The New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF), which will play multiple venues September 26-October 16, is a welcome opportunity for many theater artists who find the challenges of mounting a new musical to be rather daunting. Lonny Price, who is the co-writer (with Kitt Lavoie and composer Grant Sturiale) and co-director (with Matt Cowart) of Kiki Baby, says "Over the years we have had many readings and workshops of this piece, but there are many physical elements of the show that we've never been able to explore. NYMF gives us a chance to see the show on its feet, and because it is in New York, we get to see it with an A team cast, which is invaluable."
Leading that cast is Jenn Colella, who Price met while directing her in the Broadway musical Urban Cowboy. She plays the title character -- a four-year-old girl in 1930s Germany with an amazing voice, whose mother is determined to make into an international star. "It's a subject I'm fairly passionate about, feeling to some degree that allowing children to work and support a family is a form of child abuse," says Price. "Show business in all its forms is ill suited for protecting and nurturing children."
And yet, musicals such as Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Mary Poppins and more have trained a generation of young stars -- including many of the youthful performers in The Kid Who Would Be Pope, by siblings Tom and Jack Megan. "These kids already have more Broadway credits than most of us could ever hope for," comments the show's director, Gabriel Barre. "They are real professionals and total delights to work with."
The family-friendly musical comedy centers on Billy, a new kid at a Catholic grade school in Boston who falls in love with his drama teacher, Sister Katherine, and resolves to become Pope so that he can change the rules of the Church to allow them to marry.
"I was immediately attracted to this coming-of-age story because of its simplicity and heart," says Barre. "The show's focus is on one young boy's dreams and what he's willing to do to attain them. It's about finding faith in one's self more than in any one god or religion."