UArts Presents 'Polyphone,' a Five-Day Festival of Musicals

Five Days, Five Musicals, Just Five Dollars: March 24-28

March 17, 2015

The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts presents “Polyphone,” a festival of musicals running March 24 to 28 at the Merriam Theater. “Polyphone” features three bold new works and two modern classics in concert-style performances over five evenings for just five dollars. Moved to use the grand Merriam Theater as a site perfect to explore the evolution of musical theater, Brind School Director Joanna Settle partnered with New York-based composer, lyricist and performer César Alvarez, the festival’s artistic director, to curate this bold series.

“‘Polyphone’ gathers together talent from around the country with our adventurous UArts community to explore the music and stories of our medium across 85 years of style and progression,” said Settle. “You will see pages freshly written that morning on stage next to master works that are tried and true, all sung out fully in the beautiful Merriam Theater, itself a piece of musical theater history. We are very excited to present an exploration of these five works, guaranteed to challenge our assumptions about musical theater, for the Philadelphia community.”

Bringing together master artists and top local talent to create and evolve real works with UArts students and alumni at the center provides an unparalleled artistic experience for the students and an environment in which the artists can incubate the medium, test the limits of musical theater and create new art. Each performance stands in sharp contrast to the others, making it thrilling to attend all five performances, or just one.

“Polyphone” features concert performances of new works from Tony Award winner Stew (“Passing Strange”) and Heidi Rodewald, musical theater team Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald, and César Alvarez. These groundbreaking new works are presented next to two anchors in the musical theater canon, “The Threepenny Opera” and “A Little Night Music,” bringing our festival audience and participants into conversation around what we might mean by “musical theater.” Directors for the festival are Joanna Settle, Andrew Neisler, Benjamine Kamine, Steve Pacek and Alexandru Mihail. Music directors include David Jenkins, César Alvarez and Isaac Slutsky. Barrymore Award winner Thom Weaver will design the scenic and lighting elements of the show. “Polyphone” features performances from David Cale, Vondie Curtis Hall and Salty Brine.

Tickets are available at or in person at the Merriam Theater one hour before the show. A $5 Flex Pass allows admission to one or all of the events. Seats are limited.

March 24, 7:30 p.m.
Book and Lyrics by Gordon Leary
Music by Julia Meinwald
Directed by Benjamin Kamine
Music Directed by Christopher Tolomeo
Anita Bryant always knew that she was destined for greatness, but had to figure out her calling. She had no luck as Miss America, a pop star or a national treasure. After becoming a cultural crusader, she finally knew she was living her plan. But, a single pie to the face would spur her plight for the gay rights movement.

A Little Night Music
March 25, 7:30 p.m.
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Steve Pacek
Music Directed by David Jenkins
Sondheim explores the tangled web of affairs centered around actress Desirée Armfeldt in his reimaging of Ingmar Bergman's comedy of manners “Smiles of a Summer Night.” Winner of four Tony Awards, this dramatic musical celebration of love is hailed as witty and wildly romantic and contains Sondheim's popular song, the haunting "Send in the Clowns." This exploration is presented with a double grand piano score.

The Threepenny Opera
March 26, 7:30 p.m.
Play with music after John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera, in Three Acts"
Music by Kurt Weill
Adaptation and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Alexandru Mihail
Music Directed by David Jenkins
German translation by Elisabeth Hauptmann
English translation of dialog by Robert MacDonald
English translation of lyrics by Jeremy Sams
Used by arrangement with European American Music Corporation, agent for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., and agent for the Brecht Estate
Brecht and Weill turned to John Gay's 18th-century “The Beggar's Opera” to fashion this savage, biting commentary on bourgeois capitalism and modern morality. Set in Victorian London, the predatory outlaw known as Mack the Knife secretly marries the daughter of Soho's underworld boss. He is soon betrayed by his sinister in-laws and sent to prison. After being freed by the police chief's daughter, he is again betrayed, this time by a prostitute, and sentenced to death. At the final hour he manages a reprieve from Queen Victoria herself, thus providing a menacing finale of ferocious irony.

The Elementary Spacetime Show
March 27, 7:30 p.m.
Written by César Alvarez
Directed by Andrew Neisler
Music Directed by César Alvarez
A disillusioned teenager named Alameda finds herself trapped in a cosmic vaudevillian game show. By confronting avatars of scientific truth, ostentatious musical numbers and outrageous dance sequences, Alameda acquaints herself with the enigmatic laws of the universe. A story of how a hard shell of hopelessness might be cracked open by awe. This show features a performance from New York performance artist Salty Brine.

The Total Bent
[Presented in association with the Public Theater]
March 28, 7:30 p.m.
Book and Lyrics by Stew
Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald
Directed by Joanna Settle
Music Directed by Stew
When a British record producer arrives in Montgomery, Ala., to hook Marty Roy, a young black musical prodigy rebelling from the constraints of the world around him, he launches us back into Marty’s tumultuous musical upbringing. The son of a gospel star and self-proclaimed healer, Marty spent his childhood writing the songs that have made his charismatic father famous. But in an America on the verge of social upheaval, Marty finds himself at odds with his complicated and spiritually forceful father, desperate to make his own way and his own sound. (Courtesy of the Public Theater)

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