By Lynn Venhaus

Friendship is indeed one of life’s blessings, especially those lasting ones through the ebb and flows of the years. The French novelist Francois Mauriac once wrote that “No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” And this little musical theater gem, “The Story of My Life,” illustrates that theme beautifully.

New Line Theatre kicks off its 30th season with this deceptively simple yet poignant and profound work, an intimate and thoughtful reflection on the special people who change our lives. It runs Sept. 30 through Oct. 23, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater.

It particularly strikes a chord after what we’ve been through during the past 18 months, dealing with a coronavirus pandemic and periods of lockdown and quarantine during the public health crisis. The appreciation of and craving for connection has become an exclamation point.

“The Story of My Life” opened on Broadway in 2009 after earlier productions in Toronto and the Goodspeed Opera House. It was nominated for four Drama Desk Awards, including best musical.

With a keenly observed book written by Brian Hill and heartfelt music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, “The Story of My Life” follows the friendship of Alvin Kelby and Thomas Weaver, two lifelong friends since age 6 who grew up in a small town. Once inseparable, they are reunited after Alvin’s mysterious death.

Jeffrey M Wright as Thomas, Chris Kernan as Alvin. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

While Thomas, a successful author, struggles to write Alvin’s eulogy, his deceased pal appears from the afterlife, and they take a sentimental journey, revealing moments big and small from their intertwined lives.

Alvin goes through the manuscripts and short stories in Thomas’ mind, some which found their way to being published and receiving acclaim.

The adage “write what you know” is what guides Thomas as he sums up his best friend. During the process, he finds his own story and comes to terms with his past.

New Line veterans Chris Kernan as Alvin and Jeffrey M. Wright as Thomas make for an appealing pair, ardently portraying the lifetime friends who chronicle their journey in vignettes – their story is told through stories.

And the two actors punctuate each other’s remembrances. Pouring their hearts and souls into the demanding roles, Kernan and Wright are passionate about making these two guys memorable.

With a deft touch, Scott Miller accompanies the pair on keyboard. He also directed the show with a smart no-frills approach that never feels static.

The score finds the magic in special moments that friends share during lengthy relationships – and addresses rough patches, too. There are four parts to “Saying Goodbye,” and each one is real.

Kernan and Wright meet the challenge of being on stage the entire 70 minutes, without an intermission, breathing life into these roles with insight and charm  

Tom’s book report, “1876” and a song after something Alvin said, “The Butterfly,” are just two highlights.

These parts are unlike anything else they have ever done, with Wright known for classic leading men roles like Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and Nicky Arnstein in “Funny Girl,” and Kernan often supporting and humorous roles, like one of the dads in “Heathers” and St. Jimmy in “American Idiot,” and his award-winning Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

As the likable kids, who bond over their annual Christmas movie tradition “It’s a Wonderful Life,” they resonate at every turn in their lives.

Alvin, a cheerful sort despite being dealt a few George Bailey-like blows during his life, lost his mom at an early age. When his father begins ailing, he takes over running the bookstore instead of going off to college and adventures.

Thomas, a driven guy who communicates better on paper, is the one who grabs the opportunities afforded him and leaves town, rarely returning.

Alvin stays rooted in their town, running the treasure trove that is his father’s bookstore, “The Writers Block,” and misses his buddy, who is off to other crossroads. Nobody “gets” him like Thomas did. “You’re Amazing, Tom” Alvin sings.

As Thomas is off living a life he imagined, does he feel the same about how special their friendship has been?

Redolent with tender and touching moments, “The Story of My Life” includes many warm humorous bits too – starting with Alvin’s reminisce about their teacher, “Mrs. Remington.”

The show’s rich emotional depth effectively builds to a heart-tugging conclusion, ending with “Angels in the Snow.” Moist-eye alert – bring a tissue.

Scenic designer Rob Lippert’s minimalist set – full of books and the written word – and Kenneth Zinkl’s modest lighting design are impressive accents for a show that stands out without any bells and whistles.

An outstanding collaboration by all involved, “The Story of My Life” has a lot to say, and you’ll be glad you spent time getting to know Alvin and Thomas. Maybe you will recognize your own friends and your experiences along the way, like I did.

After all, George Bailey wisely learned: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

Holiday time or not, this show is a gift to theatergoers eager to feel “the feels” that only live theater can provide. And a reminder about humanity in a time of great uncertainty and division. It could not be more timely – and timeless.

Jeffrey M Wright, Chris Kernan. Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg.

