Underscore Theatre Co. Announces 2017-18 Season

Underscore Theatre Company is pleased to announce its full 2017-18 Season, kicking off this fall with CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody), an irreverent, rock-infused send-up of Stephen King’s iconic horror film Carrie and its subsequent spin-off The Rage: Carrie 2, featuring a book, music and lyrics by Preston M. Allen. Co-directed by Isaac Loomer and Rachel Elise Johnson, with music direction by T.J. Anderson, CARRIE 2: THE RAGE will play October 13 – November 19, 2017 at The Arkham, 4609 N Clark St. in Chicago. Single tickets go on sale Monday, September 18, 2017 at underscoretheatre.org.
This winter, Underscore is pleased to present its 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL, created to showcase and support the growing field of musical theatre creators from Chicago and beyond. After receiving more than 50 submissions, Underscore has chosen eight new musicals for this year’s Festival to be presented in full productions (full line-up below), plus several additional workshop productions. For 2018, the Festival moves to the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.

Underscore’s 2017-18 Season will conclude next spring with a revival of its Jeff Award-nominated Best New Musical HAYMARKET: THE ANARCHIST’S SONGBOOK, the true story of Chicago’s infamous Haymarket massacre. With a book and lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser and music by David Kornfeld, the actors accompany themselves to the stirring folk-infused score. Following a series of workshops in New York and Chicago, HAYMARKET will return with an updated book, new music and songs. Venue to be announced.

 LaKecia Harris with (left to right) Tyler Merle Thompson, David Kaplinsky, Victoria Olivier, Khaki Pixley and Summer Hofford in Underscore Theatre Company’s 2016 world premiere of HAYMARKET: THE ANARCHIST’S SONGBOOK. Photo by Evan Hanover.

“As Chicago’s only company dedicated exclusively to developing new musicals and to growing the Chicago new musicals community, we’re thrilled to enter a phase where we’re able to announce a full season, especially a season that covers such a wide range of what new musicals can be,” remarked Underscore Artistic Director Alex Higgin-Houser. “With a musical parody in Carrie 2, a new genre for us, the revival of our biggest hit to-date in Haymarket, and eight exciting new works with this year’s Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, we’re doing our level best to broaden the playing field for new musicals in the city. It’s incredibly exciting.”

Underscore Theatre Company’s 2017-18 Season Includes:

October 13 – November 19, 2017 

CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody)
Book, Musics and Lyrics by Preston M. Allen

Co-Directed by Isaac Loomer and Rachel Elise Johnson

Music Direction by T.J. Anderson

at The Arkham, 4609 N Clark St., Chicago

More than a decade after Carrie White burned her high school to the ground with her mind, goth teenager Rachel Lang has her own issues to deal with, and Sue Snell, Carrie’s former classmate and Rachel’s guidance counselor, must grapple with surprising similarities between the two outcasts before history repeats itself. Framed as a backer’s auction for a ridiculously ambitious Broadway production, this irreverent meta-musical pokes fun at the entire “Carrie” canon through a punchy, rock-infused score.

February 2018

The 4th annual CHICAGO MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL

at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago

The full line-up includes:

THE BUTCHER’S SON
Book, Music & Lyrics by Vi Nhan H. Tran

Born in Vietnam and raised in southwestern Kansas, Vi Nhan H. Tran is torn between the mysterious secrets of his heritage and the waving wheat fields of his adopted home. A poignant and humorous folk musical memoir, The Butcher’s Son chronicles the Tran family’s escape from Vietnam, imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge and resettlement in the cattle country of America. Tran weaves a thrilling refugee story and All-American tale of how family stories become family lore and where one family’s search for a home ends.

GRINDR The Opera

Book, Music and Lyrics by Erik Ransom

Four gay men, seeking different types of connection, intersect to hilarious and calamitous results in this sung-through musical parody that puts the notorious gay hook-up app into the exaggerated world of opera. With musical styles ranging from contemporary pop to baroque, GRINDR The Opera is a daring, humorous look at the changing landscape of gay relationships, and the greatest catalyst for the shift: GRINDR.

