Darren Criss Will Perform for L.A.'s New Musicals Festival

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Before Darren Criss — a.k.a. Blaine Anderson of Fox TV's "Glee" — heads for Broadway to take over the lead role in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," L.A.'s musical theater supporters can see Criss perform at the Sept. 10 closing party for the Festival of New American Musicals. Full details are not yet set, but festival organizers are now taking names for the ticket reservation list at its website. Tickets will be $200 for adults and $100 for 18 and younger.

By summer's end, the festival will have presented 35 readings, showcases and complete musicals in venues throughout Southern California. Remaining productions include "The Trouble With Words," "Out of My Head," "Jasper in Deadland," "The Devil and Daisy Jane," "My Fairytale," "Rocket Science" and the ASCAP New Songwriters Showcase. "Jerry Springer: The Opera" had originally scheduled to end Sunday but has been extended through Aug. 14.

Wednesday night, in conjunction with the ASCAP Foundation, the festival hosted the first of two staged musical readings of "Rocket Science" at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood. The musical, adapted from the 2007 HBO movie by Jeffrey Blitz, won the Richard Rodgers Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2010. 

The musical concerns a lifelong stutterer (played by Coby Getzug) who joins his high school debating team out of love for his dream girl, the school's debating champion.

In the lobby before the performance began, composer Stephen Weiner said he was drawn to the story because of the significant obstacles the lead character faces in his quest to succeed. "I'm attracted to antiheroes," said Weiner, whose works have won an additional Richard Rodgers Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Innovative Theatre Award, ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award and Jonathan Larson Grant.

"Musicals no longer have to be about falling in love," said book writer Patricia Cotter, pointing to "Next to Normal" about mental illness and the coming-of-age musical "Spring Awakening." Cotter came from San Francisco for the reading, while both Weiner and lyricist Jason Rhyne flew in from the East Coast. Rhyne also won a Jonathan Larson award for his work as a composer and lyricist. 

A second reading of "Rocket Science" is scheduled for Thursday. The musical is produced by Marcia Seligson and Michael Kerker; directed by Richard Israel with musical direction by Darryl Archibald; and with orchestrations by Remy Kurs. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Information: (310) 827-2850.

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