“The Story of My Life” runs through Oct. 23, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in the Grand Center Arts District. For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors on Thursdays; and $30 for adults and $25 for students/seniors on Fridays and Saturdays. To charge tickets by phone, call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or visit the Fox Theatre box office or the MetroTix website.

COVID-19 POLICY

All patrons will be required to wear masks in the lobby and theatre. The stage area will be safely distanced from the audience. In addition, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation now requires all patrons 12 years or older to show proof of their full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test upon entry for all ticketed events at all KAF indoor performance venues, including the Marcelle Theater.  

Photos by Jill Ritter Lindberg.

New Line Theatre is proud to present a Very Special Event to open the company’s 30th Anniversary Season, with just two New Line actors, Chris Kernan and Jeffrey M. Wright, along with artistic director Scott Miller on keyboard, in one of the most intimate evenings of musical theatre in the company’s 30 year history, telling a story all about stories, and the effect we have on other lives, usually without realizing it.

Neil Bartram and Brian Hill’s THE STORY OF MY LIFE follows the friendship of Alvin and Thomas, two lifelong friends from a small town who are reunited after Alvin’s mysterious death. Thomas struggles to write Alvin’s eulogy, so Alvin shows up to help the two of them take an amazing journey back through the story of their friendship, as Alvin searches through the manuscripts and stories in Thomas’ mind. And though Thomas is trying to write about his best friend, he ends up finding his own story in the process and coming to terms with the past.

The show opened on Broadway in 2009, after productions in Toronto and the Goodspeed Opera House, and it was nominated for four 2009 Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical. Since its Broadway run, the show has had regional productions throughout the U.S., and in South Korea, Belgium, Austria, and Denmark.

New Line’s THE STORY OF MY LIFE will be directed by Scott Miller, with scenic design by Rob Lippert and lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl.

All patrons will be required to wear masks in the lobby and theatre. The stage area will be safely distanced from the audience. In addition, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation now requires all patrons 12 years or older to show proof of their full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test upon entry for all ticketed events at all KAF indoor performance venues, including the Marcelle Theater.

THE STORY OF MY LIFE runs Sept. 30-Oct. 23, 2021, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, all at 8:00 p.m., at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in the Grand Center Arts District. Sept. 30 is a preview.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors on Thursdays; and $30 for adults and $25 for students/seniors on Fridays and Saturdays. To charge tickets by phone, call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or visit the Fox Theatre box office or the MetroTix website.

DISCOUNTS: HIGH SCHOOL DISCOUNT: Any high school student with a valid school ID can get a $10 ticket for any performance, with the code word, posted only on New Line’s Facebook page. COLLEGE FREE SEATS: Ten free seats for every performance, open to any college student with a valid student ID. EDUCATORS DISCOUNT: New Line offers all currently employed educators half price tickets on any Thursday night, with work ID or other proof of employment. MILITARY DISCOUNT: New Line offers all active duty military personnel half price tickets on any Thursday night, with ID or other proof of active duty status. All offers not valid in connection with other discounts or offers, available only at the door, and subject to availability.

All programs subject to change. New Line Theatre receives funding from the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council.

Coming Up in New Line’s 30th Season

HEAD OVER HEELS
Marcelle Theater
Mar. 3-26, 2022
Click Here for Tickets!
Head Over Heels may be the weirdest mashup Broadway has ever seen, a crazy, joyful celebration of the full variety of human experience, a bold, sexy new comedy from the stage visionaries that rocked Broadway with American Idiot, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Avenue Q, and Spring Awakening. This wild, subversive love story follows a royal family on a journey to save their kingdom from extinction, only to discover the key to their survival lies in their own willingness to change with the times. New Line opened this show in 2020 to rave reviews, but it was shut down halfway through the run due to the pandemic. So we’ll be back to finish what we started.

URINETOWN
Marcelle Theater,3310 Samuel Shepherd Drive, St. Louis, 63103
June 2-25, 2022
Click Here for Tickets!
Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’ Urinetown is an outrageous musical fable of greed, corruption, love, revolution, and urination, set in a time when water is worth its weight in gold and there’s no such thing as a free pee. In this near-future dystopian Gotham, a severe 20-year drought has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. Citizens are forced to use public “amenities” now, regulated by a single malevolent corporation that profits from one of humanity’s most basic needs. But from the ruins of Democracy and courtesy flushes, an unlikely hero floats to the top, who decides he’s held it long enough, and he launches a People’s Revolution to lead them all to urinary freedom! New Line produced the show in 2007 to rave reviews.

“Head Over Heels” will open at New Line Theatre March 6. It is the regional premiere of the wild, sexy, modern musical fairy tale where Once Upon a Time is now.

