Underscore Announces Season and Chicago Musical Theatre Festival Lineup

Underscore Announces Season and Chicago Musical Theatre Festival Lineup

Pictured: Jamie Shriner | Photo by Chris Popio

Underscore Theatre Company has announced its full 2018-19 season, featuring two fully-produced musicals, along with the 5th annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival.

The mainstage shows are Jamie Shriner’s one-woman musical comedy WIFE MATERIAL — directed by Dana Anderson, with music direction by Kyra Leigh — and the vaudville comedy THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE, which won “Best of the Fest” at last season’s Chicago Musical Theatre Festival.  It’s written by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier, Seth Macchi, and Ryan McCall, and directed by Rusty Sneary with McCall providing the music direction. Both shows will play at Underscore’s new permanent home, The Understudy, at 4609 N. Clark.

“I am thrilled that the stories Underscore will be telling during my first year as Artistic Director are stories that I care very much about,” said Laura Stratford. “Jamie Shriner is a sharp, deftly comedic performer with an important experience to share, and WIFE MATERIAL is unlike any musical we have ever produced – a one-woman show with supporting ensemble, based far more on pop than traditional ‘musical theatre’ in its musical stylings. To have WIFE MATERIAL also kick off our residency in our new theatrical home, The Understudy, makes it doubly special. THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE was a fan (and staff) favorite in last year’s CMTF, and we are excited to work with the creative team and partner with The Living Room Theatre in Kansas City to bring this vaudeville buddy comedy to a wider Chicago audience.”

This winter, the company will present another round of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, created to showcase and support the growing field of musical theatre creators from Chicago and beyond. Underscore has chosen nine new musicals (full lineup below) for this year’s fest, to be presented in full productions simultaneously on two stages at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway.

“This year’s CMTF has double the stages and introduces a partnership with Stage Rights to help our participants understand the possible life their shows have beyond the festival in the wider world of publication,” Stratford said.

Tickets will go on sale at a later date at underscoretheatre.org.


Underscore Theatre Company’s 2018-19 Season (from the press release):

November 13 – December 9, 2018
WIFE MATERIAL
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jamie Shriner
Directed by Dana Anderson
Music Direction by Kyra Leigh
Featuring Jamie Shriner
at The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Growing up in conservative Indiana, Jamie Shriner always knew what it meant to be “wife material,” but as a queer, sex-positive feminist, she never fit the bill. Yet in January 2017, she found herself married to a man. What gives? InWIFE MATERIAL , Shriner brings her comedic chops and pop-music sensibility to explore the pressures and constraints put on young women, and to prove that even “that girl” deserves true love.

June 2019 Dates TBA
THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE
Book and Lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier and Seth Macchi
Music by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther
Additional Music and Arrangements by Ryan McCall
Directed by Rusty Sneary
Music Direction by Ryan McCall
at The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Set at the death of vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood,THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE tracks two ultra-talented but down-on-their-luck performers and friends as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of the entertainment world. Lightning-fast and “fall down funny,” LEFTY & CRABBE was born as part of the Kansas City Fringe Festival in 2015, received its first full production at The Living Room Theatre in 2017 and won Best of the Fest for its 2018 production at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival.

February 4 – 24, 2019
The 5th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL
at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago

The full line-up includes:

OH HI, JOHNNY: The Room-sical Parody
Music and Lyrics by Alex Syiek
Book and Additional Lyrics by Bryan Jager

OH HI, JOHNNY is the unauthorized musical parody of Tommy Wiseau’s disaster-piece, THE ROOM. Join in the fun as we watch this writer/director/producer/star turn his “sacred artist vision” (dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies) into a big hit Broadway musical. Filled with chocolate, doggies and playing football in tuxedos… for some reason.

AN ARTIST AND THE EMBER: A SELF-LOVE STORY
Book, Music and Lyrics by Evan Cullinan

Creating a story is hard work, especially when you’re staring at a brand new page. Eve, a composer new to Chicago, attempts to tell a brand new story through song while dealing with the fiery embodiment of her unconscious thoughts: Ember, always burning over her shoulder. AN ARTIST AND THE EMBER: A SELF-LOVE STORY, examines the relationship between an artist and the personal anxiety in the act of creation and the effect that has on the creator and the creation for the world.

