About the festival

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival is a new project from Underscore Theatre Company, created to showcase Chicago's emerging creators of musical theatre. 40 applied, 8 were selected. Now, here's where you come in:

CMTF 2014 runs from June 5th-15th at The Den Theater, at 1333 N Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago's Wicker Park, just steps from the Division Blue Line stop. To buy tickets, click on the productions in the schedule below, or click the "buy tickets" button under the show descriptions!


Performance Schedule

Pick your shows below, or scroll down to find out more!


Thurs 6/5
Fri 6/6
Sat 6/7
Sun 6/8
Weds 6/11
Thurs 6/12
Fri 6/13
Sat 6/14
Sun 6/15

Produced by Underscore Theatre Company in association with Firefly Jars Entertainment
Directed by Nicholas Reinhart
Created by Rachel Payne, Adele Dodds Powers and Zak Sandler

Why do we sing the national anthem? This dynamic, original musical explores that question through the unique and personal stories of Americans throughout our history, inspired by actual letters written in times of war. Each song contains a few words from the anthem, woven together to form the song that represents our nation.

I Have Been to the Wild Wood
Devised by Duplicity Ensemble
Directed by Nathan Wonder

What are you really afraid of? Hunger? Abandonment? Betrayal? Death? These are things we all fear, but we almost never confront. In the town of Windham, nestled against the edge of the Wild Wood, the villagers must regularly face their darkest fears. United in song, the people of Windham are bound together by their fear, and what they must do to overcome it.

Just Like Horses
Created by J. Christopher Blackwell

Just Like Horses is a dramatic presentation of how we learn to love people even when they fall down in life. As an African-American family living in the era following the Great Depression, the Tarpeys must not only deal with the racial inequalities of the times but also the devastation of alcoholism and gambling addiction. The question: can this family stick together when the odds seem stacked against them?

Luigi's Ladies
Created by John Uth

Legendary cereal mascot, LUIGI THE LEOPARD, has eaten his last bowl of crunchy flakes and died. His tragic story from rise to breakfast-cereal-stardom to his ultimate descent into self-destruction and addiction to Cuckoo Puffs is told by four women in his life in this one-woman musical comedy. It's Grrrrrand!

Mr. Munch Has a Murmur
Adapted from a short story by Mark Sanders
Adapted by L.C. Bernadine
Directed by Aaron Stephenson

A comic tale about a sardonic musician, his ex-girlfriend and unexpected events on a street corner in Manhattan. MMHM explores those great themes at the core of country and folk music: the absurdities of love gone wrong, love gone right, and the crazy things we do as we strive for a little success in any corner of our lives.

Reasonable Terms
Book by Joan Mazzonelli and Marianne Kallen, Lyrics by Marianne Kallen, Music by Karena Mendoza
Adapted from a short story in "Animal Crackers" by Hannah Tinti

In this fantasy about troubled relationships, a Zookeeper has dual concerns – two unhappy giraffes and his broody wife. The unusual giraffes demand better conditions. The Zookeeper wonders what he would do if his wife made demands on him. Matilda worries about her husband. The Zoo Psychiatrist worries about what the board of benefactors may do with the animals.

Starting With My Voice
Music by Audra Sergel
Book by Trent Rash

"Starting with My Voice” is the musical journey of 5 interconnected souls, that while living their human, everyday, complicated lives are learning simple, spiritual lessons. The songs lead the audience to peek into these lessons in grief, love, humor, and self-acceptance, and make for a show that is funny, real, from the heart and honest.

Uncle Em’s Traveling Hootenanny presents Keep Your Story Short Cause Your Tale's Too Tall
Produced by Lawless Archer Creative
Created by T. Paul Lowry

A family show that combines music, puppets, wild costumes in a vaudeville-influenced storytelling narrative of the American Folklore classics of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, John Henry and Pecos Bill.


About Underscore Theatre Company

Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to creating out-of-the-park original musical theatre. 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.


Download the full press release here. For press inquiries, email Festival Director Alex Higgin-Houser or Underscore Executive Director Laura Stratford. Press imagery coming soon.

Contact Us

For any additional questions, please send us an email!