PERFECTLY VICTORIAN

Book and Lyrics by Bryan Adam and Matthew Kelly, Music by Bryan Adam 

When submissive Lady Sterling encounters one of her sexologist husband Dr. Wood Sterling’s newest patients, a demur man who wishes more than anything else to be a woman, she finds herself actively challenging the rigid roles prescribed by Victorian virtue. Within time, she meets all of Sterling’s patients and encourages them to pursue their diverse sexual identities. What follows is a heartfelt and hilarious challenge to Victorian principles, with Lady impersonating an esteemed French doctor and organizing a bordello pairing patients with the wives of her husband’s cheating colleagues, all in an effort to challenge the painful double standards of the time.

IRON IRENE: A MUSICAL FABLE

Book by Liz Falstreau, Lyrics by Liz Falstreau and Ashley Flanagan, Music by Ashley Flanagan

Set during the years following the American Civil War, Iron Irene tells the story of two sisters and their fight for family, equality and a better world. Upon the death of their parents, Cassie DeLanie is sent from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to live in southwestern Wyoming with her sister, Irene. Together, the sisters must learn to adjust to this new world while still attempting to maintain the beliefs and identities of their childhood. Their adventures will lead them to Wyoming’s shining moment: being the first U.S. territory to grant women’s suffrage.

LIBERATORS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL
Book and Lyrics by Eric C. Jones, Music by Alex Winkler and Bradley Dean Whyte 

A powerful rock musical about forgiveness, restoration, the power of friendship and what it means to be a family. This moving tale intersects and moves back and forth throughout 70 years and tells the story through the viewpoints of three unlikely men from different religious and ethnic backgrounds who are connected through a priceless family heirloom: a gold pocket watch. From the start of WWII to post-911 America, the lives of these characters will forever be changed during the historic liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau. Liberators: An American Musical encourages you to believe that even the most unlikely person can make a difference. 

MUSICAL THERAPY

Music and Lyrics by Joey Katsiroubas, Book by Dan Hass

Theresa is a young, single couples’ counselor in Chicago. While she’s great (well, okay) at keeping couples together, she can’t seem to lock down a guy for herself. And the fact that she tends to get attached (well, neurotic) after just one date doesn’t help either. Cut to Mr. Wonderful moving into the office next door: beautiful, bulgy-biceped Will. It’s obsession at first sight, and no obstacle or girlfriend is going to keep Theresa from being with him. She’ll ruin relationships, sabotage dates, push people out of the closet – mixing and matching her clients until it’s just Wonderful and her. Forever. And ever.

THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE

Book by Brian HutherBen Auxier and Seth Macchi, Music and Lyrics by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther, Arrangements by Ryan McCall

Set in the 1920s during the decline of Vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood, The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe tracks the journey of an ultra-sharp but down-on-their-luck comedy duo as they navigate the rapidly changing world of entertainment. With a cast of eight portraying nearly fifty characters, audiences will quickly lose themselves in this absurd and delightful comic world and leave with smiles on their faces.

“TRU” 

Book, Music, and Lyrics by David Gosz and Leo Fotos

Through intricate characters and intimate music, “TRU” paints a picture of how hauntingly beautiful life can be. “TRU” explores the joys and challenges of the many relationships that are formed throughout one’s life, testing the various forms of love – between a man and his father, between a granddaughter and her grandmother, between a woman and her art, between a student and his teacher, between a man and himself. Walking hand in hand with reality, “TRU” toes the line between what is unbelievable and what is true.

May 2018

HAYMARKET: THE ANARCHIST’S SONGBOOK

Book and Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser 

Music by David Kornfeld

Venue to be announced. 

Underscore brings back its highly acclaimed Jeff Award-nominated “Best New Musical.” HAYMARKET: THE ANARCHIST’S SONGBOOK tells the Chicago story of the nation’s first Red Scare through the eyes of Lucy Parsons, daughter of a slave and widow of anarchist martyr Albert Parsons. On the last day of her life, and accompanied by the folk-music-playing ghosts of her past, Lucy revisits the Haymarket Affair and the unjust trial that followed it in an attempt to make peace with history.

