120. Buy one HERE.

Once I get my pass, how do I use it?
Go to buy a ticket just like normal. Once you log in, you will be prompted to use your pass like any other payment method.

About Underscore Theatre Company 
Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to exploring stories of power and resonance through a musical lens; fostering the development of new musicals; and bolstering Chicago’s role as a national leader in musical theatre. Since its creation, Underscore has produced 44 new musicals in Chicago. Underscore is proud to be Chicago's home for new musicals.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Google Analytics