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About the Festival

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its third year, is a new-works festival produced by Underscore Theatre Company. We created CMTF for one reason: there's a wealth of musical theatre creators and performers in Chicago, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially on new authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to keep costs low by sharing resources, return half of all ticket proceeds to producers, and to showcase emerging authors from Chicago and beyond.

2016 - The Skinny

This year's CMTF will run August 9th-28th, with each selected production running for 4 performances. Presented in partnership with the best musical theatre companies in Chicago, including Kokandy Productions, Bailiwick Chicago and CPA Theatricals, CMTF will run at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Check out the shows below!

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2016 Productions

in alphabetical order

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DAPHNE’S SUNSET presented by CPA Theatricals

Book and Lyrics By Kevin Jaeger, Music by Alex Mitchell
Previously performed as Spot on the Wall at the New York Musical Festival

Daphne’s Sunset tells the story of one family’s search for expression and empathy inside a museum. Paul Hunter, a talented photographer, is about to have an exhibition of his work at the museum – but when his artwork focuses on his mother’s recent lost battle with cancer, his family finds out how difficult it can be to face your pain and your past. With allusions to Greek mythology and a contemporary score, Daphne’s Sunset reminds us to delve into the ugly truth and look for the beauty.

FLIGHT presented by Kokandy Productions – World Premiere!

Book, Music and Lyrics by Michael Potsic

Based on the Greek myth “The Flight of Icarus,” Flight follows Daedalus, his wife Aeden and their son Icarus as they learn that to truly live and love comes with great risk.


Book by Matty Selman and Iris Burnett. Music and Lyrics by Matty Selman
Previously performed at the New York Musical Festival

The last of the colorful Dubroff sisters, Goldie, has just passed away and her granddaughter, an aspiring actress, leaves for Hollywood instead of staying home and having the traditional family Passover (songs, stories, prayers and massive amounts of food), with her mother. When the family photographer magically appears after being gone for 50 years, the stage begins to sparkle with a musical that is enchanting, heartwarming and uproariously funny.

MATING presented by Jeffery Lyle Segal – World Premiere!

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jeffery Lyle Segal

The tragicomedy of modern romance is celebrated with laughter and tears in this smart new musical revue. In the first act, the performers sing mostly comedic complaints about the difficulty of finding "the one." In the second act, the couples join and find happiness. But those love songs are followed by songs of breaking up, with their accompanying emotional pain. In the end, the couples reunite, and celebrate in love and unity.


Presented by New American Folk Theatre
Book, Music and Lyrics by Anthony Whitaker

The story of Donna, a woman starting life over after leaving a long-term abusive relationship. She has rented the mill house and is trying to begin a new life while trying to understand the years of mental and physical violence she endured. It becomes of a story of forgiveness; forgiving herself for allowing herself to be victimized, her family for turning their heads and even her ex-husband.

PEN – World Premiere!

Music and Lyrics by Leo Schwartz, Book and Lyrics by DC Cathro

Still reeling from a recent breakup and looking for a distraction, Paul starts corresponding with Rod, a pen pal in another state. Meanwhile, Paul’s co-worker, Lee, is in the planning stages of her wedding. Soon, what began as an innocent flirtation evolves into an emotional attachment that neither of them expected. The problem? Paul’s ex, Grayson, returns to try to win him back. The bigger issue? Paul’s pen pal is a prisoner, incarcerated for 13 more years.

PLANTED presented by Rogue Elephant Productions – World Premiere!

Co-conceived by Christopher Pazdernik and Jeff Bouthiette
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bouthiette, with additional lyrics by Rebekah Walendzak

In today’s media, the depiction of LGBT life in America has evolved enormously: television such as ‘Transparent’ and ‘Modern Family’ as well as book musicals such as Kinky Boots and Fun Home have not shied away from telling the bold and complicated stories of queer individuals. One popular theatrical medium, however, has lagged behind: the song cycle.

Enter Planted. In the tradition of classic hetero-centric works such as Closer Than Ever and Songs for a New World, Planted is a contemporary song-cycle exploring relationships of modern-day queer men. Five men navigate through the minefields of dating, marriage, separation and independence. Through a multitude of characters and songs, audiences will be introduced to stories both heart-breaking and hilarious during this one-act musical collage.

