Could the next Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen emerge from a musical theater partnership in the Cleveland area?
A collaboration between the Beck Center for the Arts and the Baldwin Wallace University Music Theatre Program has existed for 10 years. And this month, the collaborating partners will present five 15-minute musicals virtually. Theater artists created the pieces for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s “15-Minute Musical Challenge.”
“Pandemic or no, we were determined that this 10th anniversary of the (collaboration) must go on,” Beck Center Artistic Director Scott Spence said. “With the addition of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) as a partner, we could not be more excited to offer the world premieres of five brand-new musicals. Composers and lyricists from around the country have been working with us since August 2020. It’s thrilling to put all of this collaboration to work on a national level.”
NAMT has existed since 1985. It is a not-for-profit organization serving musical theater. Its 170 organizational members and 80 individual members are located throughout 34 states and abroad. Leading producers of musical theatre are among the members. In addition, theater companies, presenting organizations, higher education programs, and individual producers comprise the membership. NAMT created the “15-Minute Musical Challenge” to celebrate musical theater’s power. The program’s purpose was to inspire creativity during social distancing’s early days.
“In all times, but especially challenging times, we believe that musical theater has the power to elevate the human experience and uplift each other,” NAMT executive director Betsy King Militello said. “We are thrilled to see five of the winning musicals see further development with Beck Center for the Arts and Baldwin Wallace University.”
Speaking of the university, Victoria Bussert heads its music theater program. “The creativity of these pieces is truly inspiring,” she said. “It’s thrilling for our BWMT students to have the unique opportunity to work with our guest directors and these fantastic writing teams.”
The action begins on Feb. 12 and ends on Feb. 28. Tickets cost $20 for one viewer, $30 for two or more viewers, and $40 for arts lovers who wish to support the Beck Center. You can purchase tickets at https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/44593. You can view the video from midnight EST on Friday, Feb. 12 to 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 28.
What follows is a description of each show.
- Monster on the Lawn: The piece centers around Ricky. He is a six-year-old boy with a growing imagination. Indeed, one day he awakens to witness a whale-like creature laying on his front lawn. And when an incoming hurricane threatens to separate Ricky from his family and his home, the boy seeks comfort in the creature’s presence.
- White Man’s Burden: This irreverently funny and powerful mini-rock musical takes place inside of the world of sideshow “freaks” killed because of their skin color. An emcee who is part ringmaster/part infomercial host leads the group. Eric Jones, book writer and lyricist, said inspiration for the show came when he was watching the news. Specifically, he saw “an African American man named George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds get lynched in front of the whole world. I was shocked, I was angry and I was saddened. This was my wake-up call to create meaningful art that will combat this ugly sin called racism. Hence, the musical White Man’s Burden was born.”
- Holo: This piece takes place during the year 2189 in a holograph museum. The curator and holographic Kyle enter into a unique relationship. Through it, they recount the year 2020 and the pandemic that came with it on an ever-repeating loop.
- Rodeo Clowns: The show is “a queer, western epic about two eccentric outcasts who save the heart of their disintegrating town,” reads a press release. “This whip crack comedy act features a colorful musical-country score.”
- Perpetual Sunshine and the Ghost Girls: The piece is about the capitalist exploitation of workers’ bodies and rights in the face of a national public health crisis. The show’s basis is the true story of the women who fought United States Radium Corp. in the 1920’s for knowingly poisoning them. The deed changed U.S. labor laws forever.