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Underscore Theatre plans Chicago Musical Theater Festival and musicals
2019-08-13

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CHICAGO ( August 13, 2019 ) — Underscore Theatre Company is pleased to announce its full 2019-20 Season, featuring two fully-produced musicals, plus the 6th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL. The season kicks off this fall with the non-Equity world premiere of PROXY by Alexander Sage Oyen, Rachel Franco and Austin Regan, a story of journalistic and personal integrity set to a punk rock score, directed by Stephanie Rohr.

This winter, Underscore is pleased to present its 6th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL, created to showcase and support the growing field of musical theatre creators from Chicago and beyond. After receiving more than 35 submissions, Underscore has chosen eight new musicals for this year's Festival to be presented in full productions. ( see full line-up below! )

Underscore's 2019-20 Season will conclude next spring with the world premiere NOTES & LETTERS featuring book, music and lyrics by Annabelle Revak, based on the author's great-great grandfather's letters sent to his family upon his immigration to Chicago.

PROXY and NOTES & LETTERS will play at Underscore's new permanent home, The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St. in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. The CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL will be performed simultaneously on two stages at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway ( The Broadway stage ) and 1133 W. Catalpa Ave. ( The Off-Broadway stage ) in Chicago Edgewater neighborhood.

Tickets for the mainstage season are currently available at underscoretheatre.org . Tickets for CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL will go on-sale at a later date.

Comments Underscore Theatre Artistic Director Whitney Rhodes, "I am sparked by the theme of 'choice' in our shows this season, particularly the two mainstage pieces. It's fascinating to see how two very different shows in sound and style explore the similar idea of how we make choices, especially when we aren't ready yet to make them."

Underscore Theatre Company's 2019-20 Season includes:

October 18 — November 24, 2019

PROXY — Non-Equity World Premiere!

Book by Austin Regan

Music and Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen

Lyrics and additional Book by Rachel Franco

Directed by Stephanie Rohr

at The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Press opening: Tuesday, October 22 at 7:30 pm

Fifteen years ago, when she was a kid, Vanessa was almost murdered by her best friend. Now she is an investigative journalist in a bind, and she decides to do what anyone would do — exploit her personal story by disguising herself and interviewing her childhood best friend and attempted murderer. Vanessa must navigate her estranged family and confront her trauma in the age of going viral. Who has the right to tell our story? When we have been traumatized, how do we pass that pain onto others — and can we ever really heal?

April 10 — May 17, 2020

NOTES & LETTERS — World Premiere!

Book, Music and Lyrics by Annabelle Revak

at The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Press opening: Tuesday, April 14 at 7:30 pm

NOTES & LETTERS follows Joe's journey from war-torn Prague to Williams Piano Shop in Chicago in 1917. He quickly befriends the owner Charlie, his girlfriend Nora, and composer Olivia. The foursome become inseparable — until World War I hits the U.S. Businesses, relationships and lives are put to the test. Based on a true story and set to a jazz-contemporary score, four young people struggle to make choices amid complete chaos.

February 3 — 23, 2020

The 6th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL

at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway ( The Broadway stage ) and 1133 W. Catalpa Ave. ( The Off-Broadway stage ).

The full-line up includes:

On the Broadway stage:

WONDER WOMEN THE MUSICAL

Book, Music and Lyrics by Gregory Becker

WONDER WOMEN THE MUSICAL is an inspiring Golden Age-style musical comedy that tells the true story of the birth of the 1941 classic comic book character, Wonder Woman®. This hilarious upbeat show follows three women who lived in a clandestine four-way polyamourous relationship with the scientist who invented the lie detector. We see how this group overcame the discrimination, misogyny, and sexual taboos of the day and eventually became a 'family'. Working together, they fused their individual passions for reproductive rights, gender psychology, equal rights, and BDSM and gave the world a superhero who would defeat ignorance using the powers of love and acceptance,and ignite humanity's inner desire for a matriarch.

