The New York Music Festival (NYMF) returns this Summer for its 15th season (July 9-Aug. 5.), having recently announced its full line up of productions and readings. The Festival is the premier musical theater event and the preeminent event for launching new musicals and discovering new talent, and anticipation for this year is high. More than 90 Festival shows have gone on to productions on and Off-Broadway, in regional theaters in all 50 states, and in more than 24 countries worldwide.
This week LocalTheatreNY.com features “An American Hero,” an official selection of the 2018 New York Music Festival, running at the festival July 23-29. The musical, produced by Southeast Missouri State University, offer theatre lovers the opportunity to immerse themselves in an original, powerful, jazz-inspired musical that tells the story of an Irish immigrant during World War II offering a human perspective never before told.
“There are countless stories of love and loss during World War II, but this story is unique, culturally diverse, in its perspective of the war through the eyes of an Irish immigrant who chooses to go against the will of his homeland, fighting for his new country, suffering great loss, and in the process becoming a reluctant American hero,” said Dr. Kenn Stilson, co-author of “An American Hero.”
“It’s a traditional, warm story about an unconventional topic - immigration and PTSD during World War II,” says Director Michael McIntosh.
Many people are unaware Ireland was neutral during World War II, Stilson said. Between the wars, they gained their independence from England after centuries of oppression. “They were not pro-Nazi and pro-Fascism, but they hated the British,” Stilson said. “In fact, they hated them so much that Irish men and women who did choose to fight in the war were considered traitors. After the war, they and their families were outcasts. Their countrymen wouldn’t hire them, and their families were discriminated against throughout society. Their children were bullied in schools—even by their teachers. It was only in 2013 that the Irish government officially pardoned soldiers who left to fight the Nazis.”
Stilson says this tragic, intense drama will tug at heartstrings as the leads, “Thomas” and “Mary,” portray love and humanity that transcend all.
The dramatic musical centers on the optimistic Irish immigrant, who joins the United States Army, falls in love with and marries a spirited American woman, before being sent to fight in World War II, where he becomes the reluctant recipient of the Medal of Honor. Along the way, he learns the depths of his love of family, the sacrifices of heroes and the true meaning of becoming an American.
Complementing the story line is the music, which is different than that typically associated with musical theatre and with all the hallmarks of Ireland. “It has a lot of Irish elements, especially through the use of the fiddle,” says Music Director and Conductor Jenna Lee Moore. “There are a lot of different harmonies and vocal textures throughout the show that almost give the ensemble numbers a choral feel. The music is meant to take you back in time to the 1940s, while still having modern influences.”
Accompaniment, orchestrated by Steve Sensenig, is provided by a five-piece New York-based orchestra; Moore is featured on keyboard. Other musical elements include a violin, woodwinds, French horn and percussion. Performances will feature ensemble pieces as well as solos and duets throughout the musical. “An American Hero,” including the script and music, was co-written in 2017 by Cody Cole and Stilson.
“An American Hero” will be performed at 8 p.m. July 23, 9 p.m. July 26, 1 and 5 p.m. July 27, and 1 p.m. July 29 at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row on 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Aves.)
The 2018 New York Musical Festival will take place July 9-Aug. 5. For more information, please visit: www.nymf.org