“Head Over Heels” is the bold new musical comedy from the visionaries that rocked Broadway with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Avenue Q and Spring Awakening.

Conceived by Jeff Whitty, with an original book by Whitty, adapted by James Magruder, originally directed by Michael Mayer, and set to the music of the iconic 1980s all-girl rock band The Go-Go’s, this high-octane, laugh-out-loud love story includes hit songs like, “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Vacation,” “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Mad About You.”

The wild story follows the escapades of a royal family who set out on a journey to save their beloved kingdom from extinction, only to discover the key to their realm’s survival lies within each of their own hearts — though not always in the way they expect — and in their willingness to let go of rigid tradition and change with the times.

With band and vocal arrangements by Broadway composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, If/Then, High Fidelity), and eleven amazing dance numbers, choreographed by New Liners Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, this is the heaviest dance show New Line has produced since Chicago in 2002.

Head Over Heels originally premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, then opened on Broadway in 2018. The show was nominated for Best Musical by the Drama League and the Outer Critics Circle Awards.

The New Line cast includes Grace Langford (Princess Pamela), Melissa Felps (Princess Philoclea), Clayton Humburg (Musidorus), Jaclyn Amber (Mopsa), Zachary Allen Farmer (King Basilius), Carrie Priesmeyer (Queen Gynecia), Aaron Allen (Dametas), Tiélere Cheatem (Pythio), Kevin Corpuz, Evan Fornachon, Chris Kernan, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold, Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf, and Sara Rae Womack.

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez, choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, scenic design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter, lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, and sound design by Ryan Day.

The Daily Beast said, “Head Over Heels is a raucously choreographed joy — intelligent, winningly comic, and surprisingly-for-Broadway radical when it comes to its presentation of gender and sexuality.” Entertainment Weekly said, “The show is an ode to female independence with the winking spirit of a Shakespearean fairy and the neon edge of a rebellious ‘80s teenager, teaming up to beckon people into the woods. Forty years after The Go-Go’s’ formation, Head Over Heels does more than preserve the band’s iconic hits in amber. For two hours and 15 minutes, it’s enough to pull the world back into sync.”

TimeOut NY said, “It grafts a 2010s sensibility onto songs from the 1980s — by the all-girl pop-punk quintet the Go-Go’s (plus two hits from lead singer Belinda Carlisle’s solo career) — and fits them into a 16th-century story that is set in ancient Greece. . . Head Over Heels is a fantasy and celebration of nonconformity, and it puts its casting where its mouth is with an ensemble that is diverse in race, gender and size. Honoring the beat, in this merry Arcadia, means making room for different drummers.”

Head Over Heels contains adult content. Produced by arrangement with Broadway Licensing, New York.

Tickets

HEAD OVER HEELS runs March 5-28, 2020, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, all at 8:00 p.m., at the Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, three blocks east of Grand, in the Grand Center Arts District. March 5 is a preview.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors on Thursdays; and $30 for adults and $25 for students/seniors on Fridays and Saturdays. To charge tickets by phone, call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or visit the Fox Theatre box office or the MetroTix website

DISCOUNTS

HIGH SCHOOL DISCOUNT: Any high school student with a valid school ID can get a $10 ticket for any performance, with the code word, posted only on New Line’s Facebook page.

COLLEGE FREE SEATS: Ten free seats for every performance, open to any college student with a valid student ID.

EDUCATORS DISCOUNT: New Line offers all currently employed educators half price tickets on any Thursday night, with work ID or other proof of employment.

MILITARY DISCOUNT: New Line offers all active duty military personnel half price tickets on any Thursday night, with ID or other proof of active duty status.

All offers not valid in connection with other discounts or offers, available only at the door, and subject to availability.

The New Line Film Series

Have a Little Rock & Roll Fable with your Rock & Roll Fable…

The New Line Film Series presents the movie musical ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS on Weds, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater, during the run of New Line’s Head Over Heels.

Click Here for more info.

About New Line Theatre

New Line Theatre is a professional company dedicated to involving the people of the St. Louis region in the exploration and creation of daring, provocative, socially and politically relevant works of musical theatre. New Line was created back in 1991 at the vanguard of a new wave of nonprofit musical theatre just starting to take hold across the country.

New Line has given birth to several world premiere musicals over the years and has brought back to life several shows that were not well served by their original New York productions.

Altogether, New Line has produced 89 musicals since 1991, and the company has been given its own entry in the Cambridge Guide to American Theatre and the annual Theater World. New Line receives funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and the Regional Arts Commission.