DOUBLE VISION

Book, Music and Lyrics by Olivia Popp

Astrophysics PhD student Luke needs to prove his theory of parallel universes for his dissertation. Rising young filmmaker Sam needs to salvage her latest script for a chance at a big break. When Luke successfully opens a wormhole and finds Sam on the other side, the two discover that they can help each other more than they think. DOUBLE VISION is an original sci-fi comedy musical by Olivia Popp about science ( well, sort of ), love ( okay, kind of ), relationships ( in more ways than one ), and the power of seeking something new.

MOBY DICK — A MUSICAL

Book and Lyrics by Ed Bryan, Music by William Berry

The story of MOBY DICK is a headlong race into the jaws of death. Those on land wait, worry and go about their lives while Captain Ahab and the crew of the Pequod sail inexorably toward a tragic fate. Honorable Starbuck, carefree Stubb, practical Flask, heroic Queequeg, mysterious Fedallah and the rest of the crew: all are lost to Ahab's fanatical obsession as he hurls himself against the will of God and the harsh divinity of nature. From the rowdy hijinks of "The Great Leviathan" to the cheeky high spirits of "Nantucket Girls" to the poignant reverie of Ahab's "What Price I Paid", the music weaves a haunting spell around a diverse cast of characters who live and die by the dictates of the sea. Ishmael, alone, lost and adrift on Queequeg's coffin, survives to tell the tale and turn, at last, towards the comforts of hearth and family.

PAPER SWORDS

Book by Kelsey Tharp, Music and Lyrics by Matt Day

PAPER SWORDS is a romantic comedy musical, focusing on two groups of live action role-players ( LARPers ) as they navigate adolescence. When the king announces his retirement, the teenagers and the kingdom of Eloren are thrown into shambles. To determine the next ruler of the land, the knights of competing teams Ferndrey and Silvermore must battle one another for the throne. Full of young love, heartbreak, awkwardly-long high fives, nostalgia and wonderfully catchy tunes, PAPER SWORDS will have you in tears ( from laughing and/or crying ) as you exit the theatre.

BILLY AND THE POTATO POWERED TIME MACHINE

Story and Lyrics by Lawrence Adelson and Keith Gatchel, Music by Alex Chauncy and Nick Davio

Two kids, Billy and Jamie, have been taken by their mom to live at their grandmother's house while she starts a divorce with their dad. In the basement, they discover a time machine powered by potatoes. Billy uses it to make honor roll and defeat the school bully. But, when things go wrong, Billy and his mother need to try and find a better way to change the future in this rock and roll fairy tale for kids.

On the Off-Broadway Stage:

BAKED! THE MUSICAL

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jordan Liu and Deepak Kumar

When she doesn't receive the scholarship that would send her to her dream school, habitual overachiever Jane Huang, with the help of her best friend, joins forces with the class degenerate to build the greatest drug empire ever run by high schoolers. Kept in the dark are Jane's parents, whose inability to cope with their daughter leaving for college while maintaining a profit at their struggling Chinese bakery drives them pry and potentially unravel Jane's web of lies.

BAKED! THE MUSICAL is a reflection on perfectionism, self-worth, and the question of what we owe the people we love. It features an all Asian-American cast, and the themes are born out of the writers' own experiences growing up as the children of immigrants in the US.

VERVE

Book and Lyrics by Fran Zell, Music by Karena Mendoza

Five women at a gym lose the fat fetish and find friendship. Each focuses on her weight and appearance, while harboring a secret she is afraid to share. During the course of a weight loss contest and a rigged game of Truth or Dare, everyone has the opportunity to come clean and test her own capacity for friendship.

ADIRA

Book by Brittany Handler, Music by John Love, Lyrics by Brittany Handler

Adira is a musical satire that tells the story of one princess who must rescue her kingdom. After learning of a terrible curse, Adira runs away to find herself and to break the spell. Along her journey, she encounters a series of new characters, both friend and foe who teach her things that she never knew, including a troll and his bridge, some magic mushrooms and an evil sorcerer. With the help of some dancing dildos and her singing vibrator sidekick, Adira has some big O! moments and learns that she is stronger and more capable than she ever knew.

