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7 Shows to Watch at the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival

Video games, figure skating, and Morgan Freeman factor into the summer musical-theater extravaganza.

July in New York means The New York Musical Theatre Festival, a month-long showcase for new musicals. Now in its 12th year, NYMF has served as a springboard for numerous shows in the past decade including Next to Normal, [title of show], and Altar Boyz. This means that when you go, you could very well be witnessing the next big thing in musical theater. Here are seven shows that should definitely be on your radar.

The cast of Claudio Quest rehearses for their run at NYMF.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

1. Claudio Quest

This new superhero musical by Drew Fornarola and Marshall Pailet is like a video game in musical-theater form. Claudio is a super hero with a decidedly un-super little brother. Together, they engage in an epic battle against killer eggplants. John Tartaglia (Avenue Q) directs. Here's a preview:

A scene from the world premiere of Real Men at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.
(© Albert Romeu)

2. Real Men, a Musical for Guys and the Women Who Put Up With Them

Do Real Men love musical theater? Find out in this new show by macho-man composer/author/lyricists Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria (who also star). To whet your appetite, here's a charming ditty about the rules of using a urinal in a public restroom:

Zachary Infante and Brooke Shapiro star in Peter Stopschinski and EJ Stapleton's The Calico Buffalo, directed by Craig J. George, at NYMF.
(© Shira Friedman)

3. The Calico Buffalo

This fun, family-friendly show is about the first-born son of the chief of all buffalos, a calf born with markings that looks suspiciously like those of a calico kitten. EJ Stapleton (who wrote the popular children's book on which this new musical is based) penned the book and lyrics, with music and additional lyrics by Peter Stopschinski. Zachary Infante (a frequent performer at Theatre for a New Audience) stars as the titular bovine. See a preview here:

Brittany Velotta stars in Are You There, Morgan Freeman?
(© Meg Zrini)

4. Are You There, Morgan Freeman?

…It's me, Brittany. Brittany Velotta melds cabaret and song cycle in this idiosyncratic show centered on the voice of God: Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman. Check out the promo video here:

Tom Kitt gives a special concert of his work for NYMF 2015.
(© David Gordon)

5. Tom Kitt and Friends

The Tony-winning composer of Next to Normal and If/Then hosts a one-night-only concert featuring old favorites and songs from upcoming projects. True musical-theater aficionados won't want to miss this opportunity to hear work from one of Broadway's most exciting young composers in a uniquely intimate setting.

A promotional image for Single Wide.

6. Single Wide

Three generations live in one tiny trailer in this musical about a single mom with big dreams. Songwriter Jordan Kamalu penned this heartfelt show with a book and additional lyrics by George D. Nelson. Longtime Susan Stroman associate Jeff Whiting (Bullets Over Broadway, The Scottsboro Boys) directs. You can hear the soulful ballad "Microwave Life" below:

Jenna Leigh Green and Tracy McDowell star in Elizabeth Searle and Michael Teoli's Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera, directed by David Alpert, at NYMF.
(© Robert Pushkar)

7. Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera

For lovers of figure skating, high drama, and rock opera (I suspect there's a significant overlap of these three groups), this is the must-see show of the festival. It chronicles the Whack-Heard-Round-the-World, when American Ice Princess Nancy Kerrigan was brutally assaulted in the run-up to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. The attack was later connected to Jeff Gillooly, the ex-boyfriend of Kerrigan's Team USA rival Tonya Harding. Expect tears, spandex, and a musical media circus of epic proportions in this new show by Elizabeth Searle and Michael Teoli.