For other information, visit New Line Theatre’s full-service website at www.newlinetheatre.com. All programs are subject to change. New Line’s 29th season closes in June with Urinetown.

New Line Theatre, “the bad boy of musical theatre,” has announced casting for its 29th season of adult, alternative musical theatre, which opens with the return of the wild, comic rock musical CRY-BABY, based on the iconic John Waters film, a show which New Line first produced in 2012 in its American regional premiere, running Sept. 26-Oct. 19, 2019. The season continues with the electrifying new rock musical fresh from Broadway, in its regional premiere, HEAD OVER HEELS, a high-energy, adult romp about gender and sexuality, based on a 16th-century novel and using the songs of the 80s rock band The Go-Go’s, running March 5-28, 2020. And the season closes with the return of one of New Line’s biggest hits, which the New Liners first presented in 2007, the pitch dark satire URINETOWN, the hilarious, outrageous fable of greed, corruption, love, revolution, and urination, running June 4-27, 2020.

Season tickets, including all three mainstage productions, start at just $60. Single tickets will go on sale in September. For more info, go to www.newlinetheatre.com/purchase/index.php

PLUS… New Line introduces the NEW LINE THEATRE FILM SERIES, curated by longtime New Liner Brian Claussen, screening a companion film at the Marcelle one Weds. night during the run of each mainstage show. This season’s films include John Waters’ original CRY-BABY during the run of Cry-Baby; ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS during the run of Head Over Heels; and MACK THE KNIFE, a film version of Threepenny Opera, during the run of Urinetown. These films are not part of the season subscription.

THE 2019-2020 SEASON

CRY-BABYSept. 26-Oct. 19, 2019

It’s 1954. Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism, and Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore. He’s a bad boy with a good cause — truth, justice, and the pursuit of rock and roll. 

Wayward youth, juvenile delinquents, sexual repression, cool music, dirty lyrics, social rejects, it’s all here, as New Line opens its 29th season in October 2019 with the hilarious rockabilly musical CRY-BABY, based on the classic John Waters film. 

Cry-Baby premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in November 2007 and opened on Broadway in April 2008. New Line produced the show’s critically acclaimed American regional premiere in March 2012, after negotiating the first regional production rights in the country. The original creative team revised the show for New Line’s production and commissioned new orchestrations, to make it a smaller, more intimate musical, with a 6-piece rock band. 

At the center of our story are the star-crossed lovers, Cry-Baby and the square rich girl Allison, just a good girl who yearns to be bad in Cry-Baby’s arms. Fueled by hormones and the new rhythms of rock and roll, she turns her back on her squeaky clean boyfriend Baldwin to become a “drape” (a Baltimore juvenile delinquent) and Cry-Baby’s moll. At the other end of the topsy-turvy moral meritocracy of 1954 America, Baldwin as the king of the squares leads his close-harmony pals against the juvenile delinquents, who are ultimately arrested for arson, sending the drapes all off to prison. 

It’s Romeo and Juliet meets High School Hellcats. 

Cry-Baby has a score by David Javerbaum (The Daily Show) and Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, based on John Waters’ classic indie film. O’Donnell and Meehan also adapted John Waters’ Hairspray for the musical stage. 

Cry-Baby was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Choreography. It was also nominated for Best Musical by the Drama League and the Outer Critics Circle Awards. Terry Teachout wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “You want funny? I’ll give you funny, or at least tell you where to find it: Cry-Baby, the new John Waters musical, is campy, cynical, totally insincere and fabulously well crafted. And funny. Madly, outrageously funny. It is, in fact, the funniest new musical since Avenue Q. If laughter is the best medicine, then Cry-Baby is the whole damn drugstore.” Newsday called the show “pleasantly demented and — deep in the sweet darkness of its loopy heart — more true to the cheerful subversion of a John Waters movie than its sentimental big sister Hairspray.” The New Jersey Star-Ledger called it, “candy for adults who like their musicals nutty — and not so nice.” 

The New Line cast includes Caleb Miofsky (as Wade “Cry Baby” Walker), Grace Langford (Allison Vernon-Williams), Margeau Steinau (Mrs. Vernon-Williams), Marshall Jennings (Dupree W. Dupree), Jake Blonstein (Baldwin Blandish), Reagan Deschaine (Pepper Walker), Jaclyn Amber (Wanda Woodward), Sarah Dowling (Mona “Hatchet-Face” Malnorowski), AJ Surrell (Lenora Frigid), Todd Micali, Stephen Henley, Ian McCreary, Christopher Strawhun, Maggie Nold, and Grace Minnis. 

