Wanting Miss Julie Review - A Concert Reading of an Edgy Contemporary New Musical


Sometimes there’s only one way to say it.  In this case, the press release says it all: “Based on Ibsen’s classic play, Wanting Miss Julie is an edgy, contemporary musical set in the super-sophisticated, moneyed, political world of the Hamptons. Julie Stoddard is stunning, smart and dangerous.   She plays with sex and drugs to defy Stoddard, her father and to ensnare John, the rising MBA in his firm. The play contains adult language and situations and is not suitable for children or young adults.” There it is. Perfectly, succinctly described.  

Julie is a ruthless, heartless beauty who is obsessed by drugs and sex.  She and her friends live only for the next “fix.” Everything about the music is cold, cynical and dehumanizing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this may not be suitable for older adults (aka seniors) either. And, unfortunately, I and my guest both fall into that category.

Clearly, I take issue with the book.  Even in the most intense tragedies, there’s some humor.  Even in the most hilarious comedies, there are serious moments of truth.  Wanting Miss Julie is one long nasty note. And, it’s played too sharp.  It’s unrelenting.

But there is one more possibility: since this was a concert performance, perhaps a set, costumes, lighting—atmosphere—will take some of the edge off.  The music matched the mood of the play and the cast of accomplished singers--Audrey Billings-Stone, Courtney Crouse, Harmony France, Reneisha Jenkins, Candace. C. Edwards, Daniel Spagnuolo, Nicholas Bailey and Robert Hunt--and one indefatigable pianist carried its considerable weight. It will be interesting to see how the play changes before the full production opens.

Wanting Miss Julie is directed by Stacey Flaster who directed The Secret Garden last season for Light Opera Works. The music director is Robert Deason. The stage manager is Kyle A. Dougan. Midwest New Musicals is lead by workshop director John Sparks.

John Sparks (book) is the Artistic Director for the Academy for New Musical Theatre in Los Angeles where he has taught since 1981.  In 1987 he founded the musical theater writers’ workshop at the former Theatre Building Chicago where he served as Artistic Director from 1999 to 2009.

Patricia Zehentmayr (lyrics) has collaborated as lyricist or composer with writers in genres many and varied from Rosie Flores, Queen of Rockabilly, to John Axelrod, conductor of L’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire.

Jake Anthony (music) works as a composer, vocal coach and music director in theLos Angeles area. 

The new musicals in the Words and Music series are written by members of the Midwest New Musicals writers’ workshop and have been developed in the workshop Core Curriculum and development process. More information at www.midwestnewmusicals.org

Midwest New Musicals is an ongoing forum where lyricists, composers and book writers create and discuss their work. Divided into two levels, workshop members meet 10 times per year for intensive weekend sessions. Since 2009, Midwest New Musicals has been a resident arm of Light Opera Works, Chicago’s specialists in operetta and musical theater. With the Midwest New Musicals, Light Opera Works is able to expand its programming and service to the field by providing an outlet for writers and for new works of musical theater.


Light Opera Works is a professional not-for-profit theater founded in 1980. The company's mission is to produce and present musical theater from a variety of world traditions, to engage the community through educational and outreach programs, and to train artists in musical theater. All productions are presented in English, with foreign works done in carefully edited modern translations. Maximum scholarship is employed to preserve the original vocal and orchestral material as well as the spirit of the original text whenever possible. Audiences have come to know that at Light Opera Works they will experience repertoire often unavailable on the stages of commercial theaters and opera houses, in modern productions with professional artists and full orchestra.


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