STALKER: THE MUSICAL presented by RPG Productions

Concept by David Russell, Book and Lyrics by David Russell and Alex Giles
Music by Andy Peterson
Previously performed at the New York International Fringe Festival 2015

In a dystopian world, where love is completely outlawed, “stalking'” has emerged as a replacement for relationships, and people adhere to the concept of "Look, but don't touch." When a stranger from another world arrives, society is thrown into chaos, not least because this stranger introduces a novel concept: that of love.


Presented by Permovio Productions and Keaton Wooden
Created by Jay Paul Deratany
Book by Jay Paul Deratany, Music and Lyrics by Joe Stevens

An exploration of the life and story of Albert Cashier, a Civil War soldier with a secret that resonates with issues in the public eye 150 years later. From the author of Veronica (Greenhouse Theater) and Haram, Iran (London).

TRIBULATION: THE MUSICAL presented by Higgin's Beach Productions

Book and Lyrics by Molly Miller, Music by Brad Kemp

It’s the end of the world… and you still need a job. Tribulation: The Musical follows Genevieve, a would-be poet who ends up at a crappy desk job after she realizes that being left behind in the rapture doesn’t mean rent isn’t due. Prophets, whores, middle managers, grad students and delivery guys alike all struggle to find their own pat and prevent the Apocalypse in this hilarious take on the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

THAT LOVIN’ FEELIN’ presented by Off Broadway Dinner Theatres, Inc.

Book by James A. Zimmerman, Musical Arrangements by J. Michael Roy

You know the songs... but do you know the story? Now That Lovin' Feelin', the extraordinary "musical biography" of The Righteous Brothers, chronicles the story and songs of the duo that defined "Blue-Eyed Soul" for a generation. Follow two young dreamers from Orange County as they break into R&B, find enormous success and later enjoy a lifetime collaboration and friendship. This energetic tribute to the unique genius of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield features more than 20 hits including "Little Latin Lupe Lu," "Justine," "Unchained Melody," and of course, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin’."

WILL THE CIRCLE – World Premiere!

Book by L.C. Bernadine; Music and Lyrics by Kevin Welch

Four people at a block party – apartment-dwellers in a world of homeowners – are drawn to each other because of their status as invisible renters, their mutual penchant for a kind of loopy conversational improv and their desire for anything that resembles security at a time when the threat of violence simmers at the edge of every day and every horizon. Unfortunately, getting to know each other ends up involving just the tiniest bit of home invasion...

Workshop Productions:

Attend our free workshops performances of new works in progress!

NUMBERS NERDS presented by CPA Theatricals

Book by Laura Stratford, Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser, Music by David Kornfeld
Directed by Amber Mak
Performing Saturdays, August 13th and 27th, at noon. Click Here to reserve your free ticket!

Against a backdrop of drama-queens-turned-janitors, loose ferrets and college pressure, a diverse (almost) all-girls high school Math Team must band (and sing!) together to raise the money to go to the National competition, surmount their differences to win and figure out if unicorns are extinct. Numbers Nerds Website.

presented by With a Machete productions in conjunction with Bailiwick Chicago

Book, Music and Lyrics by Ethan Krupp and David Reddyk
Directed by Jon Martinez
Performing Saturday, August 20th at noon. Click here to reserve your free ticket!

When the inventor Dole Roxy created the world’s most popular cough syrup, he collected a group of people who drink it so regularly that he began a commune, focused on music, love and drinking Roxy’s Cough Syrup. When he passes away, his spirit is "transmigrated" into his newborn daughter (Jenna) making her the new leader.


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 or co-produced 28 world-premiere musicals in Chicago. In 2014, Underscore created the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. For Underscore’s 2015-16 season, Underscore will present two new full-length musicals created by Chicago composers and lyricists, as well as an expanded festival.

The composer Jean Sibelius said, “Music begins where the possibilities of language end,” and we fully embrace this mentality in our work. We believe musicals offer something more than other performing arts, with music, text, and actors’ interpretation coming together create a transcendent experience for performers and audience alike.


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