(DEAL PARK, NJ) -- The Axelrod Performing Arts Center (APAC) will present the World Premiere of The Next Big Thing, a new musical by composer Gerald H. Bailey and lyricist/book writer J. Laurence Lowenstein. The play, which has been in development around the East Coast for the past five years, will be directed and choreographed by Gary John La Rosa with musical direction by Thomas Conroy, who also has orchestrated the score and will conduct. Three performances will take place September 16-17.
The authors summarize the themes of the new musical as “Ambition, deceit, heartache…making it BIG in Hollywood today.” The Next Big Thing is a modern-day Hollywood saga about a young actor named Scott Morland, being played by David Owen Naughton, a California transplant with real family ties to LaLa Land. The character Scott sets his sights on climbing to the top of the Hollywood heap. After a long series of mediocre reviews and audition rejections, Scott has to make some difficult decisons. The dilemma unravels as Scott has to decide whether he will betray his true self and his ethics along with the people closest to him, his girlfriend and his best friend, to become “the next big thing.” The play asks the audience to consider how much would they give up to attain their biggest dream.
The role of Tara, Scott’s girlfriend (and eventual wife), is played by New York actress Sarah Chapin, and the role of Jerry Sparks, Scott’s best friend, is played by Kyle Huey. Canadian actress and jazz singer Christine Aziz plays Gayle Winters, Scott’s long-suffering agent and one-time paramour. Playing the Hollywood producer Malcolm Stevens is popular regional theater actor Mark Poppleton, whose been seen in the national tours of Camelot, Man of La Mancha and The Addams Family, directed by Jerry Zaks. Playing slick movie producers are Jon McHatton and Matthew Krob.
On its way to its APAC premiere, The Next Big Thing was a finalist in the 2015 Eugene O’Neill New Musicals Festival. The driving force and inspiration behind this new musical is Larry Lowenstein, who wrote the book and lyrics. Lowenstein is well known in Monmouth County as the retired theater professor from Brookdale Community College, whose 30-year career there included the director of over one hundred plays and musicals. During his years at Brookdale he was instrumental in the creation of two other musicals that found their way to New York City: Reach for the Stars with Donna McKechnie and Show Business Family.
Lowenstein is delighted to finally see his musical in its first full stage production, having had a successful reading at Two River Theater a couple years ago. “Having started my career in 1964 as producer -director of the Deal summer theater and later as a Professor of Theater at Brookdale Community College, I am thrilled to make my writing debut in Monmouth County, a place that has been so good to me throughout my career.”
Director-choreographer Gary John La Rosa is no stranger to new works: “It is always thrilling to work on a new musical but rare to work on one that is completely original. The Next Big Thing is just that. Topical and relevant, not to mention a plot that is full of surprises. Also, I couldn’t be more excited about our wonderful and talented cast led by David Owen Naughton.”
The Next Big Thing is being produced Andrew DePrisco and Jess Levy along with the award-winning team at APAC, whose 2015 production of West Side Story won the NJACT prize for best musical in the state of New Jersey. This past winter APAC began transitioning from a popular community theater venue into a regional theater producing its own professional shows, hiring the some of the best directors, choreographers and actors from the tri-state area. The Next Big Thing is the second professional world premiere APAC has presented. The musical Damascus Square played to sold-out houses during summer 2015.
The set design for the new musical is by Fred Sorrentino, with lighting design by Greg Solomon and sound design by Gerry Gironda. Costumes are being designed by Fred Mayo and properties by Susan Bloir.
The Next Big Thing runs for three performances: Saturday, September 16 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, September 17 at 3:00pm. Tickets are $32 for adults, $28 for seniors and $25 for students. Group pricing available for ten or more. For online purchases, visit www.axelrodartscenter.com. Just five minutes from downtown Asbury Park, APAC is located at 100 Grant Avenue in the Deal Park section of Ocean Township. The box office is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 3 pm: 732-531-9106, ext 14. The Axelrod offers ample free onsite parking and is completely handicap accessible.