Friday, July 25, 2014

Amazing Grace Musical to Have World Premiere in Chicago Before Heading to Broadway

Josh Young performs "Testimony" from Amazing Grace on June 23 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. in Chicago.  Photo: Amy Boyle Photography.

Casting is complete for the world premiere of Amazing Grace, the new musical with music and lyrics by Christopher Smith. (For a feature on Smith during the show's development at Goodspeed, click here).

Following the run at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre, the production plans a Broadway transfer with dates and a theater to be announced.

As previously announced, Amazing Grace will star Tony Award nominee® Josh Young (Jesus Christ Superstar), as John Newton, writer of the hymn. The story (with a book by Smith and Arthur Giron) follows the willful and musically talented young Englishman who finds himself torn between following in the footsteps of his father – a slave trader – and embracing the more compassionate views of his childhood sweetheart (played by Erin Mackey). Click here to hear some of the music.

The musical is directed by Gabriel Barre (Andrew Lippas’ The Wild Party) and choreographed by Tony Award® winner Christopher Gattelli (Newsies). Also starring are Tom Hewitt,, Chuck Cooper, Chris Hoch Stanley Bahorek, Harriett D. Foy and Laiona Michelle. The ensemble will feature Marija Abney, Leslie Becker, Sara Brophy, Rheaume Crenshaw, Miquel Edson, Mike Evariste,Sean Ewing, Rachael Ferrera, Savannah Frazier, Christopher Gurr, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Allen Kendall, Elizabeth Ward Land, Michael Dean Morgan, Oneika Phillips, Clifton Samuels, Gavriel Savit, Dan Sharkey, Bret Shuford, Evan Alexander Smith, Uyoata Udi, Charles E. Wallace, Toni Elizabeth White and Hollie E. Wright.

Amazing Grace begins performances at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre, 18 West Monroe, Thursday, Oct. 9 and opens on Sunday, Oct. 19. The run is scheduled through Sunday, Nov. 2. The show is produced by Carolyn Rossi Copeland and presented by Broadway In Chicago.

Tickets: Group tickets for 10 or more are now on sale by calling (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets go on sale to the general public Aug. 1. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

More information about some of the team:
JOSH YOUNG (John Newton) Josh originated and currently stars in the role of "Che" in the first national tour of the Tony® Nominated Broadway revival of Evita. He received a 2012 Tony® Award nomination and Theatre World Award for his critically acclaimed Broadway debut as "Judas" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Des McAnuff. He appeared in two seasons at The Stratford Shakespeare Festival where his credits include: "Judas" in Jesus Christ Superstar, "Connie Rivers" in Grapes of Wrath, and "Che" in Evita directed by Gary Griffin, earning Broadway World Awards for each. Josh also appeared as "Marius" in the US National Tour of Les Miserables and "Tony" in the International Tour of West Side Story. He's been involved in new works with NYC's Roundabout Theatre Company, The Transport Group and The New York Musical Theater Festival. Josh is the co-founder of Cutting-Edge Composers (cuttingedgecomposers.com), a concert and weekly web series on broadwayworld.com, created to give exposure to musical theatre's next generation of songwriters. BFA Syracuse University. Tweet @joshpaulyoung.

ERIN MACKEY (Mary Catlett) was last seen on Broadway in Chaplin: The Musical as Oona O'Neill. Other Broadway credits include Anything Goes (Hope), Sondheim on Sondheim and Wicked (Glinda). She recently appeared at Lincoln Center in the NY Philharmonic's concert production of Sweeney Todd as Johanna, which will be broadcast on PBS later in 2014, and as Nellie Forbush in Paper Mill’s South Pacific

CHRISTOPHER SMITH (Book, Music, and Lyrics) wrote his first musical at the age of 17, which was performed at the University of Delaware when Chris was a senior in high school. He began working on Amazing Grace after time spent as a police officer and a Youth Outreach and Education Director in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. When a chance stroll through the church school library led him to pick up a book about John Newton, a person he hardly knew, Chris became convinced that Newton’s story could bridge the gap between ordinary experience and deep struggles of the soul.

ARTHUR GIRON (Book)’s plays include Edith Stein, Boy Dies Dancing Mambo, Money, Innocent Pleasures, Dirty Jokes, Becoming Memories, Flight, A Dream of Wealth, Moving Bodies, The Golden Guitar, Memories of Our Women, The Coffee Trees, Emilie's Voltaire, and St. Francis in Egypt, in addition to many one-actsAmong Arthur’s recent New York productions are The Coffee Trees (Beckett Theatre) and Emilie's Voltaire (Beckett Theatre). His prizes include the Los Angeles Critics' Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Writing (Twice) and the Galileo Prize. In addition, he has been awarded three commissions from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as well as commissions from the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He is the former Head of the Graduate Playwriting program at Carnegie-Mellon University and a Founding Member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC.

CAROLYN ROSSI COPELAND (Executive Producer). Most recently Carolyn was lead producer for Freud’s Last Session Off Broadway (for a review, click here.) Carolyn also produced Freud’s Last Session in Chicago for 8 months at The Mercury Theatre starring Mike Nussbaum. Freud’s Last Session continues to be performed in the United States and around the world. 

 Copeland has been producing theater since 1979 when she founded The Lamb’s Theatre Company in the heart of Times Square. As Producing Director she led The Lamb’s into an award winning and financially successful enterprise. She was dedicated to producing new American Musical and Plays musicals and gave birth to such shows as Smoke on the MountainGifts of the Magi, the revival of Godspell, Johnny Pye and the FoolkillerJohn and JenThe Prince and the Pauper, and The Roads to Home written and directed by Horton Foote. The Lambs Theatre was the home of the PBS radio show “Prairie Home Companion” starring Garrison Keillor. Carolyn oversaw a complete renovation of the theatre and the creation of a second space known as The Lamb’s Little Theatre (www.lambstheatre.org for list of all productions). In 1998 Carolyn was sought out by Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment to oversee the historic remount of The Scarlet Pimpernel on Broadway and following its success she became the Vice President for Creative Affairs for Radio City Entertainment (RCE). At RCE she oversaw The Christmas Carol at the world famous Madison Square Garden Theatre, The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and developed new performance opportunities for the world famous Rockettes. She opened her own production company which has served as a producer for The Gaylord Group at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and currently is the executive producer for Strouse IP, the company that controls and manages the works of the great American composer Charles Strouse.  www.crcproductions.org

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

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Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

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I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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