About the Artists

Alexander Sage Oyen ( Music and Lyrics, Proxy ) is an NYC songwriter with over five million plays on Spotify. He is the recipient of the 2017 Lotos Foundation Prize in Arts and Sciences for his lyrics and the 2014 ASCAP Foundation's Lucille and Jack Yellen award for lyricists. His musicals include DIVA: Live From Hell ( available for licensing through DPS- Director Daniel Goldstein, Book and Characters S.P. Monahan ), Tethered ( Book by Rachel Franco ), Proxy ( Book by Austin Regan, Co-lyrics and additional book by Rachel Franco ), Discount Ghost Stories ( world premiere 2019 Local Theatre Co., Boulder, CO. Directed by Austin Regan book by Pesha Rudnick and Rob Wright ), Outlaws ( Goodspeed Fest. New Musicals 2015- book by James Presson, dir. Noah Himmelstein ), Archie's Final Project ( Book by James Presson and David Lee Miller ), and Moment by Moment ( Production at Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand 2015. Available on Spotify/Apple Music ). He was awarded the 2013-14 Dramatist Guild Fellowship and his musical Outlaws was featured in the 2014 ASCAP Workshop. He's been named one of Playbill's "Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers You Should Know," and was selected for the 2014 Johnny Mercer Songwriter's Project. Additionally, he was a 2017 Jonathan Larson Grant Finalist. His music has been heard at Lincoln Center, Goodspeed Opera House, Symphony Space, 54 Below, Joe's Pub, Playwrights Horizons, The Signature Theatre, New World Stages, The Laurie Beechman Theatre and venues in Thailand, London, The Netherlands and all across the world. Proud member of ASCAP and The Dramatists Guild. His music is available on www.newmusicaltheatre.com and at www.alexandersageoyen.com .

Rachel Franco ( Lyrics and Additional Book, Proxy ) is an actor/writer in NYC. She's written two musicals, the book for Tethered ( SCRT Writing Retreat, 2018. Music and Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen ) and co-lyrics and additional book for Proxy ( Book by Austin Regan, Music and Co-Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen ). As an actor she has been seen Off-Broadway in Nibbler ( The Amoralists, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre ) and F**k Marry Kill ( Less Than Rent, The New Ohio Theatre ). BFA Tisch at NYU.

Austin Regan ( Book, Proxy ) is a NYC-based writer and director. His other writing includes The Adventures of Pericles, adapted from Shakespeare, as co-composer and lyricist with Christy Altomare. He is currently developing The Valley, a new musical, with composer/lyricist Peter Lerman. As director: Rigoletto at Minnesota Opera ( "a scorching take on politics, patriarchy, and power" — Minneapolis Star Tribune ), Discount Ghost Stories at Local Theatre Company in Boulder, CO ( "hauntingly beautiful" — Boulder Daily Camera ), The Trojan Women ( The Hangar Theatre ), Mad Libs ( New World Stages ); Well Worn Words ( Ars Nova ), The Blind ( The Flea Theater ), Three Decembers ( FM Opera ). As assistant/associate director: four Broadway shows and the Metropolitan Opera. Drama League Fellow, LCT Directors Lab, MTF Founding Member, and former Resident Director at the Flea Theater. www.austinregan.nyc

Annabelle Revak ( Book, Music and Lyrics, Notes & Letters ) is a composer, music director, arranger, and pianist. Cabaret: Antithesis( The Understudy ); Keeper of the Keys ( Davenport's ), TSCS ( The Understudy ). Arrangements/Orchestrations: Take Me ( Strawdog Theatre ), Wife Material ( Underscore Theatre ), Make Me Bad ( Columbia College Chicago ). MD: The Last Five Years ( JPAC ), The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe ( asst., Underscore Theatre ), The Incredible 6,000-ft. Ladder, Something Blue, The Bone Harp ( CMTF 2019 ), High Fidelity ( Columbia College Chicago ). BA in Music Composition & BA in Musical Theatre at CCC. www.annabelleleerevak.com

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 or co-produced 65 new mainstage and workshop musicals in Chicago. Underscore is proud to be Chicago's home for new musicals.

—From a press release


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