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez, choreography by Michelle Sauer, scenic design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Colene Fornachon, lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, and sound design by Ryan Day. 

Cry-Baby contains adult language and content. Produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International, New York.

The New Line Film Series presents John Waters’ original musical film CRY-BABY on Weds., Oct. 9 at 7:00 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater, during the run of New Line’s Cry-Baby.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s Horror-ComedyBLOODY KING OEDIPUSA Free Public ReadingMonday, Jan. 6, 2020

King Oedipus is already having a bad day, and here comes some REALLY bad news…! 

All Oedipus wants is to lift the curse that’s made his city sick, broke, and pissed off, but all these prophecies keep getting in the way. Could it be true that Oedipus killed the last king without realizing it? Is it possible he’s married to his own mother? Does his name really mean “swollen foot”? Maybe Tiresias the Blind Seer knows the answers. But does Oedipus really want to know…? 

After shocking the music and theatre worlds by rediscovering Gilbert & Sullivan’s lost masterpiece The Zombies of Penzance in 2013, and then staging and publishing the controversial original opera in 2018; now New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller has done it once again. This time, Miller has unearthed Gilbert & Sullivan’s even darker and funnier BLOODY KING OEDIPUS (or Pardon Me, Mum!), a comic horror opera no one even knew existed until now, based on Sophocles’ iconic Greek tragedy of murder, incest, disfigurement, suicide, and lots of prophecies, which first premiered in 429 BC. 

The legendary British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan together wrote fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896. Or is it sixteen? After rewriting their original Zombies of Penzance at the insistence of producer Richard D’Oyly Carte, the team premiered The Pirates of Penzance in 1879. Until now, scholars believed that their next project was the pastoral satire Patience. We now know that isn’t true. After the huge success of HMS Pinafore and Pirates, the team decided to tackle something a bit weightier. According to personal papers found with the manuscript, it was Gilbert who suggested two unlikely possibilities, Dante’s Inferno, and the classic Greek tragedy Oedipus the King, set in Thebes, a Greek city-state in the 13th century BC. 

They both agreed Inferno would make a less than satisfying comic opera. 

Gilbert stayed curiously faithful to the plot and characters of Sophocles’ ancient tragedy for his opera – until the end of the show, when Gilbert evidently couldn’t restrain himself from adding a comic, Gilbertian twist, upending everything that’s come before, as usual. It’s safe to say Sophocles would not have sanctioned Gilbert’s much more comic ending. The score includes songs like “We’ve Been Very, Very Sick,” “I Can See Now I Was Blind,” “Now This is Quite Awkward,” “So Our King Just Might Have Murdered Our Last King,” and “He Hasn’t Taken It Too Well.” 

And now, at long last, King Oedipus, Queen Jocasta, General Creon, Tiresias the Blind Seer, Milo the Herald, and all of Thebes will make their comic opera debut. Miller has painstakingly reassembled these rediscovered materials into their original form; and St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes is reconstructing Sullivan’s music, after doing the same with The Zombies of Penzance. 

New Line Theatre will present a reading of the rediscovered show Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, free and open to the public. The company has not yet announced a full production. 

Dominic Dowdy-Windsor will play King Oedipus; with Kimi Short as Queen Jocasta; Kent Coffel as Gen. Creon; Lindsey Jones as Manto; and Zachary Allen Farmer as the Royal Messenger and Tiresias the Blind Seer and Milo the Herald and also Phorbus the Shepherd. The rest of the cast will be announced later. The reading will be directed by Scott Miller and music directed by Nicolas Valdez.

Bloody King Oedipus contains very adult language and content.

HEAD OVER HEELSMarch 5-28, 2020

The wild new modern musical fairy tale where Once Upon a Time is NOW! 

HEAD OVER HEELS is the bold new musical comedy from the visionaries that rocked Broadway with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Avenue Q and Spring Awakening. Conceived by Jeff Whitty, with an original book by Whitty, adapted by James Magruder, originally directed by Michael Mayer, and set to the music of the iconic 1980s all-girl rock band The Go-Go’s, this high-octane, laugh-out-loud love story includes hit songs like, “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Vacation,” “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Mad About You.” 

The wild story follows the escapades of a royal family who set out on a journey to save their beloved kingdom from extinction, only to discover the key to their realm’s survival lies within each of their own hearts — though not always in the way they expect — and in their willingness to let go of rigid tradition and change with the times. 

Head Over Heels originally premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, then opened on Broadway in 2018. The show was nominated for Best Musical by the Drama League and the Outer Critics Circle Awards. 

