A reason to sing!

Human Race Theatre presents Festival of New Musicals

By Leo DeLuca

 Photo: [l to r] Jim Poulos, Dana Mierlak, Maria Couch and Jamie Cordes in the 2011 Loft Series production of “right next to me”; photo credit: Gregg Coffin

The Human Race Theatre Company (HRTC) hosts its Sixth Annual Festival of New Musicals, Aug. 2-4 at The Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton. The event is part of the company’s Musical Theatre Workshops calendar – a program offering the writers of new musicals the opportunity to refine their work.

After two weeks of rewriting, reworking and rehearsing alongside professional directors and actors, the writers invite audiences to witness staged readings of the revamped musicals. HRTC Director Kevin Moore chose “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” and “Guarding Gold Street” for this year’s festival. The company’s website described the former as follows:

“The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes”

Book/lyrics by Christopher Dimond

Music by Michael Kooman

Friday, Aug. 2, 8 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 3, 2 p.m.

Howard Barnes is a perfectly average man in his early 30s, until the day that he wakes up to discover that his life has become a musical. Desperate to escape from the show, Howard embarks on a fantastical quest through the realm of musical theatre. Equal parts satire, romantic comedy and love letter to the American musical, “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” is intended for people who love musical theater, and their spouses who hate it.

I had the opportunity to speak with Christopher Dimond and Michael Kooman, who composed the book/lyrics and music, respectively, for “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes” and here’s what they had to say.

Who had the original notion for “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes”? How did the idea originate? You note that it is “intended for people who love musical theatre, and their spouses who hate it.” Was the idea born out of experiencing this dynamic many times?

We had been throwing around the idea of a guy stuck in a musical for a long time, but weren’t really able to figure out a way find a larger arc beyond just “escaping the musical.” Mostly, it was just a lot of fun figuring out how we can lovingly make fun of musical theater – both the concept of musicals and even some well-known musicals. Our main character, Howard, has never seen a musical in his life, so at the start, he’s totally in the dark as to how musicals work. People who love musicals will enjoy seeing this character experience everything for the first time, and people who hate musicals will probably be in the same boat as Howard, not understanding them and quite skeptical as to why others enjoy them. – Christopher Dimond

How did you two meet? 

We met at Carnegie Mellon University. I was in the music school and Chris was in the drama school. I had always had an interest in musical theater, so I pushed my way into the drama school and took classes, also accompanying for some of their rehearsals. We recently made the connection with Kevin Moore and he graciously agreed to workshop our new show this summer. Kevin was actually one of the first people to read the script and ask us if we’d like to develop the project with his theater company, so we are grateful to him for taking a chance on this show. He’s quite bold and ambitious.
– Michael Kooman


I also had the opportunity to speak with HRTC Director Kevin Moore about the Festival of New Musicals:

I’m curious as to why you created the Musical Theatre Workshops program? When did you first get the notion? Was it modeled after another program? 

The origin of our workshops was a method to help us achieve our artistic mission. Part of that is to present new works to our audience. However, it was clear back then – the late 1990’s – that audiences were hesitant to buy shows that were unfamiliar, especially musicals. So, the workshops were a way to introduce the new works without the trappings of sets and costumes, and engage our audience in a dialogue about the shows. When we would move a show from workshop to full production, they knew they had been part of that process. That is the true nature of theatre. Our first workshop was in 2000. It was modeled after some others that I had seen – mostly the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s annual festival in New York. – Kevin Moore

Why should Dayton audiences come see these staged readings?

As a community that is very “arts smart,” this is another great way to connect with the creative process – to meet the writing teams, hear about their process, see and hear the work they have made and have a totally unique, one-of-a-kind experience. Who knows? For $15 you can experience a show that in a year could cost you $115 on Broadway. -KM

In regards to the arts, how do you feel Dayton fares relative to its size? 

I like to say that Dayton is the “Arts Capital of Ohio.” We have some of the best-recognized arts organizations regionally and nationally. We have amazing choices. In this case, size really doesn’t matter. We are lucky to have the variety and quality that far exceeds other cities our size and larger. I’d say that makes Dayton pretty special. -KM

Human Race Theatre Company’s Festival of New Musicals takes place Aug. 2-4 at The Loft Theater, 126 N. Main St. Tickets for each show are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. For more information regarding times, please call 937.228.3630 or visit humanracetheatre.org.


Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeluca@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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