MY DEAR WATSON
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jami-Leigh Bartschi

Follow the legendary friendship of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Through the mystery, action, and cleverness woven throughout Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, MY DEAR WATSON looks beyond the realm of narrative and into the heart of the man himself… that is, if he has one at all. In this dramatic musical told from the perspective of Dr. Watson, we are forced to reanalyze and redefine love and friendship for a man who is seemingly incapable of both. Is there a man in the machine?

UNISON
Book, Music and Lyrics by Adina Kruskal
Additional Music by Elyse Anderson

UNISON follows a tight-knit high school wind ensemble infected with a bad outbreak of Senioritis. As deadlines loom one after another, seven seniors struggle to balance band with the intense demands of the college application process. Between audition prep, personal essays, roommate pacts, and Ivy League rejections, everyone’s individual problems pull them away from the group, leaving some students lost along the way. In order to lock in their post-grad plans without destroying their friendships, they’ll have to practice hard, but party harder.

THE INCREDIBLE SIX THOUSAND-FOOD LADDER TO HEAVEN: A New Musical Fairy Tale
Words and Music by Ryan Martin

When Hadley Breaker’s father passes away, all of the adults in her life are quick to offer their sincere condolences and some not exactly asked-for advice: move on. Not the kind to take advice from grownups, Hadley and her friend Spider decide instead to build an impossibly tall ladder so they can visit Hadley’s father in Heaven. Ryan Martin’s new musical fairy tale is an adventure through the credible and the incredible, in which you don’t realize what you’ve left behind until you can see it clearly from six thousand feet in the sky.

CANCERMAN
Book, Music and Lyrics by J. Linn Allen

What will you feel when you’re nearing the end? Bitterness, love, despair, faith, resignation, determination? Who will you meet along your way? A retired city water engineer, dying of cancer and estranged from his daughter and her family, struggles with emotion and memory as – hoping for a reconciliation – he tries to write a song for his granddaughter’s wedding.

MOONSHINER: A MUSICAL FABULISM
Book, Music and Lyrics by Barton Kuebler

MOONSHINER is a magical take on film noir set among the alleys of Chicago in 1952. Selene Orb, chanteuse-cum-femme fatale, engages private eye Nicodemus Silver to uncover the secret of her husband Peter’s monthly absences. The ensuing investigation unleashes a flood of secrets, leading the trio into desperate straits before a surprise visitor arrives to save the day. Ideal for fans of hard-boiled detective movies, classic American musicals and a slight touch of the supernatural, MOONSHINER is a delightful evening not to be missed!

LUCKY: A MUSICAL
Book by Sarah Frasco
Music by Gabriella Hirsch
Lyrics by Sarah Frasco and Gabriella Hirsch

This is a story about a girl named Lucky. Okay, but really, it is! Lucky is a unique young woman, whose cosmology revolves around her copy of The Care and Keeping of You sent to her by her absent mother. Upon entering college, Lucky is forced to face the reality that not every obstacle she faces will be covered by her beloved book, and that maybe, her book is not as great as she once thought. Inspired by The Care and Keeping of You, LUCKY: A MUSICAL follows one young woman’s journey of growing up, making new friends and understanding the wonderful, heartbreaking and magical elements of being a woman.

BROOKE ASTOR’S LAST AFFAIR
Book and Lyrics by Rachael Migler
Music by Eric Grunin

A daring, evocative fantasy, BROOKE ASTOR’S LAST AFFAIR tells the true story of the charismatic, complex dynamo who ruled New York high society and rebuilt much of the city with her fortune until she was betrayed by her only child and his wife, leading to disaster for the family and Manhattan’s splashiest criminal trial. With a lyrical, passionate score, the show tracks the rise and fall of one of America’s most powerful, glamorous women and her epic, high-stakes quest to grow, love and forgive. BROOKE comes to CMTF from festivals at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Emerging Artists Theater in New York.

June Dates TBA
THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE
Book and Lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier and Seth Macci
Music by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther
Additional Music and Arrangements by Ryan McCall
Directed by Rusty Sneary
Music Direction by Ryan McCall
at The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Set at the death of vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood,THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE tracks two ultra-talented but down-on-their-luck performers and friends as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of the entertainment world. Lightning-fast and “fall down funny,” LEFTY & CRABBE was born as part of the Kansas City Fringe Festival in 2015, received its first full production at The Living Room Theatre in 2017 and won Best of the Fest for its 2018 production at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival.

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