The Daily Beast said, “Head Over Heels is a raucously choreographed joy — intelligent, winningly comic, and surprisingly-for-Broadway radical when it comes to its presentation of gender and sexuality.” Entertainment Weekly said, “The show is an ode to female independence with the winking spirit of a Shakespearean fairy and the neon edge of a rebellious ‘80s teenager, teaming up to beckon people into the woods. Forty years after The Go-Go’s’ formation, Head Over Heels does more than preserve the band’s iconic hits in amber. For two hours and 15 minutes, it’s enough to pull the world back into sync.” 

TimeOut NY said, “To enjoy Head Over Heels, which offers quite a lot to enjoy, it is probably best to kick up your heels and put your head on hold. That’s not to say that this saucy, boisterous musical doesn’t have a brainy side, starting with its ambitious crossbreeding of four time periods: It grafts a 2010s queer sensibility onto songs from the 1980s—by the all-girl pop-punk quintet the Go-Go’s (plus two hits from lead singer Belinda Carlisle’s solo career)—and fits them into a 16th-century story that is set in ancient Greece. . . Head Over Heels is a fantasy and celebration of nonconformity, and it puts its casting where its mouth is with an ensemble that is diverse in race, gender and size. Honoring the beat, in this merry Arcadia, means making room for different drummers.” 

The New Line cast includes Grace Langford (Princess Pamela), Melissa Felps (Princess Philoclea), Gabriel Beckerle (Musidorus), Jaclyn Amber (Mopsa), Zachary Allen Farmer (King Basilius), Carrie Priesmeyer (Queen Gynecia), Aaron Allen (Dametas), Tiélere Cheatem (Pythio), Kevin Corpuz, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold, Michelle Sauer, Abraham T. Shaw, Alyssa Wolf, and Sara Rae Womack. 

The New Line production will be directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez, choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, scenic design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter, lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, and sound design by Ryan Day. 

Head Over Heels contains adult language and content. Produced by arrangement with Broadway Licensing, New York.

The New Line Film Series presents the movie musical ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS on Weds, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater, during the run of New Line’s Head Over Heels.

URINETOWNJune 4-27, 2020

It’s 2027, the toilets have all been privatized, and you have to pay to pee. Do you follow the rules or join the rebellion? 

Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’ URINETOWN is the outrageous fable of greed, corruption, love, revolution, and urination, in a time when water is worth its weight in gold and there’s no such thing as a free pee. Set in a near-future dystopian Gotham, a severe 20-year drought has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens are forced to use public “amenities” now, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity’s most basic needs. In this nightmare world, the punishment for an unauthorized pee is a trip to the dreaded Urinetown. 

But from the ruins of Democracy and courtesy flushes, there rises an unlikely hero who decides he’s held it long enough, and he launches a People’s Revolution to lead them all to urinary freedom! 

Inspired by the outrageous political theatre of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and (very) loosely based on the writings of late eighteenth-century political and economic theorist Thomas Malthus, Urinetown is a gloriously silly, irreverently truthful satire from which no target is safe. This is a show that catapulted musicals into the new millennium with its rule-shattering tear through the traditions and conventions of musical theatre, leaving nothing but uncontrollable laughter and a big puddle in its wake. 

And that’s just Act I. 

When it opened in New York, the official slogan on the Urinetown T-shirts was “An appalling idea, fully realized.” Actor Daniel Marcus, who played Officer Barrel, said in an interview, “I call it a love letter to the American musical in the form of a grenade.” 

Bruce Weber in The New York Times said, “There simply is no show I’ve seen that gives such a sense that the creators and performers are always on the same page of an elaborate, high-spirited joke, that they are the proud members of a cabal that knows what it takes to make the world a better place and that they are thrilled to share what they know.” He also called the show “a sensational piece of performance art, one that acknowledges theater tradition and pushes it forward as well.” The show was nominated for 9 Tony Awards (winning Best Book and Best Score), 9 Drama Desk Awards, 7 Obie Awards (winning Best Musical), 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards (winning Best Musical), and a Drama League Award for Best Musical. 

New Line produced Urinetown in 2007. Kotis and Hollmann also wrote the rock musical Yeast Nation, which New Line produced in 2018.

The New Line cast includes Dominic Dowdy-Windsor (Lockstock), Jennelle Gilreath (Little Sally), Kevin Corpuz (Bobby Strong), Melissa Felps (Hope Cladwell), Kimi Short (Pennywise), Todd Schaefer (Mr. Cladwell), Marshall Jennings (Officer Barrel), Clayton Humburg, Sarah Porter, Zak Farmer, Ian McCreary, Brian Carles, Kellen Green, Jessica Winingham, Grace Langford, and Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer. 