About the Artists

Preston M. Allen: Book, Music and Lyrics, CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody) is a writer, composer, lyricist and bizarrely avid Carrie fan based in New York City. Their work has been featured at the New York Musical Festival, Musical Theatre Factory, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Joe’s Pub, Laurie Beechman Theatre, Signature Theatre, York Theatre (“Tune In Time” winner), Gallery Players and Second City Chicago. Preston conceived and wrote book, music and lyrics for We Are The Tigers, A New Musical (Hudson Backstage Theatre, L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation winner for Best Lyrics/Composition, nominee for Best Production and Music Direction), Remission (NYMF Developmental Reading Series), CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody) (Feinstein’s/54 Below) and My Gay Killer Husband: A Lifetime Original Musical (Boo Festival Award Winner). Additional projects include book/lyrics for Franklin Pierce: Dragon Slayer (composer Will Buck, Sound Bites 4.0 Selection), music/lyrics for Bradical and the Pink Socks (Diverging Elements), music/lyrics for The Hunted: Encore (LA Webfest Outstanding Score), book/music/lyrics for The Untitled Agent 355 Project with collaborator Jessica Kahkoska (Marion International Fellowship Recipient) and a collaboration with composer/lyricist Rob Rokicki. Preston is a graduate of the Second City Chicago Comedy Studies Program and alum of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop.

Isaac Loomer: Co-Director, CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody) Originally from MN, he is excited to be putting on his director hat with long time friend Rachel Johnson for the first time since moving to Chicago. He has been obsessed with musical theatre for as far back as he can remember and is thrilled to be working on the world premiere of The Rage: Carrie 2. One of the the things that drew him to the project is a love of the famously flopped musical version of Carrie, and after reading the script to The Rage knew that it would succeed where it’s predecessor had failed. It’s a show that relishes in the Carrie-verse’s successes and flops while still maintaining a clear relevant message for any era.
Rachel Elise Johnson: 
Co-Director, CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody) – most recently assistant directed Underscore’s world premiere of My Name is Annie King. She also serves as Underscore’s Company Manager and has been performing in the Chicago theatre community since moving here from California.

T.J. Anderson: Music Director, CARRIE 2: THE RAGE (An Unauthorized Musical Parody) Recent music direction credits include Shockheaded Peter (Black Button Eyes Productions), Now. Here. This.[title of show]A New Brain (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Borderlands (Underscore Theatre Company). He has also recently been seen onstage as an actor in productions with Brown Paper Box Co., City Lit Theater Company and 20% Theater Company. T.J. is an artistic associate with Brown Paper Box Co. and a trumpet player throughout the city.

Alex Higgin-Houser: Book and Lyrics, Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook – is a director, librettist and arts administrator based out of Chicago. As Artistic Director and founding ensemble member of Underscore Theatre Company, Alex has most recently produced My Name is Annie King (2017, Director) Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera (2016, Producer), Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook (Jeff Nominee, Best New Musical; 2016, Creator, Book/Lyrics) The Story of a Story: The Untold Story (Jeff Nominee, Best New Work; 2015, Producer), Borderlands (2015, Director) and the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival (2014 – 2016, Festival Director). Altogether, with Underscore Theatre Company, Alex has produced or co-produced nearly 50 musicals in the Chicago storefront arena. Alongside regular collaborators Laura Stratford, David Kornfeld and Brendan Siegfried, Alex has authored or co-authored six world-premiere musicals, most recently Numbers Nerds at the New York Musicals Festival (2017, Lyrics).

David Kornfeld: Music, Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook – received his BA in composition from Carleton College and is currently pursuing his MFA in Musical Theatre Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. His musicals include Haymarket: the Anarchist’s Songbook (Jeff Nominated: Best New Work), Liberal Arts: the Musical!Grounds: a Fresh-Brewed MusicalPr0ne: a Hardcore, Amateur Musical, and Numbers Nerds, which premiered this summer at NYMF. His Chicago collaborations include Loyola University, Open Door Rep, Li’l Buds Theatre Company, Theatre-Hikes, The Cabaret Project, Stone Soup, Chicago Mammals, CPA Theatricals, Whiskey Wry, weAre Productions, comedienne Brittny Congleton, the Hip Young Gunslingers Big Band, and many more. He is a co-founder of Underscore Theatre. www.davidkornfeld.com

About Underscore Theatre Company 

Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to exploring stories of power and resonance through a musical lens; fostering the development of new musicals; and bolstering Chicago’s role as a national leader in musical theatre. Since its creation, Underscore has produced 46 new musicals in Chicago. Underscore is proud to be Chicago’s home for new musicals.