Tuacahn New Works Festival
Photo: Jeff Hitchcock / CC BY 2.0

On Friday, Oct. 7, the first Tuacahn New Works Festival will be held at the indoor Hafen Theatre. In this festival, writers submit musicals in hopes of it being directed and dramatized by Tuacahn professionals and performed before a public audience in a free staged concert reading setting.

“We are excited about starting New Works here at Tuacahn,” said Scott Anderson, artistic director at Tuacahn. “We feel this will have broad appeal with everyone from artists to patrons. The Tuacahn New Works Program will offer great opportunities for not just authors with original works, but to actors, directors, and our local audiences to be part of something special and unique.”

Tuacahn has selected Jeffry Denman as director of the Tuacahn New Works Festival.

“I first met Jeffry a few years ago in New York through a mutual friend,” Anderson said. “I was looking for a new director/choreographer for our upcoming production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” I felt we hit it off immediately. Then when I saw his impressive background, I knew he was ‘the guy’ and we had to have him for Millie … then in our 2015 production, he came back and co-directed and choreographed the hit national premiere of Disney’s “When You Wish.” Jeffry is the obvious choice to start Tuacahn’s New Works Festival.”

Denman is a Broadway singer, dancer, and actor known for starring in the original company of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” for which he was nominated for a Fred & Adele Astaire Award. He was Munkustrap in the final cast of “CATS” and was featured in the original company of “The Producers,” which inspired him to write the popular book, “A Year with The Producers.” Other Broadway and New York performing credits include “Face the Music, Yank!” “Of Thee I Sing at Encores!,” “Dream,” and many more both on and off Broadway. He has directed and choreographed in New York City and across the country and is the artistic director of the Denman Theatre & Dance Company.

Denman is excited about the energy and possibilities of The Tuacahn New Works Program at Tuacahn for years to come.

“The lifeblood of theater comes from new pieces, and they need a place to gestate and develop if they are to have a life outside of the festival,” said Denman. “That’s what New Works is about: to choose pieces that we believe can have a life down the road and to help the authors attain that goal. It is my goal that The New Works Festival become the signature legacy of Tuacahn. The summer Broadway In The Canyon productions will always hold an anchor here, but New Works will be the place where talented people come to have their original works debut in front of the perfect audience. The audience here in southern Utah represents a broad view, and they can feel connected knowing they will have feedback and ownership in helping original pieces ‘make it.’”

For its debut, the Tuacahn New Works Festival has selected “Fairy Tale Christmas” with music by Michael McLean and book and lyrics by Scott McLean and “The First Gentleman” with music by Bret Simmons and book and lyrics by David Howard.

“Fairy Tale Christmas” is a musical inspired by the children’s book of the same name. Its theme is about Santa Claus being kidnapped and falling victim to a nefarious plot by the usual fairy tale villains to not only destroy Christmas but to erase “Happily Ever After” from every story. Of course, the fairy-tale heroes must decide what they are willing to sacrifice to save Santa Claus and “Happily Ever After.” “Fairy Tale Christmas” was featured at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival.

From the writer of DreamWorks’ hit science-fiction comedy “Galaxy Quest” comes an original musical comedy apropos to the current political climate, “The First Gentleman.” When West Virginia’s Governor Kathryn Noel Cassidy is elected the first female president of the United States, her husband, Russell, becomes the initial first gentleman. Suddenly, the entire family finds itself coping with being thrust into the limelight and how being the ultimate “working mom” affects their 15-year-old son, Steven.

Tuacahn actors, under the direction of Nick Demos (“The First Gentleman”) and Denman (“Fairy Tale Christmas”) begin rehearsals over the next couple weeks. Admission is free, but patrons must call the Tuacahn box office to arrange seating reservations at (800) 746-9882.

Musical authors inquiring about the submission process can contact Denman at jdenman@tuacahn.org.

Articles related to “Inaugural Tuacahn New Works Festival presents readings of two new musicals”

Hurricane Valley Theatrical Company begins season with new upgrades

Fancy man misspells ‘theater,’ wows patrons everywhere

Dixie Watercolor Society holds art show and competition