The New Line production of Urinetown will be directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, with music direction by Nicolas Valdez, choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, costume design by Sarah Porter, scenic design by Todd Schaefer, and sound design by Ryan Day. 

Produced by arrangement with Music Theatre International, New York.

The New Line Film Series presents MACK THE KNIFE, a film version of The Threepenny Opera, on Weds., June 17 at 7:00 p.m. at the Marcelle Theater, during the run of New Line’s Urinetown.

SEASON TICKETS

Season tickets are on sale NOW, and single tickets go on sale in September. New Line’s mainstage shows and the new film series will be in the company’s home, the Marcelle Theater, in the Grand Center Arts District.

There are three kinds of subscriptions. The First Look Subscription contains tickets for only the Thursday preview for each show. These tickets cannot be exchanged for other dates. Each Regular Subscription includes one ticket for each show in the season. You can use each ticket for any performance date during the run of that show. Each Flex Subscription includes three Flex tickets that you can use at any time for any show during the entire season — use all three tickets for one show or spread them out over the season, however you want! The deadline for ordering season tickets is Sept. 2, 2019.

To order season tickets for the three mainstage shows, Cry-Baby, Head Over Heels, and Urinetown, go to http://www.newlinetheatre.com/purchase/index.php.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE… Save the dates for The Second Annual New Line Trivia Night, on Friday, Sept. 13, at the Richmond Heights Community Center; and The 19th Annual New Line Holiday Dinner, on Weds. Dec. 4, at Favazza’s Restaurant on The Hill. Reservations for the dinner are required.

THE 2019-2020 NEW LINE SEASON AT A GLANCE

Sept. 13, 2019 – Second Annual New Line Trivia Night

Sept. 26-Oct. 19, 2019 – Cry-Baby *

Oct. 9, 2019 – Film Series: Cry-Baby

Dec. 4, 2019 – 19th Annual New Line Holiday Dinner

Jan. 6, 2020 – Free Public Reading of Bloody King Oedipus

Mar. 5-28, 2020 – Head Over Heels *

Mar. 18, 2020 – Film Series: Absolute Beginners

June 4-27, 2020 Urinetown *

June 15, 2020 – Auditions for 30th Season

June 17, 2020 – Film Series: Mack the Knife

June 22, 2020 – Auditions for 30th Season

* These three shows are included in the season ticket package.

ABOUT NEW LINE THEATRENew Line Theatre is a professional company dedicated to involving the people of the St. Louis region in the exploration and creation of daring, provocative, socially and politically relevant works of musical theatre. New Line was created back in 1991 at the vanguard of a new wave of nonprofit musical theatre just starting to take hold across the country. New Line has given birth to several world premiere musicals over the years and has brought back to life several shows that were not well served by their original New York productions. Altogether, New Line has produced 88 musicals since 1991, and the company has been given its own entry in the Cambridge Guide to American Theatre and the annual Theater World. New Line receives support from the Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, and the Grand Center Arts District.

New Line also continues its partnership with the Webster University Department of Music and their Bachelor of Music in Music Direction for Musical Theatre degree program.

For more information, visit www.newlinetheatre.com.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Science Fiction, meet Musical Comedy, New Line Theatre-style, with a touch of Midnight Movie Madness.
Artistic Director Scott Miller co-directs musicals with Mike Dowdy-Windsor, and has certainly proven over the years that he beats to a different drummer. Hence, this calling card — an original and clever “The Zombies of Penzance,” where he makes the walking dead kick in a chorus line and put moves on sheltered single ladies.
These silly components make this quirky world premiere a dip into Monty Python territory. Miller has substituted singing and dancing zombies for musical comedy pirate characters, using the same structure of Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous comic opera, which makes it funnier. It may be one-joke, but it’s laugh-out-loud fun.

