New York-Bound: How Dallas Musical ‘On The Eve' Landed in the Big Apple

When Seth Magill, Shawn Magill, and Michael Federico began working on On The Eve five years ago, they never imagined anyone outside of Dallas would see the show. After years of development, On The Eve is now turning heads in New York after a concert performance at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in October and is on the cusp of receiving a full production in New York.

On The Eve’s extraordinary journey began with critically-acclaimed readings at Nouveau 47 at the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park in 2012. The apocalyptic rock musical featuring an acting company as it performs a show about Marie Antoinette and her time-traveling balloon received a world-premiere full production at Theatre Three in January of 2014.

Kevin Moriarty and Joel Ferrell of the Dallas Theater Center saw the Theatre Three production and suggested the creators submit the work to the Festival of New Musicals produced by the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT).

NAMT formed in 1985 when directors of theatre and opera companies raised concerns about the cost of producing musical theater and the lack of new musicals.

In 1989, NAMT launched its inaugural Festival of New Musicals with the objective of showcasing new and diverse work and nurturing writers, lyricists and composers. The process of applying for the festival is extensive.

After three rounds of blind screenings and evaluations, NAMT selects eight shows for the festival. Mentors are assigned to each show to help with finding directors and casting. The creative teams present a 45-minute presentation of the show to over 600 industry professionals who can move a musical forward to its next stage of development.

Both the process of applying for the festival and being a part of the festival helped the creators of On The Eve clarify the show. “It was really nice to get outside perspectives. Dallas viewers had an inherent understanding of the show. The NAMT questions were more revealing,” said Shawn Magill. Being a part of the festival meant the show’s vocal parts needed to be rescored completely and the On The Eve creative team was constantly digesting feedback.

Carlos Armesto, the producing artistic director at Theatre C in New York, was at the festival acting as a mentor for another show when he saw On The Eve’s presentation. Immediately attracted to the show, Armesto is determined to take the show to the next level.

“We keep hearing, ‘This show has to get done.’ It evokes a sense of individualism and freedom, but it also evokes a sense of community and social responsibility. We’ve had nibbles from several theaters, but Theatre C is the first theater committed to producing a full production,” explained Seth Magill.

The goal of the concert at Joe’s Pub was to build on the momentum from the festival and develop investor interest. Director Sam Buntrock assembled an impressive cast for the concert including Tony nominee, Sarah Stiles. Buntrock also approached Kimberly Grisgby, a Southern Methodist University graduate and acclaimed musical director whose Broadway credits include Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, Spring Awakening and Caroline, Or Change.

Grigsby regularly works on developing new musicals and currently has eight shows in development.

“I work with composers, the choreographer, and the director. I’m helping with the creation of the score and all the musical aspects of the storytelling. I’m involved in all of the discussions of how the music can help tell the story,” said Grigsby.

Grigsby was intrigued with On The Eve.

“I love the music and the sound. The story is so crazy and wacky and you want to learn more about it,” Grigsby said. The show challenges her abilities as a musical director and she values the opportunity learn and grow as an artist. On The Eve harkens back to an earlier era of musical theater when popular music was infused into Broadway musicals. Grigsby recognizes the challenges of developing a new show and embraces them. “The joy and challenge are one in the same. It’s unknown and it’s fun to discover a new piece. How can we make an audience as excited and as moved as we are by it?” said Grigsby.

For the concert, Seth Magill played Chase Spacegrove, a role he originated. Shawn Magill sat in the audience and for the first time, heard the orchestrations for the entire show, including impressive improvisation from the keyboardist and violinist.

“It was wonderful sitting in a room so full of energy and excitement from both performers and the audience. I can’t wait to see what Carlos Armesto and Theatre C are able to accomplish with On The Eve,” she said. Armesto has a two-year option on the show. Grigsby explains the creative team will continue to tweak the script and music up until the opening night. On The Eve’s creative process continues.

Kimberly Richard is a North Texan with a passion for the arts. She’s worked with Theatre Three, Inc. and interned for the English National Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company. She graduated from Austin College and currently lives in Garland with her very pampered cocker spaniel, Tessa.

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