UW-Green Bay faculty member Brian Sutton has received exciting news: His original play “Searching for Romeo” has been given a full-performance slot at the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival. That’s the same festival where he took the show last summer for a staged reading.
This July, it will be a step up, with five fully staged performances by a largely professional (Actors’ Equity) cast, and again it’ll almost certainly be in a 42nd Street Theatre, about three blocks off the Broadway theatre district near Times Square. Sutton says the New York festival is generally regarded as the best place to launch a new musical (unless you’re Stephen Sondheim or someone with direct-to-Broadway deep pockets). “Basically, NYMF is to new musicals as Sundance is to indie films,” he observes.
Sutton, an associate professor who teaches English composition and directs the University’s student Writing Center, wrote both script and music for the play. His comedy re-imagines the story of Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of the “losers,” Paris and Rosaline, who achieve what eternally eludes the more famous couple: a happy ending.
Although Sutton’s academic specialty is neither creative writing, theatre nor music, colleagues and critics praised his early drafts and encouraged him to produce the show.. It had its world premiere July 12, 2012, in the Jean Weidner Theatre at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts in Green Bay. Positive reaction to the four-show run persuaded Sutton his play had a future, and he entered it in the New York Music Theatre Festival.
Sutton has continued to refine the production since its last full staging 18 months ago in Green Bay. He has altered the plot and written new music. One of the new songs refers to plot twists that didn’t exist yet in the 2012 and 2013 versions—a quarrel that temporarily separates the main couple, Rosaline and Paris, for example. The actress/vocalist who played the lead character of Rosaline in the 2013 staged reading, Lizzie Klemperer, and pianist Anthony de Angelis perform that new song here.