Turns out zombies have personalities in sync with pirates! Stranger things have happened, so just go with it, and enjoy the playful spirit. I mean, songs have titles like “Eat Their Flesh,” “Poor Walking Dead,” and “Hail, Zombies!” We can’t be serious, no matter how straight the characters play their predicaments.
The 1879 comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance,” by the British team of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, was given new life in a Joseph Papp 1981 revival that won Kevin Kline the Tony as the swashbuckling Pirate King. It spawned many imitations and parodies, and a 1983 feature film. Here, you think of both those cartoonish roles and the roaming zombies that rule movie and TV screens, particularly this time of year.
The flimsy 19th century plot should be played for laughs – Frederic, 21, is released from his apprenticeship from tender-hearted pirates, but a technicality – he is a Leap Day baby — means he must serve another 63 years, but his true-love Mabel agrees to wait. We’re not talking “The Great Gatsby” level tragic romance.
Now, New Line has rewired the “Slave of Duty” to be a fresh zombie! Frederic is a new flesh eater, a pawn in the other zombie maneuvers as they aim their mark on Major-General Stanley and his nubile brood.
Let the wackiness ensue with Miller’s smart book and quick-witted lyrics, using Gilbert’s template. Listen carefully for laugh-out-loud humor, utilizing contemporary snarkiness.
St. Louis composer and orchestrator John Gerdes reconstructed Sullivan’s music, and it’s a mighty fine re-working. In music director Nicolas Valdez’s capable hands, he conducts a snazzy nine-piece band, including Gerdes on French horn, Lea Gerdes on reeds, Joseph Hendricks on bassoon, Emily Trista Lane on cello, Twinda Murry on violin and Kely Austermann/Hope Walker on reeds. Valdez is on keyboards. Their efforts are exquisite – love those strings!
Dowdy-Windsor, an oft-nominated director with Miller for St. Louis Theater Circle Awards (and winner for “Bonnie & Clyde”), also has a keen eye and sharp attention to detail.
The pair has moved the cast around – you hear the flesh-eaters before the heavily made-up zombies shamble through the audience to the Stanley home. Yet, this is not intended to be slick staging, but a motley crew invasion with a rag-tag feel.
Those dastardly decaying dudes have their eyes on Stanley’s bevy of beauties. However, Major-General Stanley, who professes to be a zombie, is actually a great zombie hunter.
Zak Farmer is as sharp as ever as the fearless father, but what stands out is his impeccable delivery of the difficult songs, particularly the often parodied “Major-General’s Song,” which is now “Modern Era Zombie Killer,” and “When the World Went Bad.” His impressive performance indicates how deceptively hard farcical fun is.
The charade will be up soon enough, but in the meantime, romantic entanglements are on the minds of those frisky young ones, who wish they were not at a disadvantage.
Dominic Dowdy-WindsorWith his strong voice, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor delivers superb vocals as the Zombie King, including the solo “Oh Better Far, to Live as Dead,” and his many duets and company numbers. Given the confines of the part, he can’t swashbuckle like the role model Pirate King, and I wish he could have more swagger.
Sean Michael and Melissa FelpsSean Michael, as the dullard Frederic, and Melissa Felps, as a rather colorless Mabel, are saddled with a drippy romance that’s the show’s centerpiece. Voices are fine and so is their earnestness, but those roles remain insipid. Their lack of chemistry doesn’t help either. (The 1981 revival starred Rex Smith and Linda Ronstadt).
So, the supporting cast’s efforts enliven the puffy piece.
The ladies play the giggly girly magnets up to a point, then reveal they’re no helpless ingenues. That’s a nice twist.
With Lindsay Jones as Kate, Christina Rios as Edith, Kimi Short as Isabel and Mara Bollini, Melanie Kozak and Sarah Porter as other daughters, you knew they weren’t going to be powder puffs, but amp up their grrrl power. Armed already with gorgeous voices, they are demure to a point, but then turn into warrior princesses.
Kent Coffel goes all in as Zombie Sam, playing everything for laughs – and he’s a delight. Other goofy zombies Robert Doyle, Matt Hill, Tim Kaniecki and Kyle Kelesoma physically turn into animated creatures.
Scenic designer Rob Lippert paid homage to George A. Romero, director of the 1968 cult classic, “The Night of the Living Dead,” the granddaddy of zombie lore,  in his ornate home interior, a cool touch. The set has the period look, but also a show within a show accents.
Costume designer Sarah Porter has outfitted everyone in appropriate garb for the tonal shifts — the frilly feminine dresses and petticoats for the girls and the natty Zombie attire for the guys. Kenneth Zinkl’s lighting design emphasizes the bewitching tone while Ryan Day’s sound work makes all those fast-paced lyrics easily understood.
These zombies might not terrify, after all, but they certainly provide a fun, frothy look in a lighter vein — at both vintage opera and the horror archetypes who proliferate this time of year. Barbara, they are coming — only armed with songs, dances and feelings.
One can’t resist the pull of brainy and talented people who set out for a road not taken before.
“The Zombies of Penzance” is presented by New Line Theatre Sept. 27 – Oct. 20, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. at The Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Arts Center. For more information, visit newlinetheatre.com and for tickets, call 314-534-1111 or go to MetroTix.com
Photos by Jill Ritter Lindberg